Study Guide

Archaic Torso of Apollo Art and Culture

By Rainer Maria Rilke

Art and Culture

This poem's title—"Archaic Torso of Apollo"—has "Art and Culture" written all over it. We can guess from this short, descriptive phrase that the poem will involve a piece of ancient Greek sculpture, depicting… well, the torso of Apollo, the god of light. Actually, even this pithy title allows us to summon up an immediate image of what this statue might look like—you know, the classic Greco-Roman figure of a muscle-bound dude. However, this poem is more than just rippling muscles in marble; while it draws its inspiration from the work of art described here, it also inspires the reader in turn, through its description of the lasting impact of a classic work of art.

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. This is a poem about art that never actually mentions art directly. Why not?
  2. How do art and nature relate here?
  3. Why do you think there's a moral of sorts at the end of this poem? What does art have to do with morality?

Chew on This

Man (or woman) in the mirror time: the powerful ending of Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo" suggests that art truly reflects upon the viewer, rather than the artist.

The confusion of art with natural imagery in "Archaic Torso of Apollo" shows that art is a basic part of human nature. The artistic impulse is as fundamentally human as procreation.

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