Rainer Maria Rilke: Wikis


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Rainer Maria Rilke

Photograph of Rilke, circa 1900.
Born 4 December 1875(1875-12-04)
Prague, Bohemia, Austria–Hungary
Died 29 December 1926 (aged 51)
Montreux, Switzerland
Occupation poet, novelist
Nationality Austrian
Period 1894 - 1925

Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and art critic. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety: themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.

He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. Among English-language readers, his best-known work is the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. He also wrote more than 400 poems in French, dedicated to his homeland of choice, the canton of Valais in Switzerland.





He was born René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke in Prague, capital of Bohemia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now the Czech Republic). His childhood and youth in Prague were not especially happy. His father, Josef Rilke (1838-1906), became a railway official after an unsuccessful military career. His mother, Sophie ("Phia") Entz (1851-1931), came from a well-to-do Prague family, the Entz-Kinzelbergers, who lived in a house on the Herrengasse (Panská) 8, where René also spent many of his early years.

The relationship between Phia and her only son was colored by her mourning for a prior child, a daughter, who had died after only a week of life. During Rilke's early years Phia acted as if she sought to recover the lost girl through the boy by dressing him in girl's clothing.[1] The parents' marriage fell apart in 1884.

His parents pressured the poetically and artistically talented youth into entering a military academy, which he attended from 1886 until 1891, when he left due to illness. From 1892 to 1895 he was tutored for the university entrance exam, which he passed in 1895. In 1895 and 1896, he studied literature, art history, and philosophy in Prague and Munich.


In 1897 in Munich, Rainer Maria Rilke met and fell in love with the widely traveled, intellectual woman of letters Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937). (Rilke changed his first name from "René" to the more masculine Rainer at Lou's urging.) His relationship with this married woman, with whom he undertook two extensive trips to Russia, lasted until 1900. But even after their separation, Lou continued to be Rilke's most important confidante until the end of his life. Having trained from 1912 to 1913 as a psychoanalyst with Sigmund Freud, she shared her knowledge of psychoanalysis with Rilke.

In 1898, Rilke undertook a journey lasting several weeks to Italy. In 1899, he traveled with Lou and her husband, Friedrich Andreas, to Moscow where he met the novelist Leo Tolstoy. Between May and August 1900, a second journey to Russia, accompanied only by Lou, again took him to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where he met the family of Boris Pasternak and Spiridon Drozhzhin, a peasant poet. Later, "Rilke called two places his home: Bohemia and Russia".[2]

In autumn 1900, Rilke stayed at the artists' colony at Worpswede, where his portrait was painted by the proto-expressionist Paula Modersohn-Becker (illus. below). It was here that he got to know the sculptor Clara Westhoff (1878-1954), whom he married the following spring. Their daughter Ruth (1901-1972) was born in December 1901. However, Rilke was not one for a middle-class family life; in the summer of 1902, Rilke left home and traveled to Paris to write a monograph on the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Still, the relationship between Rilke and Clara Westhoff continued for the rest of his life.


Paula Modersohn-Becker. Rainer Maria Rilke, 1906

At first, Rilke had a difficult time in Paris, an experience that he called on in the first part of his only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. At the same time, his encounter with modernism was very stimulating: Rilke became deeply involved in the sculpture of Rodin, and then with the work of Paul Cézanne. For a time he acted as Rodin's amanuensis, also lecturing and writing a long essay on Rodin and his work. Rodin taught him the value of objective observation, and under this influence Rilke dramatically transformed his poetic style from the subjective and sometimes incantatory language of his earlier work into something quite new in European literature. The result was the New Poems, famous for the 'thing-poems' expressing Rilke's rejuvenated artistic vision. The poems of the New Poems and New Poems: The Other Part are highly wrought, using language and poetic form as a shaped and shaping material; to this extent the poems are often said to be 'things' in themselves. During these years, Paris increasingly became the writer's main residence.

The most important works of the Paris period were Neue Gedichte (New Poems) (1907), Der Neuen Gedichte Anderer Teil (Another Part of the New Poems) (1908), the two "Requiem" poems (1909), and the novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, started in 1904 and completed in January 1910.


Between October 1911 and May 1912, Rilke stayed at the Castle Duino, near Trieste, home of Countess Marie of Thurn and Taxis. There, in 1912, he began the poem cycle called the Duino Elegies, which would remain unfinished for a decade because of a long-lasting creativity crisis.

The outbreak of World War I surprised Rilke during a stay in Germany. He was unable to return to Paris, where his property was confiscated and auctioned. He spent the greater part of the war in Munich. From 1914 to 1916 he had a turbulent affair with the painter Lou Albert-Lasard.

Rilke was called up at the beginning of 1916, and he had to undertake basic training in Vienna. Influential friends interceded on his behalf, and he was transferred to the War Records Office and discharged from the military on 9 June 1916. He spent the subsequent time once again in Munich, interrupted by a stay on Hertha Koenig's Gut Bockel in Westphalia. The traumatic experience of military service, a reminder of the horrors of the military academy, almost completely silenced him as a poet.


