Rilke & Meteors

The cosmos is undoubtedly loving it!  Just before an asteroid comes closer to Earth than any yet known, the largest meteor in 105 years hits the Earth.  & the last one, in 1908, also hit eastern Russia.  Go figure!  I am sorry about the injuries, but the astronomical event is awesome.  I myself have once seen a meteor explode in the sky & several times have seen meteors disintegrate into  pieces.  I have in my possession 5 meteorites from 3 different falls.  [When in space, they are called meteoroids, when burning up in the atmosphere they are called meteors, when pieces hit the ground they are called meteorites.)

Rilke was fascinated by meteors along with every other astronomical phenomenon, as I discuss in chapter 5 of my Rilke on Death book.  His great poem “There stands death” (November, 1915) ends with the lines “O falling star / seen once from a bridge—: / Never to forget you.  To stand!”  This refers to a brilliant meteor he saw in Toledo, Spain.  Then there is his gorgeous poem on a meteor shower (June, 1924, Albert Flemming):–

Do you remember still the falling stars                                                                                           that like swift horses through the heavens raced                                                                         and suddenly leaped across the hurdles                                                                                              of our wishes — do you recall?  And we                                                                                         did make so many!  For there were countless numbers                                                                   of stars:  each time we looked above we were                                                                      astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,                                                                                while in our hearts we felt save and secure                                                                               watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,                                                                            knowing somehow we had survived their fall.

Of course, there are a few people who have, indeed, been hit by meteorites, though none suffered serious injury.  But remember, with Rilke, “Watch the skies!”



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