Requiem for a Friend | Paula Modersohn-Becker / Rainer Maria Rilke


Are you still there? Are you in some corner? – 
You understood all of this so well 
and used it so well, as you passed through 
open to everything, like the dawn of a day. 
Women do suffer: love means being alone, 
and artists sometimes suspect in their work 
that they must transform where they love. 
You began both: both are in that 
which now fame disfigures, and takes from you. 
Oh you were far beyond any fame. You were 
barely apparent: you’d withdrawn your beauty 
as a man takes down a flag 
on the grey morning of a working day, 
and wished for nothing, except the long work – 
which is unfinished: and yet is not finished. 

If you are still here, if in this darkness 
there is still a place where your sensitive spirit 
resonates on the shallow waves 
of a voice, isolated in the night, 
vibrating in the high room’s current: 
then hear me: help me. See, we can slip back so 
unknowingly, out of our forward stride, 
into something we didn’t intend: find 
that we’re trapped there as if in dream 
and we die there, without waking. 
No one is far from it. Anyone who has fired 
their blood through work that endures, 
may find that they can no longer sustain it 
and that it falls according to its weight, worthless. 
For somewhere there is an ancient enmity 
between life and the great work. 
Help me, so that I might see it and know it.

(Excerpt)

 Paula Modersohn-Becker: Self portrait (1906-1907)


In 1908, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the renowned poem "Requiem for a Friend" in memory of Paula.
 The poem was born from the impressions which Paula's life, death and friendship had left upon Rilke.




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