On 11 June 1919, Rilke traveled from Munich to Switzerland. The outward motive was an invitation to lecture in Zürich, but the real reason was the wish to escape the post-war chaos and take up his work on the Duino Elegies once again. The search for a suitable and affordable place to live proved to be very difficult. Among other places, Rilke lived in Soglio, Locarno, and Berg am Irchel. Only in mid-1921 was he able to find a permanent residence in the Chateau de Muzot in the commune of Veyras, close to Sierre in Valais. In an intense creative period, Rilke completed the Duino Elegies within several weeks in February 1922. Before and after, Rilke rapidly wrote both parts of the poem cycle Sonnets to Orpheus containing 55 entire sonnets. Both works together have often been taken as constituting the high points of Rilke's work. In May 1922, Rilke's patron Werner Reinhart bought and renovated Muzot so that Rilke could live there rent-free.[3]

During this time, Reinhart introduced Rilke to his protégé, the Australian violinist Alma Moodie.[4] Rilke was so impressed with her playing that he wrote in a letter: What a sound, what richness, what determination. That and the "Sonnets to Orpheus", those were two strings of the same voice. And she plays mostly Bach! Muzot has received its musical christening....[5][6][7]

From 1923 on, Rilke increasingly had to struggle with health problems that necessitated many long stays at a sanatorium in Territet, near Montreux, on Lake Geneva. His long stay in Paris between January and August 1925 was an attempt to escape his illness through a change in location and living conditions. Despite this, numerous important individual poems appeared in the years 1923-1926 (including Gong and Mausoleum), as well as the abundant lyrical work in French.

Only shortly before his death was Rilke's illness diagnosed as leukemia. The poet died on 29 December 1926 in the Valmont Sanatorium in Switzerland, and was buried on 2 January 1927 in the Raron cemetery to the west of Visp.

Rilke's grave

Rilke had chosen as his own epitaph this poem:

Rose, oh reiner Widerspruch, Lust,
Niemandes Schlaf zu sein unter soviel

Rose, oh pure contradiction, delight
of being no one's sleep under so
many lids.

Rilke's literary style

Figures from Greek mythology (e.g. Apollo, Hermes, Orpheus) recur as motifs in his poems and are depicted in original interpretations (e.g. in the poem Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes, Rilke's Eurydice, numbed and dazed by death, does not recognize her lover Orpheus, who descended to hell to recover her). Other recurring figures in Rilke's poems are angels, roses and a character of a poet and his creative work.

Rilke often worked with metaphors, metonymy and contradictions (e.g. in his epitaph, the rose is a symbol of sleep – rose petals are reminiscent of closed eye lids).

Rilke's little-known 1898 poem, "Visions of Christ" depicted Mary Magdalene as the mother to Jesus' child.[8][9]

Quoting Susan Haskins:

It was Rilke's explicit belief that Christ was not divine, was entirely human, and deified only on Calvary, expressed in an unpublished poem of 1893, and referred to in other poems of the same period, which allowed him to portray Christ's love for Mary Magdalene, though remarkable, as entirely human.[10]

Rilke's influence

  • German philosopher Martin Heidegger cites Rilke as an example of the highest form of thinker in his essay "What Are Poets For?" The essay's theme is largely explored through the examination of an "improvised verse" (short poem) Rilke wrote in 1924. Heidegger ranks Rilke in the German poetic tradition as second only to Friedrich Hölderlin.
  • The Rilke Project involves contemporary pop artists and actors (including Xavier Naidoo, BAP, Jürgen Prochnow, and Katja Riemann) interpreting Rilke's texts to make Rilke accessible to new generations.
  • The Rainer Maria Rilke Foundation in Sierre was established in 1986 to promote the work of the poet.
  • The novel Lost Son by M. Allen Cunningham (2007) tells the story of Rilke's life from birth to age 42.
  • The indie rock band Rainer Maria takes its name from Rilke, and some of their merchandise bears the poet's image.
  • The Cocteau Twins's song "Rilkean Heart", on the 1996 album Milk and Kisses, is an homage to Jeff Buckley who was a lifelong lover of Rilke's work.
  • The Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974) set Rilke's prose "Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke" (The lay of the love and death of Cornet Christopher Rilke) to an orchestral song cycle, premiered in February 1945. Viktor Ullmann, an Austrian composer, also set this prose to music.
  • The British composer Oliver Knussen (b. 1952) has set texts of Rainer Maria Rilke to music in his unaccompanied Rilke songs and in Requiem: Songs for Sue.
  • The Trieste-based British composer Raphael Douglas, Baron von Banfield Tripcovich (1922-2008) set several poems of Rilke for soprano and large orchestra, including 'Serale' and 'Liebeslied' (1968), 'Der Tod des Geliebten' and 'Der Sturm' (1972), and 'Four Rilke songs' (1986).
  • The Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) set several of Rilke's poems to music in his Symphony No. 14.
  • The American contemporary composer Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943) set five of Rilke's French-language "Rose" poems to music in a choral piece titled Les Chansons des Roses.
  • The contemporary Danish composer Per Nørgård (b. 1932) has set the Rilke sonnet to Orpheus "Singe die Gärten" as the second and final movement of his 3rd symphony.
  • The contemporary Norwegian composer Arne Nordheim (b. 1931) has set Rilke's "Todeserfahrung" in his Wirklicher Wald.
  • In 2006, Pianist Brad Mehldau wrote a cycle of art songs for soprano and piano based on seven poems from Rilke's The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. Mehldau premiered the work with Renée Fleming at Carnegie Hall in 2006, which was recorded and released on the album Love Sublime.
  • The German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) set Six Chansons, 6 pieces for a cappella choir, of the French poetry by Rilke (1939), as well as the imposing German language song cycle Das Marienleben (1922, revised 1948).
  • Composer Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931), a great admirer of Rilke's work, includes the beginning of "Vom Tode Mariä I" (Derselbe große Engel, welcher einst) at the end of her piece Stufen.
  • Robert Hunter, best known for his work with The Grateful Dead, translated The Duino Elegies[11] and Sonnets to Orpheus.[12] The Sonnets translation is a rhymed translation. He also recorded readings of his translations; the Duino Elegies recording was made with keyboardist Tom Constanten.
  • Chicago jazz vocalist Kurt Elling combined a Rilke poem with a melody from the Dave Brubeck Quartet to form his song "Those Clouds Are Heavy, You Dig?".
  • Band Eyeless in Gaza singer Martyn Bates worked with Anne Clark to set poems by Rilke to music on the album Just After Sunset in 2002.
  • The composer Harrison Birtwistle (b. 1934) has set some of the Sonnets to Orpheus in his piece Orpheus Elegies for oboe, harp and counter-tenor.
  • The German composer Bertold Hummel (1925-2002) wrote Herbsttag (1980), a song for voice and piano, after Rilke's famous poem Autumn Day.[13]
  • The Danish composer Paul von Klenau (1883-1946) composed a song cycle on "Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke" (The lay of the love and death of cornet Christopher Rilke) for baritone and orchestra, during the years 1918-1919.
  • Austrian composer Anton Webern's Op. 8 (1910), Zwei Lieder nach Gedichten von Rainer Maria Rilke, sets two poems by Rilke for soprano and chamber ensemble: "Du, der ich's nicht sage" ("You, whom I am not telling") and "Du machst mich allein" ("You make me alone").
  • The Austrian composer Alban Berg (1885-1935) set several of Rilke's poems, including "Traumgekrönt" (Das war der Tag der weißen Chrysanthemen) ("Crowned in a dream"), the fourth of Berg's Seven Early Songs.
  • Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) set a number of Rilke's poems, including three of the Four Lieder for Voice and Orchestra, Op.22 (1913/16): "Alle, welche dich suchen" (from Das Stundenbuch - Das Buch von der Pilgerschaft), "Mach mich zum Wächter deiner Weiten" (from Das Stundenbuch - Das Buch von der Armut und dem Tode), and "Vorgefühl" (from Das Buch der Bilder).
  • Fragments of Rilke's poetry are inscribed in certain paintings by Cy Twombly.
  • In 1968, American artist Ben Shahn illustrated a set of verses from Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge called For the Sake of a Single Verse...
  • Rilke's poem "You, Neighbour God" is included in the most commonly used edition of Liturgy of the Hours.

