Western softies will go for a Rilke quote at a wedding,  a couple of choice lines to shower literary love on the union. And don’t forget angels. When it rains too much, or Walmart is out of chocolate-covered pretzels, we need them. Rilke’s the canonized poet who does angels. Throw in a little painful romantic love (Selena, Rihanna) and compare it to the fleetingness of flowers. They only bloom for a frickin’ second, I mean, WHY DO FLOWERS DIE?

We’re now in the throes of the Wedding/Angel/Shriveled Rose brand that flourishes globally under the label Rilke. He’s a posthumous victim of the aesthetic downgrade. Quotability as a liability.  To be sure, he did seek spiritual enlightenment through art. That goal, expressed aloud, was probably his downfall.

To prove that Rilke is a more sophisticated literary figure than Chuck E. Cheese, I present exhibit A:

Reading Rilke


The Gass book is a both a biography of Rilke, with love affairs recorded like doctor’s appointments, and a showcase of translation efforts. Gass offers powerful lines from the elegies, then lists a menu of different translations from which to choose, including his own. (Hint hint, vote for Gass.)

The German:
und gesetzt selbst, es nähme
einer mich plötzlich ans Herz: ich verginge von seinem
stärkeren Dasein.

The translations:
Leishman: And even if one of them suddenly pressed me against his heart, I should fade in the strength of his stronger existence.
Behn: Still, should an Angel exalt, and fold me into his heart I should vanish, lost in his greater being.
MacIntyre: And supposing one of them took me suddenly to his heart, I would perish before his stronger existence.
Garmey/Wilson: And even if one suddenly held me to his heart: I would dissolve there from his stronger presence.
Young: And suppose one suddenly/took me to his heart/I would shrivel/I couldn’t survive/next to his/greater existence.
Miranda: And even if one of them impulsively embraced me, I would be crushed by its strength.
Hunter: And should my plea ascend/were I gathered to the glory/of some incandescent heart/my own faint flame of being/would fail for the glare.
Gass: And even if one of them suddenly held me against his heart, I would fade in the grip of that completer existence.

While alive, and not yet fondued, Rilke explained his view on angels in a letter to his editor. His defense has been discarded by potpourri sniffers ever since. But still, he did try: “The Angel of the Elegies has nothing to do with the Angel of the Christian heaven (rather with the angelic figures of Islam) … The Angel of the Elegies is the creature in whom that transformation of the visible into the visible we are performing already appears complete . . . The Angel of the Elegies is the being who vouches for the recognition of a higher degree of reality in the invisible.—Therefore “terrible” to us because we, its lovers and transformers, still depend on the visible.”

and . . .

“Transformed? Yes, for our task is to stamp this provisional, perishing earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its being may rise again, ‘invisibly,’ within us. We are the bees of the invisible.

Now, for the scholarly opinions on the song “White Wedding”, by Billy Idol (1982). I cut and slashed the White Wedding video; it’s playing behind me in this book chat. These scholarly opinions are not my own, though I won’t disown them all. I lifted them from Songfacts.com.

Songfacts: He is singing about a woman/girl he loves marrying someone else while he still loves her.
Kisu One: This song is about psychotechnology or occult practice. Wedding means attraction and joining together something that is deep inside man’s nature with something that is outside. Actually this song is about satanization.
Roxanne, Oregon: This song is about a former crack addict who has returned to his life of addiction. In the 80s the word “white” was used as a slang word for cocaine. People addicted to crack cocaine are so consumed by it, they spend all their money and time on it. Thus, they are basically married to it. “It’s a nice day to start again…”
HB, DC: White wedding is “an American colloquialism, though it is also used in other parts of the world, based on a supposed scenario (usually hyperbole) that the father of the pregnant daughter, almost by accepted custom, must resort to using coercion (such as threatening with a shotgun) to ensure that the man who impregnated her marries her.
Andy, Las Vegas: I’m afraid that this song is much darker than most people realize. I believe when Idol sings about his sister he is being quite literal, with the lines about “Who’s your superman,” and “Who’s your only one” being quite literal. It’s about an incestuous relationship with his sister and the dark realization about her “shotgun wedding” and how ridiculous the idea of a “White Wedding” is.
Joe, Denver: I wrote a term paper on this song, and it is definitely about crack cocaine. Crack is often referred to as cocaine’s “little sister” since it is much cheaper. The “shotgun” is referring to the practice where smoked drugs are exhaled by one user into the mouth of another user. The “superman” refers to the invulnerability experience by users. It’s not a real wedding!
Maria Isabel, Connecticut: Billy Idol himself says he wrote this song for his sister. He’s against marriage, and when he became rich and famous he kind of ditched his sister and then when he heard she was having a shotgun wedding he wrote this song for her.
Charlie, Idaho: I don’t give a damn what you guys all think, this song rocks!

In closing, a German man dances by the Passau river in lower Bavaria.