Rilke e Venezia. Una città senza decadenza

Andreina Lavagetto


Rilke’s capital cities were Prague, Berlin, Paris, Munich. Other cities and places left their mark on his life and works, such as Rome, Capri, Borgeby Gård, Duino, Muzot, and Venice as well. Rilke’s Venetian poems show the typical landscape of his early lyrics, made of impressionistic and neo-romantic atmospheres but also, in his later collections Neue Gedichte (New Poems, 1907-1908), the traits of his more mature “poetry of things”, Dinggedicht. Rilke’s artistry developed along a poetic line that was traversed by various crises, each of which occasionally deep changed his philosophy and style. Rilke’s Venetian poems are a small but exemplary corpus that allows the reader to observe the transition from a poetic approach to the next, therefore the coming to perfection of his reflection on the raison d’être of artistic expression. If in Rilke’s early poems Venice was the prototypical subject of an aestheticizing approach (“beauty in decay”), in the later years it became surprisingly the perfect “thing” (Ding) of his “objective” poetry. In these poems, indeed, Venice is no longer a misty maze evoking hazy feelings. What in his early poems was the site of rotten palaces reflecting their shapes on dead waters and of an ancient aristocracy suffering and - at the same time - enjoying its decadence, in the Neue Gedichte Venice has become a warrior: a place symbolized by its wooden foundations taken from whole Italian forests and by its dockyards and warehouses that showed the dominion and will-to-power of the city. Through the “objective saying”, sachliches Sagen, of his later poetry Rilke gets rid of the hackneyed, though fascinating, idea of Venice as the place of a bygone aristocratic glory, and dares overturn it into the severe and forceful image of the historical and powerful Republic of the Dogi.


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