Study Guide

Archaic Torso of Apollo Art and Culture

By Rainer Maria Rilke

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Art and Culture

eyes like ripening fruit (2)

This brief image suggests the link between both human bodies and the natural world, and human art and natural beauty.

And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside (2-3)

Art's eternal quality cannot be extinguished, even when the whole artwork has been fragmented—even the incomplete artwork has power over the viewer.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur (9-11)

There's something sacred about the artwork, even in its broken state, and the "translucent cascade of the shoulders" suggests an image of natural beauty (like the "wild beast's fur"). We get the feeling in this stanza that art, even though it comes from the human hand, is just as natural as, well, nature—and that both of these things are sacred, in their way.

from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star (12-13)

Art isn't just form—it's also got its own sort of spirit, which can't be contained by its physical shell.

for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life. (13-14)

Okay, here's a kind of creepy but cool thought—you don't just look at art. Art looks at you (eep).

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