From Letters to A Young Poet, by Ranier Maria
are so young, so before all beginning, and I want
to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient
toward all that is unresolved in your heart and
to try to love the questions themselves like locked
rooms and like books that are written in a very
foreign tongue. Do not 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." From: Letters to a Young
Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
"And your doubt
may become a good quality if you train it. It must become
knowing, it must become critical. Ask it, whenever it
wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly,
demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it
perplexed and embarrassed perhaps, or perhaps rebelious.
But don't give in, insist on arguments and act this way,
watchful and consistent, every single time, and the day
will arrive when from a destroyer it will become one
of your best workers-- perhaps the cleverest of all that
are building at your life" (p. 74).
". . . . perhaps
all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only
waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything
terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that
wants help from us. So you must not be frightened . .
. if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you
have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows,
passes over your hands and over all you do. You must
think that something is happening with you, that life
has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand;
it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out
of your life any agitation, any pain, any melancholy,
since you really do not know what these states are working
". . . just remember
that sickness is the means by which an organism frees
itself of foreign matter; so one must just help it to
be sick, for that is its progress. In you, . . . so much
is now happening; you must be patient as a sick man and
confident as a convalescent; for perhaps you are both.
And more: you are the doctor too, who has to watch over
himself. But there are in every illness those days when
the doctor can do nothing but wait. And this it is that
you, insofar as you are your own doctor, must now above
all else do" ? (pp. 69-70).
". .. . and
let me here promptly make a request: read as little
as possible of aesthetic criticism--such things are
either partisian views, petrified and grown senseless
in their lifeless induration, or they are clever quibblings
in which today one view wins and tomorrow the opposite.
Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with
nothing so little to be reached as with criticism.
Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them.
. . . Leave to your opinions their own quiet undistrubed
development, which, like all progress, must come from
deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything.
Everything is gestation and then bringing forth. To
let each impression and each germ of a feeling come
to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the
inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of
ones' own intelligence, and await with deep humililty
and patience the birth-hour of a º new
clarity: that alone is living the artist's life: in understanding
as in creating. . . . ripening like a tree which does
not force its sap and stands confident in the storms
of spring without the fear that after them may come no
summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient,
who are there as though eternity lay before them, so
unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn
it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything
"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.
For this reason young people, who are beginners in
everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn
it. With their whole being, with all their forces,
gathered close about their lonely, timid, upward-beating
heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time
is often a secluded time, and so loving, for
a long while ahead and far on into life, is--solitude,
intensified and deepened loneness for him who loves.
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 something in himself, 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 (pp. 53-54)."
must find in his work the center of his life and thence
be able to grow out radially as far as may be. And
no one else may watch him in the process . . . for
not even he himself may do that. There is a kind of
cleanliness and purity in it, in this looking way
from oneself; it is as though one were drawing, one's
gaze bound to the object, interwoven with Nature, while
one's hand goes its own way somewhere below,
goes on and on, gets timid, wavers, is glad again,
goes on and on far below the face that stands like
a star above it, not looking, only shining. I feel
as though I had always worked that way; face gazing
at far things, hands alone. And so it surely ought
to be I should be like that again in time."
of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke
bottom one seeks in everything new (country or person
or thing) only an expression that helps some personal
confession to greater power and maturity. All things
are there in order that they may . . . become images
for us. And they do not suffer from it, for while
they are expressing us more and more clearly, our
souls close over them in the same measure. And I
feel in these days that Russian things will give
me the names for those most timid devoutnesses of
my nature which, since my childhood, have been longing
to enter my art."