Selection of works

Complete works

  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Sämtliche Werke in 12 Bänden (Complete Works in 12 Volumes), published by Rilke Archive in association with Ruth Sieber-Rilke, edited by Ernst Zinn. Frankfurt am Main (1976)
  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Werke (Works). Annotated edition in four volumes with supplementary fifth volume, published by Manfred Engel, Ulrich Fülleborn, Dorothea Lauterbach, Horst Nalewski and August Stahl. Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig (1996 and 2003)

Volumes of poetry

  • Leben und Lieder (Life and Songs) (1894)
  • Larenopfer (Lares' Sacrifice) (1895)
  • Traumgekrönt (Dream-Crowned) (1897)
  • Advent (Advent) (1898)
  • Mir zur Feier (To me Only Celebration) (1909)
  • Das Stunden-Buch (The Book of Hours)
    • Das Buch vom mönchischen Leben (The Book of Monastic Life) (1899)
    • Das Buch von der Pilgerschaft (The Book of Pilgrimage) (1901)
    • Das Buch von der Armut und vom Tode (The Book of Poverty and Death) (1903)
  • Das Buch der Bilder (The Book of Images) (4 Parts, 1902-1906)
  • Neue Gedichte (New Poems) (1907)
  • Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies) (1922)
  • Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to Orpheus) (1922)


  • Geschichten vom Lieben Gott (Stories of God) (Collection of tales, 1900)
  • Auguste Rodin (1903)
  • Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke) (Lyric story, 1906)
  • Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge) (Novel, 1910)


Collected letters

  • Gesammelte Briefe in sechs Bänden (Collected Letters in Six Volumes), published by Ruth Sieber-Rilke and Carl Sieber. Leipzig (1936-1939)
  • Briefe (Letters), published by the Rilke Archive in Weimar. Two volumes, Wiesbaden (1950, reprinted 1987 in single volume).
  • Briefe in Zwei Bänden (Letters in Two Volumes) (Horst Nalewski, Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1991)

Other volumes of letters

  • Briefe an Auguste Rodin (Insel Verlag, 1928)
  • Briefwechsel mit Marie von Thurn und Taxis, two volumes, edited by Ernst Zinn with a forward by Rudolf Kassner (Editions Max Niehans, 1954)
  • Briefwechsel mit Thankmar von Münchhausen 1913 bis 1925 (Suhrkamp Insel Verlag, 2004)
  • Briefwechsel mit Rolf von Ungern-Sternberg und weitere Dokumente zur Übertragung der Stances von Jean Moréas (Suhrkamp Insel Verlag, 2002)



  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies and The Sonnets To Orpheus translated by A. Poulin, Jr. (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1975) ISBN 0-395-25058-7
  • The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. and trans. Stephen Mitchell, Introduction by Robert Hass (Vintage; Reissue edition 13 March 1989)
  • Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. and trans. Robert Bly New York, 1981)
  • The Unknown Rilke, trans. Franz Wright (Oberlin College Press, expanded ed. 1990) ISBN 0-932440-56-8
  • The Book of Fresh Beginnings: Selected Poems, trans. David Young (Oberlin College Press, 1994) ISBN 0-932440-68-1
  • The Essential Rilke, ed. and trans. Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann (Hopewell, NJ, 1999)
  • Uncollected Poems, trans. Edward Snow (North Point Press, New York, 1996)
  • The Poetry of Rilke, trans. Edward Snow (North Point Press, New York, 2009)
  • Two Prague Stories, trans. Isabel Cole (Vitalis, Český Těšín, 2002)
  • Pictures of God: Rilke's Religious Poetry, ed. and trans. Annemarie S. Kidder (Livonia, MI 2005)
  • Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, Letters to a young poet: Box set, ed. and trans. Stephen Mitchell
  • "Rilke's Late Poetry: Duino Elegies, The Sonnets to Orpheus, and Selected Last Poems", ed. and trans. Graham Good (Ronsdale Press, Vancouver B.C., 2005)

