For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Hermit Of Muzot

Castle Muzot, Switzerland

During his feverishly creative final years, Rilke lived at Castle Muzot, idyllically positioned above the town of Sierre in the upper Rhône valley. Here he lived in silence and solitude, with no telephone, electricity or running water. His housekeeper, whom he called a 'ghost', kept out of his way as much as possible. Living on the second floor of his 'tower', Rilke worked at a heavy oak table with glorious views over the valley. He ate meagre vegetarian meals and saw almost no one except, occasionally, Baladine Klossowska (whom he called 'Merline'), his last lover and confidante. Muzot, and its surrounding countryside of mountains, forests, rivers and streams, became dearer to him than any place he had ever lived.

Here, in a letter to Marie von Thurn und Taxis dated 25 July 1921, Rilke has just found Muzot, and is considering living in this enchanting place:     

So, if everything works out, I could live at Muzot for a while, with a housekeeper. The castle is situated at the top of quite a steep hill, twenty minutes from Sierre. It's a rural area, charming, and not too dry, with abundant springs — from it your gaze extends down the valley towards mountain slopes and the most wonderful depths of sky. A small, rustic chapel lies a little higher on the left among vineyards...     

Rilke in the garden of Castle Muzot

In the same letter Rilke continues to praise his new home in the Swiss canton of Le Valais:

In these last weeks I have often come very near to announcing my visit, and a peculiar current came into my rather sluggish spirit whenever I wanted to do so; but what keeps me here is this wonderful Valais. I was imprudent enough to travel down here, to Sierre and Sion; and I have told you what a singular magic these regions worked on me when I first saw them last year at the time of the grape harvest. The fact that Spain and Provence are blended together so strangely within the features of the landscape struck me immediately even then, for, in the final pre-war years, both these lands spoke to me more strongly and decisively than anywhere else. And now to find their voices united in a broad, Swiss mountain valley! This echo, this family likeness is not fanciful. Just recently I read, in a brief treatise on the plant life of the Wallis, that certain flowers appear here which are otherwise found only in Provence and Spain; it is the same with the butterflies: thus does the soul of a great river (and to me the Rhône has always been one of the most wonderful) bear endowments and kinships through the countries. Its valley here is so wide, and so grandly filled out with little heights within the frame of the big border mountains, that the eye is continually provided with a play of the most delightful changes, a chessgame with hills, as it were...

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

this is an immensely thoughtful and helpful series of posts. Thanks Robert

Andy

http://pilgrimpace.wordpress.com/

Susan Scheid said...

"the eye is continually provided with a play of the most delightful changes, a chessgame with hills." What a lovely way of being, and of seeing.

am said...

"...Muzot, and its surrounding countryside of mountains, forests, rivers and streams, became dearer to him than any place he had ever lived."

Rilke's love for this Swiss landscape and Baladine Klossowska touches me. He had two muses.

Now it is clear to me why his poetry so moves me. It exists within a beloved landscape that is not only of the spirit, but of the earth and the cosmos and human relationships.

Good to be spending this time with Rilke.

George said...

Another great, informative post, Robert. What a romantic life! All of this wonderful biographical information tends to deepen the meaning of Rilke's poems.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I suspect there is a bit of the Rilke in you somewhere Robert.

Herringbone said...

It seems like everything was coming together. Merline. What a a name. Suggesting the freedom and beauty of a raptor. A lover and confidante. What else is there? The landscape,vineyards, the flora. I think he was in a good place. I agree this is an enchanting series of posts.

Anonymous said...

..from it your gaze extends down the valley towards mountain slopes and the most wonderful depths of sky. I love his facility to describe what he see and feel. We can imagine clearly without knowing the place. And this name "Merline" sounds mysterious and enchanted, I like it very much! Cheers, Mick

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks again to you all, most warmly! Sorry I've not replied individually over the last few posts.

Ruth said...

A chessgame with hills . . .

Oh thank you for these post on Muzot and the other literary towers. I'm relishing them.

FrankandMary said...

It all seems a persuasive fantasy, his life...or perhaps I want it to appear that way. ~Mary