Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a lyrical poet born in Prague, once the capital of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic. A childhood troubled by a mother who raised him as a girl left him a life marked by melancholy and transient relationships. However, his creative nature made him the leading Christian existentialist poet of Germany. He eventually settled in Paris and spent his later years in Switzerland. Rilke meditated on life and death, time and eternity. His reputation rests on two monumental works, the Duino Elegies, begun in 1910, and its companion piece Sonnets to Orpheus, based on the Greek mythological figures Orpheus and Eurydice. Both were published together in 1923. His ten Letters to a Young Poet were published posthumously in 1929.

The following is one of his most famous poems, likely written in Paris in the early 1900s.


The leaves are falling, falling as from far off,
as though far gardens withered in the skies;
they are falling with denying gestures.

And in the nights the heavy earth is falling
from all the stars down into loneliness.

We are all falling. This hand falls.
And look at others; it is in them all.

And yet there is One who holds this falling
endlessly gently in his hands.

Rainer Maria Rilke