I was once told that, as a small child, when the poet Rainer Maria Rilke approached his somewhat stern and distant parents in the evening, he would often be told ‘Is it that naughty Rainer there? We don’t want to see him. We want to see our lovely Maria.’ As a result, Rilke would retire and dress in girl’s clothing before returning to his parents’ presence. Whether this is true or not, it is certainly the case that Rilke’s subsequent work, among which the verse is much better known, often relates to transitions, changes and metamorphoses.
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