Sketch by Leonid Pasternak (Moscow c. 1900)
Themes: Invocation towards authentic existence; examination of the role of fractured self-consciousness in modern life; the discrepancy between romanticism’s ideals, and the realities of human inadequacy to attain those ideals in the face of modernity; human longing for completeness and for the absolute in the face of deficiency, transience, and emptiness due to the changing flux of values and standards; language as both indicator of inadequacy and tool for praise; the prickly and problematic role of the artist, and the artist’s role in the world at large.
Style: More than any other poet, Rilke embodies what one thinks of what a poet is—gloomy, passive, hypersensitive and delicate to the point of resembling a wilted flower taking in the last sunshine of its ephemeral life, or an overripe fruit laying out in the sun. He capitalised with great success in adopting the stance of the “poet” as seer—that is, one with important things to say who only he with an unfathomable depth and perception into the mysteries of life could say in his unfolding magic of words, which even then paled in their reach. Which is his strength, since he did have important things to say, and which he said with unfathomable depth and perception.
Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts: and the scenery is falling apart.
Poems are not . . . simply emotions . . . they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and things . . . and know the gestures which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you have long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained . . .; to childhood illnesses . . . to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel . . . and it is still not enough. –The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.
“..the disturbing thing is not the fact of this war, but that it is being used and exploited in a business-ridden, a nothing but human world, that the god himself, once someone has flung into the world, cannot call it back, because people cling to it greedily, with all the weight of their heavy conscience.”
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.
If the Angel deigns to come it will because you have convinced her, not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner.
I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.
I have never been aware before how many faces there are. There are quantities of human beings, but there are many more faces, for each person has several.
The work of the eyes is done,
do now the work of the heart.
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.
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.
Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.