“A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity.”

“You compare [your poems] with other poems, and you worry when certain editors turn you down. Now (since you have allowed me to offer you advice) let me ask you to give up all that. You are looking to the outside, and that above all you should not be doing now. Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself. Examine the reason that bids you to write; check whether it reaches the roots into the deepest region of your heart, admit to yourself whether you would rather die if it should be denied to you to write.”

“If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poem enough to summon up its riches, for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place.”

“To let every impression and the germ of every feeling come to completion inside, in the dark, in the unsayable the unconscious, in what is unattainable to one’s own intellect, and to wait with deep humility and patience for the hour when a new clarity is delivered: that alone is to live as an artist, in the understanding and in one’s creative work.”

“You are so young, all still lies ahead of you, and I should like to ask you, as best I can, to be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart, and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms, like books written in foreign tongues. Do not strive to uncover answers; they cannot be given to you because you have not been able to live them. And what matters is to live everything. live the questions for now.”

” . . . love your solitude and bear the pain it causes you with melody wrought with lament. For the people close to you, you tell me, are far away, and that shows that you are beginning to create a wider space around you.”

“But there is a great deal of beauty here because there is a great deal of beauty everywhere.”

“And you must not let yourself be diverted out of your solitude by the fact that something in you wants to escape from it . . . it is good to be alone, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult should be one more reason to do it.”

“Many young people who love wrongly, that is, simply with abandon and not in solitude (and your average person will never move beyond this) . . . ”

“The demands that the hard work of love makes on our development are larger than life, and as beginners we are not a match for them. But if we can hold out and take this love upon us as a burden and an apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in all the trivial and frivolous games behind which people have hidden from the utter seriousness of their existence, then perhaps a small advance and some relief will be sensible to those who come long after us.”

“and that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and static moment when our future comes upon us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and accidental point when it happens to us as if from the outside.”

“The quieter, the more patient and open we are in our sadness, the deeper and more unerringly the new will penetrate into us, the better we shall acquire it, the more it will be our fate, and when one day in the future ‘it takes place’ (that is, steps out of us towards others) we shall feel related and close to it in our inmost hearts. And that is necessary.”

“But only the person who is ready for anything and rules nothing out, not even the most enigmatic things, will experience the relationship with another as a living thing, and will himself live his own existence to the full.”

“And if we only organize our life according to the principle which teaches us always to hold on to what is difficult, then what now still appears most foreign will become our most intimate and most reliable experience.”

“If there is something ailing in the way you go about things then remember that sickness is the means by which an organism rids itself of something foreign to it. All one has to do is help it to be ill, to have its whole illness and let it break out, for that is how it mends itself.”

“Do you remember how this life of yours longed in childhood to belong to the ‘grown-ups’? I can see that it now longs to move on from them and is drawn to those who are greater yet. That is why it does not cease to be difficult, but also why it will not cease to grow.”


Read Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke.

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