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Category Archives: Rilke

The Limb-loosener of Rilke: The Torso of Dis/Integration

 

In my last post on the limb-loosening powers of Eros discussion flowed in two directions, over at Complete Lies, and then a bit in my comments section. The principle question is whether jouissance as an unbearable pleasure, something that would turn to pain if sustained, is the model for what the drive is. My sense is that just qualified “pleasure” is a sign of intensity beyond the limits of the system, so to speak, but that these are or can be modulated. What came to mind was Rilke’s terrific (literally) poem of Apollo’s torso that is fittingly limbless (and paralyzed). It calls to mind the Thymos (and its correspondent deinos) that burning core physiological ember that Greeks felt in their breast, and Sloterdijk’s Thymotics [written about here]. What happens beneath limbs that have been loosened:

Archaic Torso of Apollo

 We cannot know his legendary head

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso

is still suffused with brilliance from inside,

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

 

gleams in all its power. Otherwise

the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could

a smile run through the placid hips and thighs

to that dark center where procreation flared.

 

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced

beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders

and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

 

would not, from all the borders of itself,

burst like a star: for here there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.

The poem is nearly unspeakable. Commentary, like hanging cloth on marble. Yet I came across this odd animation of Rilke himself reading the poem, culled from the past of voice and photograph, uncannily brought to life with over-modern software now at the hands of memory. Talk about ghosting the poem, itself a kind of singing torso:

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,

darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber

sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,

in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

 

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug

der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen

der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen

zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

 

Sonst stünde dieser Stein enstellt und kurz

unter der Shultern durchsichtigem Sturz

und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

 

und brächte nicht aus allen seinen Rändern

aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,

die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.

 

Some alternate translations offered here.

And another animation of Rilke’s “Der Panther” by the same fellow here.

Opticality and Fragmentation: Rilke

…und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.

…it wouldn’t be breaking out from every edge
like a Star: for there is no place on this stone
that does not see you. You must change your life.

I think that something like this radiality is what Descartes has in mind.

 

 

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