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Rainer Maria Rilke

(4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926 / Prague / Czech Republic)

Quotations

  • ''He reproduced himself with so much humble objectivity, with the unquestioning, matter of fact interest of a dog who sees himself in a mirror and thinks: there's another dog.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. Letter, October 23, 1907. Letters on Cézanne (1952, trans. 1985). On Cézanne.
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  • ''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.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. Letter, July 16, 1903. Letters to a Young Poet (1934, rev. 1954).
  • ''Physical pleasure is a sensual experience no different from pure seeing or the pure sensation with which a fine fruit fills the tongue; it is a great unending experience, which is given us, a knowing of the world, the fullness and the glory of all knowing. And not our acceptance of it is bad; the bad thing is that most people misuse and squander this experience and apply it as a stimulant at the tired spots of their lives and as distraction instead of a rallying toward exalted moments.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. Letter, July 16, 1903. Published in Letters to a Young Poet (1934, revised 1954).
  • ''Painting is something that takes place among the colors, and ... one has to leave them alone completely, so that they can settle the matter among themselves. Their intercourse: this is the whole of painting. Whoever meddles, arranges, injects his human deliberation, his wit, his advocacy, his intellectual agility in any way, is already disturbing and clouding their activity.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. letter to his wife, Oct. 21, 1907. Published in Rilke's Letters on Cézanne (1985, German edition 1952).
  • ''Not since Moses has anyone seen a mountain so greatly.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. Quoted in Rilke, Letters on Cézanne, foreword (1952, trans. 1985). Remarking on Cézanne's picture of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire to Count Harry Kessler.
  • ''Just as the creative artist is not allowed to choose, neither is he permitted to turn his back on anything: a single refusal, and he is cast out of the state of grace and becomes sinful all the way through.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. Letter, October 23, 1907, to his wife. Rilke's Letters on Cézanne (1952, trans. 1985).
  • ''Ideally a painter (and, generally, an artist) should not become conscious of his insights: without taking the detour through his reflective processes, and incomprehensibly to himself, all his progress should enter so swiftly into the work that he is unable to recognise them in the moment of transition. Alas, the artist who waits in ambush there, watching, detaining them, will find them transformed like the beautiful gold in the fairy tale which cannot remain gold because some small detail was not taken care of.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. letter, Oct. 21, 1907, to Rilke's wife. Rilke's Letters on Cézanne (1985).
  • ''Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. Letter, June 24, 1907, to his wife. Rilke's Letters on Cézanne (1952, trans. 1985).
  • ''Just as language has no longer anything in common with the thing it names, so the movements of most of the people who live in cities have lost their connexion with the earth; they hang, as it were, in the air, hover in all directions, and find no place where they can settle.''
    Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. repr. In Rodin and Other Prose Pieces (1954). Worpswede (1903).

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Abishag

I
She lay, and serving-men her lithe arms took,
And bound them round the withering old man,
And on him through the long sweet hours she lay,
And little fearful of his many years.

And many times she turned amidst his beard
Her face, as often as the night-owl screeched,
And all that was the night around them reached

[Hata Bildir]