Rilke, Rome, and the Poetics of Fountains

Robert Vilain*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
378 Downloads (Pure)


Rilke’s relationship with Rome has received significantly less critical attention than his visits to Russia or his residence in Paris, partly because he is widely felt to have disliked the Italian capital and because his five visits seem not to have yielded much of a poetic response. However, Rilke’s admiration for Roman fountains and the movement of water did have a lasting legacy, prompting nostalgic creative responses almost until he died. Looking at a number of poems from the Neue Gedichte via the Sonette an Orpheus to Vergers (and correcting some errors in the identification of the fountains in question), this article identifies a ‘fountain poetics’ related to a particular quality of dynamic ‘Stille’ or energetic ‘Ruhe’ that they exemplify and that is central to Rilke’s view of the nature and function of art. The degree of consistency in this view across more than two decades suggests that more attention should be paid to the continuities between the different phases of Rilke’s creative life than is customary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-334
Number of pages38
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


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