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Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter to Clara Westhoff Rilke (November 7, 1918)

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to the common people yonder, there will be peace at once." I can't repeat it half so well as he expressed it; suddenly, when he had said that, a difficulty assailed him, and with a moving gesture towards Weber, Quidde and the other professors who stood by him on the platform, he continued: "Here, these professor gentlemen know French, they will help us to say it right, the way we mean it [ . . . ]." Such moments are wonderful, and how we have had to do without them in this very Germany where only invective found words, or submission, which in its way was after all but a sharing in power of those who submitted. [ . . . ]

P.S. Friday morning early.

We have a remarkable night behind us. A soldiers', peasants' and workers' council has now been set up here too, with Kurt Eisner as first president. The whole first page of the Münchener Neueste is taken up by a decree he has issued, through which the Bavarian Republic explains that peace and security are assured the inhabitants. The night's enterprise was preceded by a gathering on the Theresienwiese attended by a hundred and twenty thousand people. Now it only remains to be hoped that this unusual insurrection will engender sense in people's heads and not go on beyond to fatal intoxication. So far everything seems quiet and one cannot but grant that the time is right when it tries to take big steps.

Source of English translation: Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, Volume Two, 1910-1926, translated by Jane Bannard Greene and M.D. Herter Norton. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1947, 1948, pp. 179-81.

Source of original German text: Rainer Maria Rilke, „ . . . mit dem großen freien Atem“, in Weimar, Ein Lesebuch zur deutschen Geschichte 1918-1933, edited by Heinrich August Winkler and Alexander Cammann. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1997, pp. 44-46.

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