Rainer Maria Rilke: Exquisite Beauty from the Pen of a Mere Mortal

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Nearly everyone who reads and appreciates poetry is familiar with Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926). Some of the most beautiful lines in the English language were written by him. (Just kidding. He wrote in German and French.) Fortunately, the beauty of his ideas has not been lost in translation.

Just as I discovered the Wiki Quotes page on Picasso this past week, so have I been exploring others, with Rilke one of the first I looked up. It is my pleasure here to share a few poems and lines from Rainer Maria Rilke.

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance —
and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are;
a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave . . .
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

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

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Let thine shadows upon the sundials fall,
and unleash the winds upon the open fields.

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As I read a passage like this next one I am conscious that it is written by someone whose life and being has been so utterly foreign to the fast-paced mad rush rat race so many Americans have accepted as a normal life. Success is achieved by hustling. But what happens to the soul?

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. *

This next one I taped onto the wall of my office perhaps 20 years ago and it still inspires me, speaks to me in a way that is deeper than words.

I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God,
around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know
if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.

The following is a section from a small volume called Letters to a Young Poet, which I downloaded to my Kindle several years ago. It stands in stark contrast to the loud, busy world we live in today where the radio or television are always on and the myriad ways we bury ourselves in diversions to escape from ourselves.

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.

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Just as photographers are skilled at capturing the natural world, likewise great poets and writers have fine tuned their lenses to capture our inner landscapes.

The Panther
Rilke Wikiquote Page

Originally published at pioneerproductions.blogspot.com on April 14, 2019.

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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