This chapter attends to the idea of ‘thing-poetry’, but less as a poetry about things than as poems which aspire to the condition of things. Rilke’s new material sense of poetic language, under the influence of Rodin, is given special attention, his deliberate efforts to come to terms with the specificity of language, his awareness of it as a medium that is ‘obstacle and vehicle’ (W. S. Graham) at once. Rilke’s use of the sonnet is important here, and a sign of Rilke’s new consciousness of poetic tradition. In this context there is a comparative reading of Rilke’s sonnet ‘Leda’ and Yeats’s ‘Leda and the Swan’. For the first time translation becomes an integral part of his work (Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese). This is looked at, along with the influence of Baudelaire, who shaped Rilke’s whole experience of Paris, and whose importance, though acknowledged, has still not been given the attention it deserves.
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