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nebule's avatar

Which Rainer Maria Rilke book would you buy first?

Asked by nebule (16157 points ) December 2nd, 2009

I’ve just discovered some quotes of his that I absolutely adore and would like to read more of anything he has written. Can you tell me about your experience of his books and a little more about them along with obviously which you would recommend first?

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8 Answers

absalom's avatar

He is most famous for his poetry and I recommend that. I think if you want to read more abstract or metaphorical stuff then Sonnets to Orpheus is the best bet. They are sonnets (obviously) and aren’t difficult reads. But if you want something more, um, real (I guess), then you should look at the Duino Elegies because they deal more explicitly with the War.

Of course he only experienced the war obliquely so his poems re that aren’t as critical as, say, Sassoon (not the hair guy) or Wilfred Owen.

nebule's avatar

thank you absalom, have you read Letters to a Young Poet?

absalom's avatar

I haven’t, sorry. What quotation got you interested in Rilke?

Adagio's avatar

Letters to a Young Poet I have not read this for quite some time but know I was thoroughly charmed by the language. I’m sure I have a copy of it on my bookshelf somewhere, thanks for the unintentional reminder @lynblundell . I know I have a sizeable excerpt from this book somewhere in my computer, I shall search it out for you and add it to the bottom of this. Found it.the first time I read the last 6 lines of this excerpt I came away feeling as if my inner workings had been exposed

Fear of the Inexplicable (translation from Chapter 8 Letters to a Young Poet ~ Rainer Maria Rilke)

But fear of the inexplicable
has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual;
the relationship between one human being and another
has also been cramped by it,
as though it had been lifted out
of the riverbed of endless possibilities
and set down on a fallow spot on the bank,
to which nothing happens.
For it is not inertia alone
that is responsible for human relationships
repeating themselves from case to case,
indescribably monotonous and unrenewed;
it is shyness before any sort of new
unforeseeable experience with which
one does not think oneself able to cope.

But only someone who is ready for everything,
who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical,
will live the relation to another as something alive
and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence.
For if we think of this existence of
the individual as a larger or smaller room,
it appears evident that most people
learn to know only a corner of their room,
a place by the window,
a strip of floor on which they can walk up and down.
Thus they have a certain security.
And yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human
which drives the prisoners in Poe’s stories
to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons
and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.

We, however, are not prisoners.
No traps or snares are set about us,
and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us.
We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond,
thank you and over and above this we have through thousands of years
of accommodation become so like this life,
that when we hold still we are,
through a happy mimicry,
scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us.
We have no reason to mistrust our world,
for it is not against us. Has it terrors
they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us;
are dangers at hand, we must try to love them.
And if only we arrange our life according to that principle
which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult,
then that which now still seems to us the most alien
will become what we most trust and find most faithful.
How should we be able to forget those ancient myths
about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses;
perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest
being something helpless that needs our love.

gemiwing's avatar

Hubbs recommends Letters To A Young Poet, as well. He likes that one because it catches him at a critical poet-juncture. Said it made him feel fizzy liked being hugged by a porcupine. not kidding he did say this.

nebule's avatar

@absalom strangely enough the quote was…

“perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest
being something helpless that needs our love.”

I had literally just put it on my facebook page! How strange!!

thank you @Adagio

Adagio's avatar

@lynblundell beautiful and brave That’s some challenge isn’t it, beautifully worded.

nebule's avatar

oh yes…. and speaks to me about the humility that is so necessary to understand how pain and challenge holds within its most inner depth – art.

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