August 25, 2010

aimless, not talentless

"A smell of fine white linen, homemade raisin cookies (from a secret recipe), and hot crackling pine resin, all mixed together ... my kindhearted Aunt Zdeni assures me that everything beautiful she brooded about back then must be safe in the threads of the white fabric she keeps stored all year long, untouched, in the dull mahogany wardrobe; since it was not to be found in her own long life, it must have stayed in the tablecloths, she says."
--"Interiors," Rainer Maria Rilke
Ooh, homemade, top-secret raisin cookies (no oats...?). Though it was never published in his lifetime, Rilke's "Interiors" is comprised of snippets that hold wisdom beyond his 22 years, as he explores the intangible transition of "little girls" into women ("it is no slow timid development, but something strangely sudden," he wrote).
"But my girls stride straight down the middle of the street, wherever they can feel the most sky above them, and they walk through the whole town on little white clouds. With no whence behind them, so without any whither. Just walking. Maybe so they won't hear the tides of their blood surge so loud. Walking in the tentative rhythm of this secret inner beat of the surf. They are the silent shore of their restless infinity." --"Interiors"
Some of Rilke's theories about young women reminded me of the prelude to George Eliot's Middlemarch, written about 20 years prior to "Interiors." It's a little amusing that Rilke's name sounds feminine, while George Eliot is female. The name Evelyn Waugh has confused me in the past, too...but that's another story. Anyway, Eliot's prelude ruminates on the idea that even the greatest, strongest women often languish in a society that lacks the outlets to give shape to their talents and unique qualities:
"Here and there a cygnet is reared uneasily among the ducklings in the brown pond, and never finds the living stream in fellowship with its own oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of cent'ring in some long-recognizable deed."
I think Rilke and Eliot would have gotten along quite well if they'd met. In fact, I have a hunch they would've swapped their secret raisin cookie recipes, translator at the ready.

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