"Prayer to Life" by Lou Andreas-Salomé

Lou von Salomé as a teenager

As truly as I'd love a friend,
I have always loved you, riddling life,
whether I've laughed with you or wept,
whether you've brought me pleasure or strife.

Even when you hurt I love you,
and, when you must scatter me through space,
I will tear myself from your arms
as I would from a dear friend's embrace.

With all my strength I cling to you;
let all your fire enkindle me.
Even in the heat of battle
let me unravel your mysteries.

A thousand years to live and think!
Deep in your arms I long to remain.
And, when you have no more joy to give--
very well--you still have your pain.

"Lebensgebet," Lou Andreas-Salomé
Translated by Frank Beck

In 1880 Lou von Salomé of St. Petersburg was 19 and studying at the University of Zurich, one of the first universities to accept female students. She audited courses in philosophy, theology and art history. At the same time, she wrote poems, including this bold declaration to accept whatever life might bring her.

Two years later in Rome, Lou struck up a friendship with 37-year-old Friedrich Nietzsche, who liked her poem so much he set it to music. In an 1882 letter to Ida Overbeck, he wrote, "I found no more gifted or reflective spirit. Lou is by far the most intelligent person I have ever become acquainted with."

Lou went on to become Rilke's "lover, mother and muse" and a pioneering psychoanalyst to whom Freud sometimes referred patients.

A new feature film by Cordula Kablitz-Post tells the story of her life. After theatrical runs in Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and Brazil, it opened in the U.S. in April 2018 and is now available here on Vimeo and Amazon.

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