December 18, 2009

10 days of Rilke 'til Christmas - The Third Letter

Letters to a young poet
Rainer Maria Rilke

Now Niels Lyhne, a book of grandeur and great depth, will reveal itself to you little by little…There is nothing in it that would not summon a familiar resonance echoing from the memory. No experience was too insignificant—the smallest happening unfolds like destiny. Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakably tender hand, placed beside another thread, and held and carried by a hundred others.

…read the wonderful book about the fate and longing of Marie Grubbe and Jacobsen’s letters…journals…fragments…poems…

…read as little as possible of aesthetic critiques. They are either prejudiced views that have become petrified and senseless in their hardened lifeless state, or they are clever word games. Their views gain approval today but not tomorrow. Works of art can be described as having an essence of eternal solitude and an understanding is attainable least of all by critique. Only love can grasp and hold them and can judge them fairly…Allow your judgments their own quiet, undisturbed development, which, as with all progress, must come from deep within and can in no way be forced or hastened. All things consist of carrying to term and then giving birth. To allow the completion of every impression…beyond words, in the realm of instinct unattainable by logic, to await humbly and patiently the hour of the descent of a new clarity: that alone is to live one’s art, in the realm of understanding as in that of creativity.

In this there is no measuring with time. A year doesn’t matter; ten years are nothing. To be an artist means not to compute or count; it means to ripen as the tree, which does not force its sap, but stands unshaken in the storms of spring with no fear that summer might not follow. It will come regardless. But it comes only to those who live as though eternity stretches before them, carefree, silent, and endless…Patience is all!

…the creative experience lies…close to the sexual…its pain and its pleasure, that both phenomena are only different forms of the same longing and bliss. If one could say “sexuality” instead of “lust”—sexuality in a large sense…wide pure sense…—then his art would be great and infinitely important. His poetic talent is great and as strong as the primeval urge; it has an impetuous rhythm that breaks forth out of him as water out of the rocks.

…one of the most difficult tests for the true artist: he must always remain innocently unaware of this best virtues if he does not wish to rob them of their spontaneity and their unaffectedness…And when [Richard] Dehmel’s creative power…meets the sexual, then it finds the man not quite so pure as he needs to be. For him there exists no totally mature and pure world of sex, none that is simple human and not masculine only…there exist lust, intoxication, and restlessness, beleaguered with the old prejudices and pride…love. He loves only as male, not as a human being. Consequently there is in his perception something confining…spiteful…wild…temporal, not eternal…detracts from his art, and makes it suggestive and questionable…imprinted with passion and transience. Little of it will continue and endure. (But this is true of most art.)

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