Category Archives: rilke


Mirrors: no one has ever known how
to describe what you are in your inmost realm.
as if filled with nothing but sieve-holes, you
fathomless in-between spaces of time.

— Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus, II, 3 (tr. S. Mitchell)

If man is once again to come into the vicinity of Being [die Nahe des Seins], he must first learn to exist in namelessness [Namenlosen]. He must recognize equally the seduction of the public and the powerlessness of the private. Before he speaks, he must allow himself again to be spoken to by Being and risk the danger that in being spoken to he will have little or rarely anything to say.

— Heidegger


Under every deep, another deep opens.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson


Do not believe that the person who is trying to offer you solace lives his life effortlessly among the simple and quiet words that might occasionally comfort you. His life is filled with much hardship and sadness, and it remains far behind yours. But if it were otherwise, he could never have found these words. 

— Rilke

(via here)

True art can issue only from a purely anonymous centre.

— Rilke, letter

Devils and angels

I know now that psychoanalysis would make sense for me only if I were really serious about the strange possibility of no longer writing, which during the completion of Malte I often dangled in front of my nose as a kind of relief. Then one might let one’s devils be exorcised, since in daily life they are truly just disturbing and painful. And if it happened that the angels left too, one would have to understand this as a further simplification and tell oneself that in the new profession (which?), there would certainly be no use for them.

— Rilke, letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé (tr. S. Mitchell)

Be ahead of all parting

Sei allem Abschied voran, als wäre er hinter
dir, wie der Winter, der eben geht.
Denn unter Wintern ist einer so endlos Winter,
Daß, überwinternd, dein Herz überhaupt übersteht.


Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were
behind you, like the winter that has just gone by.
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter
that only by wintering through it will your heart survive.

— Rilke, from The Sonnets to Orpheus, II, 13 (tr. S. Mitchell)

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions… for the god
wants to know himself in you.

— Rilke, from an uncollected poem (tr. S. Mitchell)

With all its eyes the natural world looks out
into the Open. Only our eyes are turned
backward, and surround plant, animal, child
like traps, as they emerge into their freedom.
We know what is really out there only from
the animal’s gaze; for we take the very young
child and force it around, so that it sees
objects – not the Open, which is so
deep in animals’ faces. Free from death.
We, only, can see death; the free animal
has its decline in back of it, forever,
and God in front, and when it moves, it moves
already in eternity, like a fountain.
Never, not for a single day, do we have
before us that pure space into which flowers
endlessly open. Always there is World
and never Nowhere without the No: that pure
unseparated element which one breathes
without desire and endlessly knows. A child
may wander there for hours, through the timeless
stillness, may get lost in it and be
shaken back. Or someone dies and is it.
For, nearing death, one doesn’t see death; but stares
beyond, perhaps with an animal’s vast gaze.

— Rilke, Eighth Duino Elegy (tr. S. Mitchell)