Quotes By The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

“For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been given to us, the ultimate, the final problem and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.”


“Oh hours of childhood,
when behind each shape more than the past appeared
and what streamed out before us was not the future.
We felt our bodies growing and were at times impatient to be grown up, half for the sake
of those with nothing left but their grownupness.”


“There is time only to work slowly
There is no time not to love”


“Harshness vanished. A sudden softness has replaced the meadows' wintry grey. Little rivulets of water changed their singing accents. Tendernesses, hesitantly, reach toward the earth from space, and country lanes are showing these unexpected subtle risings that find expression in the empty trees.”


“And you suddenly know: It was here!
You pull yourself together, and there
stands an irrevocable year
of anguish and vision and prayer.”


“Interior of the hand. Sole that has come to walk
only on feelings. That faces upward
and in its mirror
receives heavenly roads, which travel
along themselves.
That has learned to walk upon water
when it scoops,
that walks upon wells,
transfiguring every path.
That steps into other hands,
changes those that are like it
into a landscape:
wanders and arrives within them,
fills them with arrival.”


“It is nothing but a breath, the void.”


“Why must a man be always taking on Things not his own, as if he were a servant whose marketing-bag grows heavier and heavier from stall to stall and, loaded down, he follows and doesn’t dare ask: Master, why this banquet?”


“Our age has built itself vast reservoirs of power / formless as the straining energy that it wrests from the earth.”


“The sky puts on the darkening blue coat held for it by a row of ancient trees; you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight, one journeying to heaven, one that falls; and leave you, not at home in either one, not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses, not calling to eternity with the passion of what becomes a star each night, and rises; and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel) your life, with its immensity and fear, so that, now bounded, now immeasurable, it is alternately stone in you and star.”


“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.     And”


“Along The Sun-Drenched Roadside


Along the sun-drenched roadside, from the great
hollow half-treetrunk, which for generations
has been a trough, renewing in itself
an inch or two of rain, I satisfy
my thirst: taking the water's pristine coolness
into my whole body through my wrists.
Drinking would be too powerful, too clear;
but this unhurried gesture of restraint
fills my whole consciousness with shining water.

Thus, if you came, I could be satisfied
to let my hand rest lightly, for a moment,
lightly, upon your shoulder or your breast.


Translated by Stephen Mitchell”


“As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood's dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

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.”


“We are not permitted to linger, even with what is most intimate. From images that are full, the spirit plunges on to others that suddenly must be filled; there are no lakes till eternity. Here, falling is best. To fall from the mastered emotion into the guessed-at, and onward.”