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Old 07-28-2018, 11:14 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Last edited by Julie Steiner; 07-28-2018 at 11:18 PM.
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  #12  
Old 07-29-2018, 05:38 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Julie, thanks for these many images. Given that lively Catholic tradition, and the German -

Weil du Bretter machst, in deinem Stolze,
willst du wirklich den zur Rede stelln,
der bescheiden aus dem gleichen Holze
Blätter treiben macht und Knospen schwelln?

in which the angel reminds Joseph of a given, God does this, it does seem to me that Rilke, who is certainly a mystic as well as a realist, has that tradition in mind here. I'd totally missed that, of course, prior to your note.

Cheers,
John
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Old 07-29-2018, 06:12 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Thanks for the paintings, Julie. I seem to recall seeing some like them, and I have a recollection of reading the story in some museum, somewhere.

I have another association with the image: the Crucifixion. And Joseph being a carpenter, and all...

So there are for me now three layers of meaning for that image, which is in part why I think it's wonderful.
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Old 07-29-2018, 06:23 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Yes, the Crucifixion. There's another medieval tradition of linking the Crucifixion with Adam's tree: wood to damn humanity and wood to save it. La Tour has a great painting of Joseph working wood with Jesus beside him:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_the_Carpenter

Cheers,
John
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Old 07-29-2018, 08:48 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I was just musing about the poem some more, in a way that (like the paintings) is probably irrelevant to the actual translation. Sorry if this is unhelpful, Susan.

I found Joseph's sudden fear unconvincing at the end of the poem because I had assumed that the angel was recognizable during the whole conversation. But maybe Joseph didn't recognize the angel as an angel until the disappearance, which took place only after Joseph had already been persuaded that more humility about the situation was in order. If he had known he was speaking to an angel, Joseph might have been more intimidated throughout the poem. Maybe Joseph thought was venting to a trusted friend or family member or something. The angel couldn't have looked like a stranger, because this guy seemed to know Mary well enough to comment on her personality, and this sort of scandalous information isn't the kind of thing someone is careless enough to mention to strangers, anyway. So I dunno. I guess I still find the whole situation hard to believe.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 07-29-2018 at 08:55 PM.
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Old 07-30-2018, 09:05 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Julie, though I have often seen Joseph represented with a staff that has blooms on it, I was unfamiliar with the meaning of that iconography. I still think that the story Rilke is presenting works a lot better if viewed from a realist perspective: that there has been no miraculous sign from God that Joseph is to marry Mary, that he can tell she is pregnant, is upset, and isn't at first willing to accept the angel's explanation, even though the angel is visibly an angel, because Joseph is so upset and angry. When the angel starts yelling at him about how obtuse he is not to be able to perceive that she is still a virgin and not to understand how a virgin can be pregnant, Joseph finally understands how presumptuous he is being by questioning God's will, and starts to fear the consequences. Then, as the angel disappears, awe takes over and Joseph totally dedicates himself to his place in the miracle. He is no intellectual, we are reminded by the cap, just an ordinary workman caught up in something much larger than himself. That is the interpretation I am trying to convey. It may or may not be the one Rilke intended, but it is what I got from the poem.

Susan
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:35 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Yes, on further reflection I think you are right about sticking to the most straightforward interpretation possible. Especially since Rilke has been straightforward enough to provide an ordinary carpenter with an ordinary cap! Thanks, Susan.
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Old 07-31-2018, 12:16 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hmm. Bear with me. If Joseph has seen no miracles, then a visible angel showing up should make a big impact. But if he already feels special- the blooming rod - then an angel is no biggie, he can express his simple upset that he's been singled out and now this has happened. I don't see an unmiracled Joe so taking an angel in his stride. Or, perhaps he had no miracle and sees no angel. I'd read continuity here, miraculous or nonmiraculous.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-02-2018, 09:00 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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John, to me, the continuity is that Joseph is behaving the way you might expect an ordinary man to behave if he finds his fiancée is pregnant and he knows he is not responsible. Suddenly the angel shows up with an explanation that the ordinary man is too angry and mulish to accept. Yes, perhaps Joseph should be more awed, but in the throes of anger, people don't always think straight.

Susan
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  #20  
Old 08-03-2018, 12:51 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I can't argue with this: "but in the throes of anger, people don't always think straight." And it may be that the text allows for both our readings without undue violence to the language.

Cheers,
John
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