Wednesday, April 2

now and then

Pasternak considered that "when any man dies there remains some of that undying subjectivity which was part of him when alive and which constitutes his contribution to human existence." He believed that this deathless subjectivity, which is separate from the individual, "this patch, this fragment of the universal soul common to all mankind, represents a timeless cycle of action and is the principal matter of art." In other words, "while the artist, like everyone else, is mortal, the joy of existence that he experiences is deathless and, with some approximation of his personal and immediate experience, can be experienced by others centuries later through his works." Pasternak spoke in a letter to Rilke about the poet "who is himself always the essence of poetry, called though he may be by different names at different times."

The four lines of poetry Rilke wrote on the flyleaf of the copy of the Duino Elegies he presented to Tsvetayeva at Pasternak's request may be seen as a paraphrase of these words:

We touch each other. How? With wings that beat,
With very distance touch each other's ken.
One poet only lives, and now and then
Who bore him, and who bears him now, will meet.

-- Yevgeny Pasternak, Yelena Pasternak, and Konstantin M. Azadovsky (eds.), in the introduction to Letters: Summer 1926 by Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, and Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Margaret Wettlin, Walter Arndt, and Jamey Gambrell