My loving friend, you see, my life was never given a foundation, no one was able to imagine what it would want to become. In Venice there stands the so-called Ca del Duca, a princely foundation, on which later the most wretched tenement came to be built. With me it’s the opposite: the beautiful arched elevations of my spirit rest on the most tentative beginning; a wooden scaffolding, a few boards…Is that why I feel inhibited in raising the nave, the tower to which the weight of the great bells is to be hoisted (by angels, who else could do it)?
—Rilke, writing to Magda von Hattingberg on February 8, 1914
You still don’t understand? Throw the emptiness in
your arms out into that space we breathe; maybe birds
will feel the air thinning as they fly deeper into themselves.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything! — Rainer Maria Rilke, April 3, 1903 (Letters to a Young Poet)
Live for awhile in the books you love. Learn from them what is worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be returned to you a thousand times over. Whatever your life may become, these books — of this I am certain — will weave through the web of your unfolding. They will be among the strongest of all threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys. — Rainer Maria Rilke
And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. 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 perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers – perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life. — Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letter 9, Letters to a Young Poet
…As the arrow endures the string, and in the gathering momentum becomes more than itself. Because to stay is to be nowhere. — Rainer Maria Rilke
In solitude, where we are least alone. — Lord Byron
But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths. — Rainer Maria Rilke
I have an immense appetite for solitude, like an infant for sleep, and if I don’t get enough for this year, I shall cry all the next. — Henry David Thoreau
The necessary thing is after all but this; solitude, great inner solitude. Going into oneself for hours meeting no one – this one must be able to attain. — Rainer Maria Rilke
Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
Where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
As the curve of the body as it turns away.
— Rainier Maria Rilke
Be modest now, like a thing ripened until it is real… – Rainer Maria Rilke
Ah! but verses amount to so little when one writes them young. One ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness a whole life long and a long life, if possible, and then, quite at the end, one night perhaps be able to write ten lines that were good. For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feelings (those one has early enough) — they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities, men and things, one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning. One must be able to think back to roads in unknown regions, to unexpected meetings and to partings one had long seen coming; to days of childhood that are still unexplained, to parents whom one had to hurt when they brought one some joy and one did not grasp it; to childhood illnesses that so strangely begin with such a number of profound and grave transformations, to days in rooms withdrawn and quiet and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along on high and flew with all the stars–and it is not yet enough if one may think of all of this. One must have memories of many nights of love, none of which was like the others, of the screams of women in labor, and of light, white, sleeping women in childbed, closing again. But one must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the fitful noises. And still is is not yet enough to have memories. One must be able to forget them when they are many and one must have the great patience to wait until they come again. For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture, nameless and no longer can be distinquished from ourselves–not till then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them. – Rainer Maria Rilke
I have left a letter from you unanswered for a long time; not because I had forgotten it – on the contrary: it is the kind that one reads again when one finds it among other letters, and I recognize you in it as if you were very near. – Rainer Maria Rilke
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. – Rainer Maria Rilke
Who knows? Perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us yesterday, separate, in the evening.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Comfort me from wherever you are – alone, we are quickly worn out; if I place my head on the road, let it seem softened by you. Could it be that even from afar we offer each other a gentle breath? – Rainer Marie Rilke, Comfort Me