Duino Elegies

  • Duineser Elegien: Elegies from the Castle of Duino, trans. V. Sackville-West (Hogarth Press, London, 1931)
  • Duino Elegies, trans. J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender (W. W. Norton, New York, 1939)
  • Duino Elegies, trans. Jessie Lemont (Fine Editions Press, New York, 1945)
  • Duineser Elegien: The Elegies of Duino, trans. Nora Wydenbruck (Amandus, Vienna, 1948
  • Duinesian Elegies, trans. Elaine E. Boney (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1975)
  • Duino Elegies, trans. David Young (W. W. Norton, New York, 1978) ISBN 0-393-30931-2
  • Duino Elegies, trans. Gary Miranda (Azul Editions, Falls Church, VA, 1996) ISBN 885214-07-3
  • Duino Elegies, trans. Robert Hunter w/ block prints by Mareen Hunter (Hulogosi Press, 1989)][14]
  • Duino-Elegieë trans. H.J. Pieterse from German to Afrikaans (Protea, Pretoria, 2007) ISBN 978-1-86919-151-1

Sonnets to Orpheus

  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. with notes and commentary J.B. Leishman (Hogarth Press, London, 1936)
  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. C. F. MacIntyre, (U.C. Berkeley Press, 1961)
  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. M.D. Herder Norton (W. W. Norton, New York, 1962)
  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Jessie Lemont (Fine Editions PRess, New York, 1945)
  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. with notes Stephen Mitchell (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1985)
  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. with notes and commentary Edward Snow (North Point Press, New York, 2004)ISBN: [0865477213]
  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Willis Barnstone (Shambhala Publications, Boston, 2004)
  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Leslie Norris and Alan Keele (ed. Lucien Jenkins) (Camden House, Inc 1989)
  • Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Robert Hunter[15]
  • Orpheus, trans. Don Paterson (Faber, 2006)

Other works

  • Stories of God, trans. M.D. Herter Norton (W. W. Norton, New York, 1932) ISBN 0-393-30882-0
  • Stories of God, trans. Michael H. Kohn (Shambhala, Boston, 2003) ISBN 978-1-59030-038-1
  • Stories of God, trans. Various, edited by Jack Beacham (Aventure Works, Hudson, Ohio, 2009) ISBN 1-4392-2561-3
  • Letters to a Young Poet, trans. M.D. Herter Norton (W.W. Norton, New York, 1934) ISBN 0-393-31039-6
  • Poems from The Book of Hours trans. Babette Deutsch (New Directions, New York, 1941)
  • The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, trans. M.D. Herter Norton (W.W. Norton, New York, 1949) ISBN 0-393-30881-2
  • The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York, 1983)
  • The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christophe Rilke, trans. Stephen Mitchell (Graywolf Press, 1985) ISBN 0-915308-77-0
  • The Book of Hours: Prayers to a Lowly God, trans. Annemarie S. Kidder (Evanston, 2001)
  • Larenopfer, trans. and commentary by Alfred de Zayas, with drawings by Martin Andrysek (Red Hen Press, Los Angeles, 2005, 2nd revised and enlarged edition with a preface by Ralph Freedman, 2008)
  • Rainer Maria Rilke's The Book of Hours: A New Translation with Commentary, trans. Susan Ranson, edited with an introduction and notes by Ben Hutchinson (Camden House, New York/Boydell & Brewer Ltd, Woodbridge, UK, 2008) ISBN 978-1-57113-380-9
  • Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God; translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy; New York: Riverhead Books(1996); ISBN 1-59448-156-3

Books on Rilke


  • Ralph Freedman, Life of a Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke, New York 1996.
  • Donald Prater, A Ringing Glass: The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke, Oxford University Press, 1994
  • Paul Torgersen, Dear Friend: Rainer Maria Rilke and Paula Modersohn-Becker, Northwestern University Press, 1998.


  • A Companion to the Works of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. Erika A and Michael M. Metzger, Rochester 2001.
  • Rilke Handbuch: Leben - Werk - Wirkung, ed. Manfred Engel and Dorothea Lauterbach, Stuttgart and Weimar 2004.
  • Goldsmith, Ulrich, ed. (1980). Rainer Maria Rilke, a verse concordance to his complete lyrical poetry. Leeds: W.S. Maney.
  • Mood, John J. L. Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties. (New York: W. W. Norton 1975, reissue 2004) ISBN 0-393-31098-1.
  • Mood, John. Rilke on Death and Other Oddities. Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2006. ISBN 1-4257-2818-9.
  • Schwarz, Egon. Poetry and politics in the works of Rainer Maria Rilke. Frederick Ungar, 1981. ISBN 9780804428118.

Mood, John. 'A New Reading of Rilke's "Elegies": Affirming the Unity of "life-AND-death"'. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-7734-3864-4.

See also


  1. ^ WashingtonPost.com: Life of a Poet : Rainer Maria Rilke at www.washingtonpost.com
  2. ^ Anna A. Tavis. Rilke's Russia: A Cultural Encounter. Northwestern University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8101-1466-6. Page 1.
  3. ^ http://books.google.com.au/books?id=MRmu9Xy9aqkC&pg=PA505&lpg=PA505&dq=werner+reinhart&source=web&ots=1KBVEA3-uJ&sig=Zh_jXxi8Vvu3OGJDc4PS-oRBgyA&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result#PPA505,M1
  4. ^ R,M,Rilke: Music as Metaphor
  5. ^ Photo and description
  6. ^ R. M. Rilke – Music as metaphor
  7. ^ Rainer Maria Rilke: a brief biographical overview
  8. ^ Liza Knapp, "Tsvetaeva's Marine Mary Magdalene" (The Slavic and East European Journal, Volume 43, Number 4; Winter, 1999).
  9. ^ Susan Haskins, Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor (Riverhead Trade; 1995).
  10. ^ Susan Haskins, Mary Magdalene - Myth and Metaphor, page 361 (HarperCollins; 1993 ISBN 0 00 215535 4).
  11. ^ The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Robert Hunter at www.hunterarchive.com
  12. ^ The Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Robert Hunter at www.hunterarchive.com
  13. ^ http://www.bertoldhummel.de/english/commentaries/opus_71C.html
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ [2]

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.

Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 187529 December 1926), born René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, is generally considered the German language's greatest poet of the 20th century.



For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you
  • Just as language has no longer anything in common with the thing it names, so the movements of most of the people who live in cities have lost their connexion with the earth; they hang, as it were, in the air, hover in all directions, and find no place where they can settle.
    • Worpswede (1903)
  • Du im Voraus
    verlorne Geliebte, Nimmergekommene,
    nicht weiß ich, welche Töne dir lieb sind.
    Nicht mehr versuch ich, dich, wenn das Kommende wogt,
    zu erkennen.
    • You who never arrived
      in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
      from the start,
      I don't even know what songs
      would please you.
      I have given up trying
      to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
    • You Who Never Arrived (as translated by Stephen Mitchell) (1913-1914)
  • Ach, die Gärten bist du,
    ach, ich sah sie mit solcher
    Hoffnung. Ein offenes Fenster
    im Landhaus—, und du tratest beinahe
    mir nachdenklich heran. Gassen fand ich,—
    du warst sie gerade gegangen,
    und die spiegel manchmal der Läden der Händler
    waren noch schwindlich von dir und gaben erschrocken
    mein zu plötzliches Bild.—Wer weiß, ob derselbe
    Vogel nicht hinklang durch uns
    gestern, einzeln, im Abend?
    • You, Beloved, who are all
      the gardens I have ever gazed at,
      An open window
      in a country house-, and you almost
      stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
      Streets that I chanced upon,—
      you had just walked down them and vanished.
      And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
      were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
      gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows?
      perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
      yesterday, separate, in the evening...
    • You Who Never Arrived (as translated by Stephen Mitchell)
  • Schon ist mein Blick am Hügel, dem besonnten,
    dem Wege, den ich kaum begann, voran.
    So fasst uns das, was wir nicht fassen konnten,
    voller Erscheinung, aus der Ferne an—

    und wandelt uns, auch wenn wirs nicht erreichen,
    in jenes, das wir, kaum es ahnend, sind;
    ein Zeichen weht, erwidernd unserm Zeichen...
    Wir aber spüren nur den Gegenwind.

    • Already my gaze is upon the hill, the sunny one,
      at the end of the path which I've only just begun.
      So we are grasped, by that which we could not grasp,
      at such great distance, so fully manifest—

      and it changes us, even when we do not reach it,
      into something that, hardly sensing it, we already are;
      a sign appears, echoing our own sign...
      But what we sense is the falling winds.

    • Spaziergang (A Walk) (March 1924)
  • I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
    to truly consecrate the hour.
    I am much too small in this world, yet not small
    to be to you just object and thing,
    dark and smart.
    I want my free will and want it accompanying
    the path which leads to action;
    and want during times that beg questions,
    where something is up,
    to be among those in the know,
    or else be alone.
    • I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone, st. 1 (as translated by Annemarie S. Kidder)
  • The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.
    • Wendung (Turning Point) (as translated by Stephen Mitchell)
  • He was a poet and hated the approximate.
    • The Journal of My Other Self
  • Death is the side of life which is turned away from us.
    • Letter to W. von Hulewicz
  • Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.
    • As quoted in Sunbeams : A Book of Quotations (1990) by Sy Safransky, p. 42
  • Everywhere I am folded, there I am a lie.
    • As quoted in News of the Universe : Poems of Twofold Consciousness (1995) by Robert W. Bly, p. 125

Rilke's Letters

  • Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further.
    • Letter to his wife, reprinted in Rilke’s Letters on Cézanne (1952, trans. 1985). (June 24, 1907)
  • Ideally a painter (and, generally, an artist) should not become conscious of his insights: without taking the detour through his reflective processes, and incomprehensibly to himself, all his progress should enter so swiftly into the work that he is unable to recognise them in the moment of transition. Alas, the artist who waits in ambush there, watching, detaining them, will find them transformed like the beautiful gold in the fairy tale which cannot remain gold because some small detail was not taken care of.
    • Letter to his wife, reprinted in Rilke’s Letters on Cézanne (1952, trans. 1985). (October 21, 1907)
  • Painting is something that takes place among the colors, and ... one has to leave them alone completely, so that they can settle the matter among themselves. Their intercourse: this is the whole of painting. Whoever meddles, arranges, injects his human deliberation, his wit, his advocacy, his intellectual agility in any way, is already disturbing and clouding their activity.
    • Letter to his wife, reprinted in Rilke’s Letters on Cézanne (1952, trans. 1985). (October 21, 1907)
  • Just as the creative artist is not allowed to choose, neither is he permitted to turn his back on anything: a single refusal, and he is cast out of the state of grace and becomes sinful all the way through.
    • Letter to his wife, reprinted in Rilke’s Letters on Cézanne (1952, trans. 1985). (October 23, 1907)
  • He [Cézanne] reproduced himself with so much humble objectivity, with the unquestioning, matter of fact interest of a dog who sees himself in a mirror and thinks: there’s another dog.
    • Letter to his wife, reprinted in Rilke’s Letters on Cézanne (1952, trans. 1985). (October 23, 1907)
  • Not since Moses has anyone seen a mountain so greatly.
    • Quoted in Rilke's Letters on Cézanne, foreword (1952, trans. 1985).
  • What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are.
    • Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke (1960)

