has a doctorate in English literature from Oxford University. He has lived for a number of years in Germany, and is deeply immersed in German culture. He has spent most of his life as a music teacher, and is now working full time as a translator. His book of poems, 'Lost Children', was published by Mellen Poetry Press in 2001. A more recent poem of his is part of the Inspired Poems anthology.
Why – I will speak in my own person now – was I drawn to the Duino Elegies? Because they are so imbued with the consciousness of loss. With the tragic sense of inevitable separation which is an unavoidable concomitant of life on this beautiful, breathing and fragile planet.
I could not have come to appreciate this so deeply, had my wife not died, aged 33, of cancer in 1985. I have written of that in my poems, and elsewhere; it does not seem appropriate to say more about it here.
Rilke, I believe, was fully open to the suffering of life, as few human individuals have been – perhaps Gustav Mahler was another – without ever giving way to the self-centredness of self-pity. What he personally suffered, in terms of his individual life, was transmuted, universalised. It became part of what is meant by being human. That is the point where we can meet him. That is the meeting point for all of us.
We will meet each other eventually, the perpetrator and the victim, the slayer and the slain, the exploiter and the exploited – meet each other in the blue zone, or is it the ultraviolet, the place anyway where there can be no dissembling of intentions, and everything is exactly as it is – and we will see that we were one all along, that we are all human, that nothing divides us. I believe this will come, with the certainty of sunrise.
© John Waterfield 2001/2006
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