Friday, February 19, 2010

What if Rilke is Right?

"The longer I live, the more urgent it seems to me to endure and transcribe the whole dictation of existence up to its end, for it might just be the case that only the very last sentence contains that small and possibly inconspicuous word through which everything we had struggled to learn and everything we had failed to understand will be transformed suddenly into magnificent sense.

We make our way through Everything like thread passing through fabric: giving shape to images that we ourselves do not know."

Rilke, Letters on Life, transl. U. Baier, 2005


  1. terrific quote. this might be something i could share with my high school students who resist revision.

  2. Endure. He certainly did, writing to the end. "A thread passing through fabric" is different from a needle piercing fabric. I imagine his choosing thread rather than needle, gentler.

    Thanks, Susan. I've read this first thing this morning.

  3. Mim, Wonderful to wake up to Rilke!
    Nancy, Rilke is great for high school students. I'm guessing you know his Letters to a Young Poet. I still have my copy from my freshman year of college ~ when dinosaurs roamed the interstate.

  4. Lovely to remind us of Rilke as a real poet. Have some of his poems on my fridge...:

    I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough
    to make every hour holy.
    I am too small in the world, and yet not tiny enough
    just to stand before you like a thing,
    dark and shrewd.
    I want my will, and I want to be with my will
    as it moves towards deed;
    and in those quiet, somehow hesitating times,
    when something is approaching,
    I want to be with those who are wise
    or else alone.
    I want always to be a mirror that reflects your whole being,
    and never to be too blind or too old
    to hold your heavy, swaying image.
    I want to unfold.
    Nowhere do I want to remain folded,
    because where I am bent and folded, there I am lie.
    And I want my meaning
    true for you. I want to describe myself
    like a painting that I studied
    closely for a long, long time,
    like a word I finally understood,
    like the pitcher of water I use every day ,
    like the face of my mother,
    like a ship
    that carried me
    through the deadliest storm of all.