The Rainer Maria Rilke Archive

A Collection of Poetry, Quotations, & Writings

Letter Nine

Furuborg, Jonsered, Sweden,
4th November, 1904.

My dear Herr Kappus,

During this time, that has passed without a letter from me, I have been partly travelling and partly so busy, that I could not write. To-day, too, I find it difficult to write, because I have already had to write so many letters that my hand is tired. If I could dictate, I would say a great deal to you, but as it is you must take a few words only for your long letter.

I think of you often, and with good wishes so concentrated upon you that I am sure it must somehow have helped you. I often doubt whether my letters can really be a help to you. Do not say: “Yes, they are.” Accept them quietly and without much thanks, and let us wait and see what will come of them. It is perhaps useless for me to go into your words in detail, for what I could say about your tendency to doubts and your inability to harmonise your outward and inward life, or about anything else that is afflicting you, is always the same as what I have already said; the wish that you may find enough patience in yourself to endure, and enough simplicity, to believe, that you may gain more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your loneliness among other men. And for the rest let life happen to you. Believe me, life is right in every case.

Concerning feelings: all these feelings are pure which comprehend your whole being and lift it up; impure is the feeling that only grasps one side of your being and thus distorts you. All thoughts you can have with regard to your childhood are good. Everything that makes of you something more than you were beforehand in your best moments, is right. Every elation is good as long as it pervades your whole being, is not intoxication and confusion, but joy so clear that one can see to its very depth. Do you understand what I mean?

Your doubt can become a good quality if you educate it. It must gain knowledge and power of criticism. If it wants to destroy anything, ask it why that something is worthy of destruction: demand proofs from it, test it, and you will perhaps find that it is at a loss and embarrassed, perhaps even rebellious. But do not give in. Demand arguments and deal in this way attentively and consistently with each separate occasion, and the day will come, when instead of being destructive, it will become one of your best workers

—perhaps the most skilful of all the workers, who are engaged in the building up of your life.

That is all I can say to you to-day. But I send you at the same time the copy of a little poem, which has now appeared in the Prague “German Work.” There I speak further to you of life and death and of how both are great and powerful.


Translated by K.W Maurer

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