Rainer Maria Rilke – “Loneliness”
Loneliness is like a rain.
It raises from the sea towards the evenings;
from plains that are far and remote,
it goes to heaven, that always has it.
And only from the skies does it fall on the city.
Pours down in the twilight hours,
when all streets turn towards morning
and all bodies, which have found nothing,
leave each other, sad and let down;
and when people who hate each other,
have to sleep together in one bed:
then loneliness goes with the rivers…
OK, so this is perhaps not his best or most moving poem. But it’s simple, and I like it. I’m sure we’re all aware of the connections people have made before between sadness (crying) and rain. But here, Rilke says loneliness is like rain, and not necessary because it’s like the tears of the sky. It seems to be searching for comfort, by evaporating into the air, then falling to earth again, as if it could not find a place to stay.
But it’s not until the second stanza that the real emotion hits – “streets turn toward morning” as if they’re trying to escape something, and indeed we find that people who hate each other sleep together, probably rushing out of bed as soon as they can.
Finally, “loneliness goes with the rivers,” which I take to reflect separation, distance, going away…but perhaps to something better, since I can’t make a river be absolutely imbued with a negative feeling. There’s too much strength and progression associated with the flow of rivers.