Study Guide

Archaic Torso of Apollo Light

By Rainer Maria Rilke

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Get your shades ready. There's light radiating everywhere in this poem, sometimes from the most unlikely places. Most importantly, Rilke offers us the image of the statue's inner radiance—we're not exactly sure what to call this (it's not exactly a metaphor, so we'll just call it imagery for lack of a more specific word). The poem isn't totally clear about what the nature of this mysterious illumination is, but we interpret it as the light of beauty, and artistic perfection.

  • Line 3: The speaker describes the statue as "suffused with brilliance"—but just as you imagine a statue lit up by a spotlight, he claims that it's glowing "from the inside." This suggests to us that it's a metaphorical light, not an actual one.
  • Line 4: In this simile, the statue radiates light "like a lamp" (or candelabra, in the original German). 
  • Line 5-6: The speaker's descriptive verbs, "gleam" and "dazzle" again suggest the intense inner glow of the statue.
  • Line 11: The statue's surface suddenly becomes an animal's fur, shining in the light.

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