‘I Am Much Too Alone in this World, Yet Not Alone Enough’ is a two stanza poem written by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The poem has no rhyme scheme and each stanza varies in its number of lines and number of words per line. The poem bounces from short to long lines, mirroring the erratic thoughts and beliefs of the speaker as he hopes for one thing and then changes his mind.
Explore I Am Much Too Alone in this World, Yet Not Alone Enough
‘I Am Much Too Alone in this World, Yet Not Alone Enough’ is a poem of contradictions set out by the speaker as he attempts to come to terms with his love of another. His own wants and needs have been combined with those of the “you” referenced in this poem and he has become a person of contradiction, both too alone and not alone enough, wanting and not wanting free will, and becoming like objects both mundane and extraordinary. In the second half of the piece the speaker is expressing his desire to mirror the current image of his liver in all her “perfection” and cast off his own form. He no longer wants to make decisions, but just be as she is.
You can listen to ‘I Am Much Too Alone in this World, Yet Not Alone Enough’ here.
Analysis of I Am Much Too Alone in this World, Yet Not Alone Enough
I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
This piece begins with a repetition of the title. This title is going to serve as the main theme of the poem, and each point made in each stanza will relate back to it. This poet’s speaker is attempting to make clear throughout “I am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone Enough,” how he is existing in that state. One may ask before reading this piece, how can that be possible? The speaker will answer that question in all that follows.
The speaker describes his state of being as, “not alone enough / to truly consecrate the hour.” In this context, consecrate is used to mean, making the most of the hour of his life; to treat it with the reverence it deserves.
The following lines expand on this idea and the speaker admits to the reader that he knows he is small in the world. He is small because he is just one of billions of people on the planet, but he is still not small enough to be what he needs to be. In this case, is he wishing that he could be to “you” solely “object and thing, / dark and smart.”
He wishes to be smaller so he can belong completely to the person he refers to as “you.” He wants to be owned by this person, and for this person to see him as being who he is; dark in his outlook and smart in his choices.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.
In the previous lines the speaker is wishing to be owned by his lover, but as he is apt to do, he reneges on this wish and demands his free will in the beginning of this section, but that’s not quite all. He wants his free will, but along with it, he wants a clear path he can follow; one that leads him to action.
So far the speaker has contradicted himself a number of times. He wants to be alone, but doesn’t. He wants to be owned, but doesn’t and finally, he wants to have free will to choose his own path, but he also wants that path decided for him. It is clear that whatever emotion he feels for the object of his poem has confused his thoughts. The love that he may feel has influenced each decision that he makes and he is no longer able to discern what he actually wants, from what his object of affection may want from him.
The poem continues, and the speaker expresses his desire during “times that beg questions” to understand what’s going on. He wants to be in the “know” or alternative, he quickly inserts, “be alone,” another strong contradiction.
I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
The second stanza is quite different from the previous. Although the speaker continues to try to explain the type of person he wants to be, he begins to rattle off features in a list. These are not clearly defined personality traits or ways of life, but instead, each trait functions in relation to his object of affection.
The first line is a prime example of this as the speaker states that he wants to perfectly mirror “your image” to perfection. He wants to be a duplicate in all ways to his lover but the next two lines walk that assertion back as he states that he never wants to “be blind or too old.” If indeed he does wish to mirror his lover, then he will mirror her aging as well. He seems to want to only maintain the best attributes and ignore the rest. He wants to “uphold” not what she is, but what she is in this moment only.
He wishes to “unfold” himself and become someone else. He now dives into his own features and how they would transform as he mirrors his lover. “Nowhere” would be “crooked” or “bent” because that would be a “dishonest” reflection of his lover. His own self is collapsing and he is becoming the image of the “you” in this piece.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everday jug,
like my mother’s face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.
Not only does he seek to transform his physical appearance, he also wants to uphold his conscious “before you” and keep it “true. At this point in the poem the speaker begins to list off mundane, and one extraordinary, attributes of the world that he has “embraced” and will now describe himself as. He sees these three things like new “word[s]” that he has learned and enfolded. He will be as the “everyday jug, his “mother’s face” and lastly, as a “ship that carried me along / through the deadliest storm.” These objects of his life are related to his lover and he sees both himself and herself within them. She is the everyday objects, the object of love, and the object of salvation.
By listing off these elements of his life he hopes to become like them, and in turn, like the “you” referenced in this piece.
About Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke was born the only child of a German family living in Prague. When his schooling began he was sent to a military boarding academy but discharged, after transferring to the second school, for health reasons. He published his first book, Leben und Lieber: Bilder und Tagebuchblatter the year after he enrolled at Charles-Ferdinand University to study philosophy. This did not last long though, as he soon left for Munich to study art. While there we had a number of his plays put on and published two additional collections of poetry.
His work during this time of his life is characterized by its romanticism and lyrical nature. He would later be considered the most skilled of the German lyric poets. Rilke took a pivotal trip to Russia in 1897 that is seen as the beginning of his more serious work. Eventually, Rilke would settle in Paris and marry Clara Westhoff. It was there that he enjoyed his greatest success including his most well-known work, Das Studen Buch orThe Book of Hours. Throughout his life, his skill at crafting lyrical poetry would only increase and at the beginning of World War I, Rilke was forced to leave France and return to Munich. He died of leukemia there in December of 1926.