Rilke speaks in these poems in the persona of a monk, a monk who paints icons, thus, he represents art and religion. For Rilke, art and religion are sourced in the human soul.
BOOK OF MONASTIC LIFE
The hour bows down and touches me
with its clear, metallic ring:
my senses shiver. I feel I can
grasp the day as a malleable thing.
Nothing was whole before I beheld it;
all becoming stands still.
My glances are ripe, and like a bride,
to each comes the thing that it wills.
Nothing is too small for me to love
and paint great on a background of gold.
I hold it high, and know not whose
soul it will break from the mold.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across things high and low.
The last one, I may never complete
but will attempt, even so.
I circle around God, the primeval tower,
circle thousands of years long
and still don't know, if I am a falcon, a storm,
or a great song.