Das Stundenbuch (The Book of Hours) (1899-1903)

  • Extinguish my sight, and I can still see you;
    plug up my ears, and I can still hear;
    even without feet I can walk toward you,
    and without mouth I can still implore.
    Break off my arms, and I will hold you
    with my heart as if it were a hand;
    strangle my heart, and my brain will still throb;
    and should you set fire to my brain,
    I still can carry you with my blood.
    • Translated by Annemarie S. Kidder
  • Ich bin auf der Welt zu allein und doch nicht allein genug,
    um jede Studen zu weihen.
    Ich bin auf der Welt zu gering und doch nicht klein genug,
    um vor dir zu sein wie ein Ding,
    dunkel und klug.
    Ich will meinen Willen und will meinen Willen begleiten
    die Wege zur Tat;
    und will in stillen, irgendwie zörgernden Zeiten,
    wenn etwas naht,
    unter den Wissenden sein
    oder allein.
    • I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough
      to make every hour holy.
      I am too small in the world, and yet not tiny enough
      just to stand before you like a thing,
      dark and shrewd.
      I want my will, and I want to be with my will
      as it moves towards deed;
      and in those quiet, somehow hesitating times,
      when something is approaching,
      I want to be with those who are wise
      or else alone.
    • Number 2 (as translated by Cliff Crego)

Das Buch der Bilder (The Book of Images) (1902)

  • Aus unendlichen Sehnsüchten steigen
    endliche Taten wie schwache Fontänen,
    die sich zeitig und zitternd neigen.
    Aber, die sich uns sonst verschweigen,
    unsere fröhlichen kräfte—zeigen
    sich in diesen tanzenden Tränen.
    • Out of infinite longings rise
      finite deeds like weak fountains,
      falling back just in time and trembling.
      And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
      our happy energies—show themselves
      in these dancing tears.
    • Initiale (Initial) (as translated by Cliff Crego)
  • Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
    Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
    und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.
    • Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
      Let thine shadows upon the sundials fall,
      and unleash the winds upon the open fields.
    • Herbsttag (Autumn Day) (as translated by Cliff Crego)
  • Der Abend wechselt langsam die Gewänder,
    die ihm ein Rand von alten Bäumen hält.
    • Slowly the evening changes into the clothes
      held for it by a row of ancient trees.
    • Abend (Evening) (as translated by Cliff Crego)

Neue Gedichte (New Poems) (1907-1908)

  • Wie soll ich meine Seele halten, daß
    sie nicht an deine rührt? Wie soll ich sie
    hinheben über dich zu andern Dingen?
    Ach gerne möchte ich sie bei irgendetwas
    Verlorenem im Dunkel unterbringen
    an einer fremden stillen Stelle, die
    nicht weiterschwingt, wenn diene Tiefen schwingen.
    Doch alles, was uns anrührt, dich und mich,
    nimmt uns zusammen wie ein Bogenstrich,
    die aus zwei Saiten eine Stimme zieht.
    Auf welches Instrument sind wir gespannt?
    Und welcher Geiger hat uns in der Hand?
    O süßes Lied.
    • How shall I hold on to my soul, so that
      it does not touch yours? How shall I lift
      it gently up over you on to other things?
      I would so very much like to tuck it away
      among long lost objects in the dark,
      in some quiet, unknown place, somewhere
      which remains motionless when your depths resound.
      And yet everything which touches us, you and me,
      takes us together like a single bow,
      drawing out from two strings but one voice.
      On which instrument are we strung?
      And which violinist holds us in his hand?
      O sweetest of songs.
    • Liebes-Lied (Love Song) (as translated by Cliff Crego)
  • Diese Mühsal, durch noch Ungetanes
    schwer und wie gebunden hinzugehen,
    gleicht dem ungeschaffnen Gang des Schwanes.

    Und das Sterben, dieses Nichtmehrfassen
    jenes Grunds, auf dem wir täglich stehen,
    seinem ängstlichen Sich-Niederlassen—:

    in die Wasser, die ihn sanft empfangen
    und die sich, wie glücklich und vergangen,
    unter ihm zurückziehn, Flut um Flut;
    während er unendlich still und sicher
    immer mündiger und königlicher
    und gelassener zu ziehn geruht.

    • This difficult living, heavy and as if all tied up,
      moving through that which has been left undone,
      is like the not-quite-finished walk of the swan.

      And dying, this slipping away from
      the ground upon which we stand every day,
      is his anxious letting himself fall—:

      into the waters, which receive him gladly
      and which, as if happily already gone by,
      draw back under him, wave after wave;
      while the swan, infinitely calm and self-assured,
      opener and more magnificent
      and more serene, allows himself to be drawn on.

    • Der Schwan (The Swan) (as translated by Cliff Crego)
  • Die nächste Flut verwischt den Weg im Watt,
    und alles wird auf allen Seiten gleich;
    die kleine Insel draußen aber hat
    die Augen zu; verwirrend kreist der Deich

    um ihre Wohner, die in einem Schlaf
    geboren werden, drin sie viele Welten
    verwechseln schweigend, denn sie reden selten,
    und jeder Satz ist wie ein Epitaph

    • The next tide will erase the way through the mudflats,
      and everything will be again equal on all sides;
      but the small, far-out island already has its
      eyes closed; bewildered, the dike draws a circle

      around its inhabitants who were born
      into a sleep in which many worlds
      are silently confused, for they rarely speak,
      and every phrase is like an epitaph.

