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from “letters to a young poet”

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Written by Rainer Maria Rilke to Franz Xaver Kappus, a ninteen-year old military student and aspiring poet, dated 12 August 1904.

“We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

So you mustn’t be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you?”

source: Mitchell, S. (1984). (trans). Rilke, R. M. (1875-1926). Letters to a young poet. New York: Vintage Books, pp. 81-97.

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2 responses »

  1. Patricia Grace

    Your blog continually enhances my life, teaches me what I yearn to know, feel. I’m grateful to you for your sharing and openness.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for the inspiration and reminder that we are always held.

    Reply

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