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The poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke is a recent discovery for me, having stumbled upon his poetry by way of a box piled with random books gifted to me by a librarian I used to work with at the university.
Flipping through The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, I noticed the side-by-side German to English translations but was quickly hooked by the words––the words of an Austrian poet and writer who died too soon at the age of 51 from leukemia in 1926.
Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry infuses simplicity with a haunting, restless beauty as illustrated by these 18 quotes from his Selected Poetry.
18 Quotes from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
1. “Everything is far and long gone by. I think that the star glittering above me has been dead for a million years.” Rilke, “Lament”
2. “I would like to step out of my heart and go walking beneath the enormous sky.” Rilke, “Lament”
3. “Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by. Now overlap the sundials with your shadows, and on the meadows let the wind go free.” Rilke, “Autumn Day”
4. “Whoever has no house now, will never have one. Whoever is alone will stay alone, will sit, read, write long letters through the evening, and wander on the boulevards, up and down, restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.” Rilke, “Autumn Day”
5. “The sky puts on the darkening blue coat held for it by a row of ancient trees;” Rilke, “Evening”
6. “Then Wine held this and held that for me till I came to depend on him totally. Like an ass.” Rilke, “The Drunkard’s Song”
7. “All this stood upon her and was the world and stood upon her with all its fear and grace as trees stand” Rilke, “The Grownup”
8. “Come into the candlelight. I’m not afraid to look the dead in the face.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “Requiem for a Friend”
9. “Come; and we will be silent for a while.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “Requiem for a Friend”
10. “Can you hear me? I would like to fling my voice out like a cloth over the fragments of your death, and keep pulling at it until it is torn to pieces” Rainer Maria Rilke, “Requiem for a Friend”
11. “We can so easily slip back from what we have struggled to attain, abruptly, into a life we never wanted; can find that we are trapped, as in a dream, and die there, without ever waking up.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “Requiem for a Friend”
12. “…the fear that I might betray myself and tell everything I dread, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything, because everything is unsayable,—and the other fears … the fears.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “[Fears]”
13. “Even here, though, something can bloom; on a silent cliff-edge an unknowing plant blooms, singing, into the air.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “[Exposed on the Cliffs of the Heart]”
14. “As once the wingèd energy of delight carried you over childhood’s dark abysses, now beyond your own life build the great arch of unimagined bridges.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “[As once the winged energy of delight]”
15. “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.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “[As once the winged energy of delight]”
16.”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.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “[As once the winged energy of delight]”
17. “Ah, I drank. Insatiably I drank. But I was filled up also, with too much world, and, drinking, I myself ran over.” Rainer Maria Rilke, “[World was in the face of the beloved]”
18. “Whoever lets go in his fall, dives into the source and is healed. Is all of life then a game, a meaningless fluctuation of sameness, nowhere a name, nowhere a lasting achievement?” Rainer Maria Rilke, “Elegy”