    • Die Insel I (The Island I) (as translated by Cliff Crego)

Der Panther (The Panther) (1907)

  • Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehen der Stäbe
    so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
    Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
    und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

    Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
    der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
    ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
    in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

    Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
    sich lautlos auf—. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
    geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille—
    und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

    • His tired gaze - from passing endless bars -
      has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
      To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
      and out beyond these bars exists no world.

      His supple gait, the smoothness of strong strides
      that gently turn in ever smaller circles
      perform a dance of strength, centered deep within
      a will, stunned, but untamed, indomitable.

      But sometimes the curtains of his eyelids part,
      the pupils of his eyes dilate as images
      of past encounters enter while through his limbs
      a tension strains in silence
      only to cease to be, to die within his heart.

    • As translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

In Celebration of Me (1909)

  • I am so afraid of people's words.
    They describe so distinctly everything:
    And this they call dog and that they call house,
    here the start and there the end.

    I worry about their mockery with words,
    they know everything, what will be, what was;
    no mountain is still miraculous;
    and their house and yard lead right up to God.

    I want to warn and object: Let the things be!
    I enjoy listening to the sound they are making.
    But you always touch: and they hush and stand still.
    That's how you kill.

    • Translated by Annemarie S. Kidder

Duino Elegies(1922)

Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us...
  • Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel
    Ordnungen? und gesetzt selbst, es nähme
    einer mich plötzlich ans Herz: ich verginge von seinem
    stärkeren Dasein. Denn das Schöne ist nichts
    als des Schrecklichen Anfang, den wir noch grade ertragen,
    und wir bewundern es so, weil es gelassen verschmäht,
    uns zu zerstören. Ein jeder Engel ist schredklich.
    • Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
      hierarchies? and even if one of them
      pressed me against his heart: I would be consumed
      in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
      but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,
      and we are are so awed because it serenely disdains
      to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.
    • First Elegy (as translated by Stephen Mitchell)
  • Ja, die Frühlinge brauchten dich wohl. Es muteten manche
    Sterne dir zu, daß du sie spürtest. Es hob
    sich eine Woge heran im Vergangenen, oder
    da du vorüberkamst am geöffneten Fenster,
    gab eine Geige sich hin. Das alles war Auftrag.
    Aber bewältigtest du's? Warst du nicht immer
    noch von Erwartung zer streut, als kündigte alles
    eine Geliebte dir an? (Wo willst du sie bergen,
    da doch die großen fremden Gedanken bei dir
    aus und ein gehn und öfters bleiben bei Nacht.
    • Yes –the springtimes needed you. Often a star
      was waiting for you to notice it. A wave rolled toward you
      out of the distant past, or as you walked
      under an open window, a violin
      yielded itself to your hearing. All this was mission.
      But could you accomplish it? Weren't you always
      distracted by expectation, as if every event
      announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place
      to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
      going and coming and often staying all night.)
    • First Elegy (as translated by Stephen Mitchell)
  • Schließlich brauchen sie uns nicht mehr, die Früheentrückten,
    man entwöhnt sich des Irdischen sanft, wie man den Brüsten
    milde der Mutter entwächst. Aber wir, die so große
    Geheimnisse brauchen, denen aus Trauer so oft
    seliger Fortschritt entspringt –: könnten wir sein ohne sie?
    • In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us:
      they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys, and as gently as children
      outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers. But we, who do need
      such great mysteries, we for whom grief is so often
      the source of our spirit's growth–: could we exist without them?
    • First Elegy (as translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Sonnets to Orpheus (1922)

  • A tree ascended there. Oh pure transendence!
    Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear!
    And all things hushed. Yet even in that silence
    a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.
    • Translated by Stephen Mitchell
  • They more adeptly bend the willow's branches
    who have experience of the willow's roots.
    • Sonnet 6 (as translated by Edward Snow)
  • When you go to bed, don't leave bread or milk
    on the table: it attracts the dead.
    • Sonnet 6 (as translated by Edward Snow)

Imaginärer Lebenslauf (Imaginary Life Journey) (September 13, 1923)

  • Erst eine Kindheit, grenzenlos und ohne
    Verzicht und Ziel. O unbewußte Lust.
    Auf einmal Schrecken, Schranke, Schule, Frohne
    und Absturtz in Versuchung und Verlust.

    Trotz. Der Gebogene wird selber Bieger
    und rächt an anderen, daß er erlag.
    Geliebt, gefürchtet, Retter, Ringer, Sieger
    und Überwinder, Schlag auf Schlag.

    Und dann allein im Weiten, Leichten, Kalten.
    Doch tief in der errichteten Gestalt
    ein Atemholen nach dem Ersten, Alten...

    Da stürzte Gott aus seinem Hinterhalt.

    • First a childhood, limitless and without
      renunciation or goals. O unselfconscious joy.
      Then suddenly terror, barriers, schools, drudgery,
      and collapse into temptation and loss.

      Defiance. The one bent becomes the bender,
      and thrusts upon others that which it suffered.
      Loved, feared, rescuer, fighter, winner
      and conqueror, blow by blow.

      And then alone in cold, light, open space,
      yet still deep within the mature erected form,
      a gasping for the clear air of the first one, the old one...

      Then God leaps out from behind his hiding place.

