This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for December 4, 2016: A Snap Quiz in Body Language

Dec. 4, 2016: birthday: Rainer Maria Rilke

It’s the birthday of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (books by this author), born in Prague (1875). His family wanted him to be a lawyer and take over his uncle’s law firm. But he published some sentimental love poetry, and it inspired him to make his living as a writer. He went to Munich to be part of the arts scene, and there he met a woman. She was brilliant, she had been friends with Nietzsche, she was 15 years older than Rilke. And she took the young poet under her wing, helped him develop as a writer, persuaded him to give up writing sentimental poems and become more ambitious. He followed her all over Europe. When they broke up, he traveled around and seduced rich noblewomen who would support him while he wrote. He wasn’t too handsome, but he was poetic and romantic, so women fell for him. Then he met the Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis. She was older than he was, and she thought he treated other women badly, and refused to be seduced. But they became close friends and exchanged hundreds of letters, and Marie let Rilke stay in her castle in Trieste, on the Adriatic Sea. He loved it there, at the Castle Duino, and one winter while he was living there alone, he said an angel appeared. The angel started talking to him about life and death, about beauty and humanity, and Rilke went right to work on what turned out to be his most famous poems, The Duino Elegies, 10 long verses.