Study Guide

Archaic Torso of Apollo Spirituality

By Rainer Maria Rilke

Spirituality

Hmm, spirituality. Given the fact that this poem's title invokes a god (Apollo), you may think that we're about to go off on some weird tangent about how we should all be worshipping the Greek pantheon. Sorry to disappoint—instead, we're more interested in the oblique notion of spirituality through art and beauty that "Archaic Torso of Apollo" seems to suggest. The speaker writes about this timeless work of art with a sense of awe and amazement (see "Theme: Awe and Amazement") and is deeply touched by it. He's so touched, in fact, that he (and, by extension, we) feels compelled to "change [his] life." That's the kind of rhetoric that usually goes with religion and spirituality—it's our beliefs, and the things that speak to us deeply on a philosophical level, that make us feel like we must change. And in this case, that thing that speaks so deeply is art, which makes art a kind of spiritual compulsion here.

Questions About Spirituality

  1. In your view, what's the significance of the poem's title and its invocation of a divine figure, Apollo?
  2. What do you think Rilke suggests here about the spiritual nature of art?
  3. Do you think there's any clear vision of spirituality offered in this poem? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Rilke refuses to clearly explain a link between art and spirituality in "Archaic Torso of Apollo" on purpose. Instead, he wants to recreate a more abstract impression of a spiritual awakening by experiencing art.

This poem combines elements of divinity and earthliness, creating an image of spirituality that embraces, rather than rejects, human drives and desires.

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