    • As translated by Cliff Crego

Letters to a Young Poet (1934)

  • Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism : they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren't all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.
    • Letter One (17 February 1903)
  • No one can advise or help you — no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.
    • Letter One (17 February 1903)
  • A work of art is good if it has grown out of necessity.
    • Letter One (17 February 1903)
  • I could give you no advice but this: to go into yourself and to explore the depths where your life wells forth.
    • Letter One (17 February 1903)
  • If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.
    • Letter One (17 February 1903) as translated by M. D. Herter Norton (1993)
  • Irony: Do not let yourself be governed by it, especially not in unproductive moments. In productive ones try to make use of it as one more means of seizing life.
    • Letter Two (5 April 1903)
  • No experience has been too unimportant, and the smallest event unfolds like a fate, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide fabric in which every thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another thread and is held and supported by a hundred others.
    • Letter Three (23 April 1903)
  • Read as little as possible of literary criticism - such things are either partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today, and tomorrow the opposite view. Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism.
    • Letter Three (23 April 1903)
  • Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
    • Letter Four (16 July 1903)
    • Variant: Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. (as translated by Stephen Mitchell)
  • If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge.
    • Letter Four (16 July 1903)
  • Sex is difficult; yes. But those tasks that have been entrusted to us are difficult; almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious. If you just recognize this and manage, out of yourself, out of your own talent and nature, out of your own experience and childhood and strength, to achieve a wholly individual relation to sex (one that is not influenced by convention and custom), then you will no longer have to be afraid of losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your dearest possession.
    • Letter Four (16 July 1903)
  • Physical pleasure is a sensual experience no different from pure seeing or the pure sensation with which a fine fruit fills the tongue; it is a great unending experience, which is given us, a knowing of the world, the fullness and the glory of all knowing. And not our acceptance of it is bad; the bad thing is that most people misuse and squander this experience and apply it as a stimulant at the tired spots of their lives and as distraction instead of a rallying toward exalted moments.
    • Letter Four (16 July 1903)
  • The great renewal of the world will perhaps consist in this, that man and maid, freed of all false feelings and reluctances, will seek each other not as opposites, but as brother and sister, as neighbors, and will come together as human beings.
    • Letter Four (16 July 1903)
  • Through such impressions one gathers oneself, wins oneself back from the exacting multiplicity, which speaks and chatters there (and how talkative it is!), and one slowly learns to recognize the very few Things in which something eternal endures that one can love and something solitary that one can gently take part in.
    • About Rome
    • Letter Five (29 October 1903)
  • As bees gather honey, so we collect what is sweetest out of all things and build Him. Even with the trivial, with the insignificant (as long as it is done out of love) we begin, with work and with the repose that comes afterward, with a silence or with a small solitary joy, with everything that we do alone, without anyone to join or help us, we start Him whom we will not live to see, just as our ancestors could not live to see us. And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time. Is there anything that can deprive you of the hope that in this way you will someday exist in Him, who is the farthest, the outermost limit?
    • Letter Six (23 December 1903)
  • Love is something difficult and it is more difficult than other things because in other conflicts nature herself enjoins men to collect themselves, to take themselves firmly in the hand with all their strength, while in the heightening of love the impulse is to give oneself wholly away.
    • Letter Seven (14 May 1904)
  • People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold to what is difficult; everything alive holds to it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself in its own way and is characteristically and spontaneously itself, seeks at all costs to be so and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is a certainty that will not forsake us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.
    To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
    • Letter Seven (14 May 1904)
  • Young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn it.
    • Letter Seven (14 May 1904)
  • Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate?), it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become world, to become world for himself for another's sake. It is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things.
    • Letter Seven (14 May 1904)
  • The demands which the difficult work of love makes upon our development are more than life-size, and as beginners we are not up to them. But if we nevertheless hold out and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in all the light and frivolous play, behind which people have hidden from the most earnest earnestness of their existence — then a little progress and alleviation will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us; that would be much.
    • Letter Seven (14 May 1904)
  • Young people -it is obvious -cannot achieve such a relationship, but they can, if they understand their life properly, grow up slowly to such happiness and prepare themselves for it. They must not forget, when they love, that they are beginners, bunglers of life, apprentices in love- must learn love, and that like all learning wants peace, patience, and composure.
    • On young couples who have not yet matured enough to recognize and respect each other's solitude
    • Letter Seven (14 May 1904)
  • Someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only life and reality: the female human being.
    • Letter Seven (14 May 1904)
  • It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing. That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there, - is already in our bloodstream. And we don't know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can't say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.
    • Letter Eight (12 August 1904)
  • If only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful.
    • Letter Eight (12 August 1904)
  • There is probably no point in my going into your questions now; for what I could say about your tendency to doubt or about your inability to bring your outer and inner lives into harmony or about all the other thing that oppress you - : is just what I have already said: just the wish that you may find in yourself enough patience to endure and enough simplicity to have faith; that you may gain more and more confidence in what is difficult and in your solitude among other people. And as for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.
    • Letter Nine (4 November 1904)
  • All feelings that concentrate you and lift you up are pure; only that feeling is impure which grasps just one side of your being and thus distorts you. Everything you can think of as you face your childhood, is good. Everything that makes more of you than you have ever been, even in your best hours, is right. Every intensification is good, if it is in your entire blood, if it isn't intoxication or muddiness, but joy which you can see into, clear to the bottom.
    • Letter Nine (4 November 1904)
  • It must be immense, this silence, in which sounds and movements have room, and if one thinks that along with all this the presence of the distant sea also resounds, perhaps as the innermost note in this prehistoric harmony, then one can only wish that you are trustingly and patiently letting the magnificent solitude work upon you, this solitude which can no longer be erased from your life; which, in everything that is in store for you to experience and to do, will act as an anonymous influence, continuously and gently decisive, rather as the blood of our ancestors incessantly moves in us and combines with our own to form the unique, unrepeatable being that we are at every turning of our life.
    • Letter Ten (26 December 1908)
  • Art too is just a way of living, and however one lives, one can, without knowing, prepare for it; in everything real one is closer to it, more its neighbor, than in the unreal half-artistic professions, which, while they pretend to be close to art, in practice deny and attack the existence of all art - as, for example, all of journalism does and almost all criticism and three quarters of what is called (and wants to be called) literature.
    • Letter Ten (26 December 1908)

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