Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 29 December 1926) is generally considered the German
language's greatest 20th century poet.  His haunting images tend to focus on the problems
of Christianity in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety, themes that sometimes
place him in the school of modernist poets.  He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose.
His two most famous verse pieces are the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies; his two
most famous prose pieces are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical 
he 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.
Read more about Rilke here.

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All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you.

Like so much else, people have also misunderstood the place of love in life, they have made it into play and pleasure because they thought that play and pleasure were more blissful than work; but there is nothing happier than work, and love, just because it is the extreme happiness, can be nothing else but work.
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 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.

The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.

How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; 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, dear Mr. Kappus, 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. . . .

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.


This is the miracle that happens every time to those who
really love:  the more they give, the more they possess.



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.  The further one goes, the more private,
the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes,
and the thing one is making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible,
and, as nearly as possible, definitive utterance of this singularity.

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest
human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living
side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance
between them which makes it possible for each
to see the other whole against the sky.


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.


Do not assume that he who seeks to comfort you now, lives untroubled
among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good.  His life
may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours.
Were it otherwise, he would never have been able to find these words.


Believe that with your feelings and your work you are
taking part in the greatest; the more strongly you cultivate this belief,
the more will reality and the world go forth from it.


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.



But now that so much is changing, is it not up to us
to change ourselves?  Could we not develop ourselves a little,
and slowly take upon ourselves our share of work in love, little by little?

To young people I would always like to say just this one thing (it is
almost the only thing I know for certain up to now) -- that we must
always hold to the difficult; that is our part:  We must go so deep into
life that it lies upon us and is burden: not pleasure should be about us, but life.

The longer I live, the more necessary it seems to me to endure,
to copy the whole dictation of existence to the end, for it might
be that only the last sentence contains that small, perhaps inconspicuous
word through which all laboriously learned and not understood
orients itself toward glorious sense.


For as yet I did not understand fame, that public destruction
of one in the process of becoming, into whose building-ground
the mob breaks, displacing his stones.

Fate loves to invent patterns and designs.  Its difficulty
lies in complexity.  But life itself is difficult because of its
simplicity.  It has only a few things of grandeur not fit for us.


At bottom no one in life can help anyone else in life; this one experiences over and over
in every conflict and every perplexity:  that one is alone.


I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people:  that
each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.  For, if it lies in
the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude,
then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing
the opportunity for solitude.  And only those are the true sharings
which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation.


Oh, how I believe in it, in life.  Not that which makes up our time, but that
other, the life of little things, the life of animals and of the great plains.


And we:  spectators, always, everywhere, looking at everything, and
never from! . . . Who's turned us around like this, so that whatever
we do, we always have the look of someone going away?  Just as
a person on the last hill showing him or her the whole valley one last time,
turns, and stops, and lingers -- so we live, and are forever leaving.


There are no classes in life for beginners;
right away you are always asked to deal with what is most difficult.


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