Put Out My Eyes by Rainer Maria Rilke

In ‘Put Out My Eyes’ Rilke addresses themes of love, love lost, perseverance, and dedication. These are seen through the speaker’s attachment to the intended listener, only addressed as “you”. This unknown person is always going to remain in his mind/heart no matter the distance, physically and mentally.

 

Summary of Put Out My Eyes 

Put Out My Eyes’ by Rainer Maria Rilke is a powerful love poem that conveys the obsessive emotions of an entirely dedicated lover. 

The speaker describes throughout the nine lines of this short poem how no matter what the listener, his beloved, does to him, he’s going to continue to love him. Sever his arms, he will hold this person with his heart. Blind him, cut out his tongue, or “smash” his ears, he will still see them and conquer them when he wants to. This person is so tied to him that they are in his bloodstream.  

 

Structure of Put Out My Eyes 

Put Out My Eyes’ by Rainer Maria Rilke is a nine-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines follow a rhyme scheme of ABCACDCEC, making use of several different types of rhyme along the way. There are numerous perfect rhymes at the end of lines, but there are also examples of half-rhyme within the text. 

The internal half-rhymes, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. For example, “see” and “feet” in lines one and three as well as “go” and “hold” in lines three and five. 

 

Literary Devices in Put Out My Eyes 

Rilke makes use of several literary devices in ‘Put Out My Eyes’. These include but are not limited to caesura, epistrophe, enjambment, and personification. The first of these, caesura, occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. 

A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might precede an important turn or transition in the text. For example, line two which reads: “Slam my ears to, and I can hear you yet” or line five: “Break off my arms, I shall take hold of you”. There is a distinct separation between the clauses in both of these lines, as well as several others. 

Epistrophe is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple lines or sentences. In this case, a reader can look to the use and reuse of the word “you” at the ends of lines three, five, and nine. Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the transition between lines five and six. 

Personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. There is a good example in the sixth line where the speaker states that his heart with “grasp” the listener. This line is also part of a simile that compares the heart to “a hand”. 

 

Analysis of Put Out My Eyes 

Lines 1-4

Put out my eyes, and I can see you still,

Slam my ears to, and I can hear you yet;

And without any feet can go to you;

And tongueless, I can conjure you at will.

In the first lines of ‘Put Out My Eyes,’ the speaker begins by using the phrase “Put out my eyes”. It is the first part of a larger cause informing the listener, someone beloved to the speaker, that he will still be able to see them if this is the case. This line is a good example of the attachment the speaker has to this person and how connected he sees himself as being to them. There is nothing negative or harmful they could do to him that would make him stop caring for them. 

The second line is similar to the first although in regards to another sense, hearing. He adds that even without a tongue he can still “conjure you at will” and go to “you” without feet”. Their connection transcends these human senses and abilities. 

 

Lines 5-9 

Break off my arms, I shall take hold of you

And grasp you with my heart as with a hand;

Arrest my heart, my brain will beat as true;

And if you set this brain of mine afire,

Then on my blood-stream I yet will carry you.

In the final lines of ‘Put Out My Eyes,’ the speaker makes several more similar statements to those he crafted in lines one through four. He will still “hold” the listener even if they “break off” his arms. There is a good example of personification in the sixth line when he describes how his heart will “grasp you” if he has no hands. These statements, which are quite reverential, also lean towards the controlling side of the spectrum. The speaker is unwilling to let this person go no matter what their opinion is on the matter. 

The last two lines are image-rich. They also convey the true extent of the speaker’s obsession with this person. He is determined to carry them in his “blood stream” if that’s all that’s left to them. They are an 

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