|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...