by Rainer Maria Rilke
The leaves fall, fall as from far,
Like distant gardens withered in the heavens;
They fall with slow and lingering descent.
And in the nights the heavy Earth, too, falls
From out the stars into the Solitude.
Thus all doth fall. This hand of mine must fall
And lo! the other one:—it is the law.
But there is One who holds this falling
Infinitely softly in His hands.
Rainer Maria Rilke was an influential Bohemian-Austrian poet and one of the most important German-language writers of the 20th century. He was born René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke in 1875 in Prague, which was then part of Bohemia and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a poet, Rilke is associated with both Symbolism and Modernism. His major collections of lyrical poetry include Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, Letters to a Young Poet, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, and The Book of Hours. Major themes in his work deal with existentialism, mysticism, solitude, and the role and calling of the poet. He corresponded with and was influenced by contemporaries like Lou Andreas-Salomé, Paul Cézanne, Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak. He also drew inspiration from psychoanalysis and Rodin’s sculpture. While not well-known beyond German readers during his lifetime, Rilke’s work was rediscovered and celebrated posthumously. He is now considered one of the most lyrical poets writing in German and his poetry has been widely translated and continues to profoundly influence poets today. Rilke died in 1926 at the age of 51 in Valmont, Switzerland.