Letters to a young poet
Rainer Maria Rilke
“We are unutterably alone, essentially, especially in the things most intimate and most important to us…to help another, a great deal must happen…different elements must coincide harmoniously; a whole constellation of things must come about for that to happen even once.
…about irony: Do not allow it to control you, especially during uncreative moments. In creative moments allow it to serve you as another means to better understand life. If you use it with pure intent, then it is pure…But beware of a viewpoint that is too consistently ironic; turn your attention to lofty and serious issues instead. In their presence irony will pale and become helpless. Scale the depths of things; irony will never descend there. And you…arrive at the brink of greatness, ask yourself whether this ironic attitude springs from a truly deep need of your being. For due to the impact of serious things, it will either fall away from you, if it is something merely incidental, of if it is truly innately belongs to you, it will be strengthened to become an important tool, and take its place with all the other instruments with which you must build your own art.
Of all my books there are only a few that are indispensable to me. Two of them are constantly at my fingertips wherever I may be. They are…the Bible and the books of the great Danish writer, Jens Peter Jacobsen…avail yourself of the small book Six Stories…and his novel Niels Lyhne, and begin with the first story…”Mogens”. A whole world will envelop you…learn of them…love them. For this love you shall be requited a thousand...times over, no matter what turn your life will take. This love…will weave itself through the tapestry of your evolving being as one of the most important threads of your experiences, your disappointments, and your joys.
…of the essence of creativity, the depth of it and its enduring quality, there are only two names that I can name: that of Jacobsen, the very greatest of writers, and Auguste Rodin, the sculptor. No one among all artists living today compares with them.”