Rainer Maria Rilke Quotes and Sayings
#1 Letter, 17 September 1907
1. …for this is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess of that precious nourishing love from which flowers and children have their strength and which could help all human beings if they would take it without doubting.
#2 The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stephen Mitchell, Vintage Books, 1984
2. We need, in love, to practice only this:
letting each other go. For holding on
comes easily; we do not need to learn it.
#3 Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations by John J. L. Mood
3. It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky!
#4 232, the freedom of a love, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 30 January 2013
4. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been given to us, the ultimate, the final problem and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.
#5 Letter Four, Letters To A Young Poet, translation by Stephen Mitchell
5. …believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.
#6 You Who Never Arrived, translated by Stephen Mitchell
6. You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
#7 Letter to Paula Modersohn-Becker, 12 February 1902
7. …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.
#8 Letters on Life: New Prose Translations, Random House Publishing Group, 18 December 2007
8. It is part of the nature of every definitive love that sooner or later it can reach the beloved only in infinity.
#9 Letter Seven, 14 May 1904, Letter to a Young Poet, Two Classic Novels INFP Will Love, Tacet Books, 5 September 2019
9. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love.
#10 Love Song, translated by Jessie Lemont
10. When my soul touches yours a great chord sings!
How shall I tune it then to other things?
#11 Das Stunden-Buch (The Book of Hours), 1905, Translated by Annemarie S. Kidder
11. Extinguish my sight, and I can still see you;
plug up my ears, and I can still hear;
even without feet I can walk toward you,
and without mouth I can still implore.
Break off my arms, and I will hold you
with my heart as if it were a hand;
strangle my heart, and my brain will still throb;
and should you set fire to my brain,
I still can carry you with my blood.
Lösch mir die Augen aus: ich kann dich sehn,
wirf mir die Ohren zu: ich kann dich hören,
und ohne Füße kann ich zu dir gehn,
und ohne Mund noch kann ich dich beschwören.
Brich mir die Arme ab,ich fasse dich
mit meinem Herzen wie mit einer Hand,
halt mir das Herz zu, und mein Hirn wird schlagen,
und wirfst du in mein Hirn den Brand,
so werd ich dich auf meinem Blute tragen.
#12 Dear Darkening Ground, Translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
12. Just give me a little more time!
I want to love the things
as no one has thought to love them,
until they’re worthy of you and real.
#13 Letter Eight, Letters To A Young Poet
13. Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest essence, something that needs our love.
Excerpt from Wikipedia: Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and art critic. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety: themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.
He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. Among English-language readers, his best-known work is the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The 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.
Sayings by Rainer Maria Rilke
#1 Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1892-1910, W. W. Norton & Company, 17 February 1969
1. Do continue to believe that with your feeling and with your work you are taking part in the greatest; the more strongly you cultivate in yourself this belief, the more will reality and world go forth from it.
#2-3 THE NOTEBOOKS OF MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGE, Translated by William Needham [S]
2. …I’ve never actually wondered how many faces there are. There are a great many people, but there are even more faces because each person has several.
3. In life there are no classes for beginners; you’re always required to do the most difficult things straightaway.
#4 Letter One, Letters To A Young Poet, translation by Stephen Mitchell
4. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place.
#5 Letter Seven, Letters To A Young Poet, translation by Stephen Mitchell
5. …it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.
#6-8 Letter Four, Letters To A Young Poet, translation by Stephen Mitchell
6. If you trust in Nature, in what is simple in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge.
7. …I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.
8. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
#9 Letter To A Young Poet
9. 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.
#10 Go to the Limits of Your Longing
10. Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
#11 Letter Eight, Letters To A Young Poet, translation by Stephen Mitchell
11. We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it. This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us.
#12 Letter Six, Letters To A Young Poet, translation by Stephen Mitchell
12. What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.
#13 Wartime Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, W.W. Norton, 1940
13. …all the soarings of my mind begin in my blood…
#14 How Surely Gravity’s Law
14. This is what the things can teach us:
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
#15 Letter Five, Letters To A Young Poet, translation by Stephen Mitchell
15. No, there is not more beauty here than in other places, and all these objects, which have been marveled at by generation after generation, mended and restored by the hands of workmen, mean nothing, are nothing, and have no heart and no value; but there is much beauty here, because every where there is much beauty.
#16 Turning Point (Title in German: Wendung), Stephen
16. Work of the eyes is done, now
go and do heart-work
on all the images imprisoned within you; for you
overpowered them: but even now you don’t know them.
#17 On Difficulties and Adversity, The Poet’s Guide to Life, Edited and Translated by Ulrich Baer
17. One must never despair upon losing something, whether it is an individual or an experience of joy or happiness; everything returns even more magnificently. What has to decline, declines; what belongs to us, stays with us, for everything works according to laws that are greater than our capacity for understanding and that only seem to contradict us. You have to live within yourself and think of all of life, all of its millions of possibilities, openings, and futures in relation to which there exists nothing that is past or has been lost.
#18 Letter Three, Letter to a Young Poet, Translation by M. D. Herter Norton
18. Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!
#19 Poem: Lament, translation: Stephen Mitchell, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Vintage Books, 1984
19. I would like to step out of my heart
and go walking beneath the enormous sky.
I would like to pray.
And surely of all the stars that perished
one still exists.
#20 Ich bin auf der Welt zu allein und doch nicht allein genug (I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough), Rilke’s Book of Hours, Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy [S]
20. I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough to make each hour holy.
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough to be simply in your presence, like a thing—just as it is.
#21 Wenn es nur einmal so ganz stille wäre (If only for once it were still), Rilke’s Book of Hours, Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy [S]
21. If only for once it were still.
If the not quite right and the why is
could be muted, and the neighbor’s laughter,
and the static my senses make—
if all of it didn’t keep me from coming awake—
Then in one vast thousandfold thought
I could think you up to where thinking ends.
I could possess you,
even for the brevity of a smile,
to offer you
to all that lives,
#22 Letter to Clara Rilke, 1 January 1907 [S]
22. And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.
Unsourced Rainer Maria Rilke Quotes
1. That’s love: Two lonely persons keep each other safe and touch each other and talk to each other.
2. 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.