The Rainer Maria Rilke Archive

Poetry, Quotations, & Writings

On Love and Marriage

“Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over, and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate-?); it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world for himself in another’s sake.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“Before a human being thinks of others he must have been unapologetically himself; he must have taken the measure of his nature in order to master it and employ it for the benefit of others like himself.”

~Poet’s Guide to Life (trans. Ulrich Baer)


“Look, we don’t love like flowers with only one season behind us; when we love, a sap older than memory rises in our arms.”

-The Duino Elegies: The Third Elegy


“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“All companionship can consist only in the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes, whereas everything that one is wont to call giving oneself is by nature harmful to companionship: for when a person abandons himself, he is no longer anything, and when two people both give themselves up in order to come close to eachother, there is no longer any ground beneath them and their being together is a continual falling.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“The most fleeting of relation between people is governed by the state of mind they bring to it -now at once a vastness will enter into it if that vastness is there to begin with.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence


“We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“If two people managed not to get stuck in hatred during their honest struggles with each other, that is, in the edges of their passion that became ragged and sharp when cooled and set, if they could stay fluid, active, flexible, and changeable in all of their interactions and relations, and, in word, if a mutually human and friendly consideration remained available to them, then their decision to separate cannot easily conjure disaster and terror.”

~Poet’s Guide to Life (trans. Ulrich Baer)


“There is scarcely anything more difficult than to love one another. That is work, day labor, day labor, God knows there is no other word for it.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“Love is something difficult and it is more difficult than other things because in other conflicts nature herself enjoins men to collect themselves, to take themselves firmly in the hand with all their strength, while in the heightening of love the impulse is to give oneself wholly away.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“Like so much else, people have also misunderstood the place of love in life, they have made it into play and pleasuure because they thought that play and pleasure were more blissful than work; but there is nothing happier than work, and love, just because it is the extreme happiness, can be nothing else but work.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“So whoever loves must try to act as if he had a great work: he must be much alone and go into himself and collect himself and hold fast to himself; he must work; he must become something!”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“To speak of love is to speak of hardness.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence


“May I be granted that, in your hands, the habit of looking on love as a thing to accomplish will leave, like an old pain- and that, slowly raising my eyes to look at you, I would no longer know where it had hurt- or where it had been.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence


“To be loved means to be consumed. To love is to give light with inexhaustible oil. To be loved is to pass away, to love is to endure.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence


“The demands which the difficult work of love makes upon our development are more than life-size, and as beginners we are not up to them.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“…human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, rising and falling, from minute to minute, and lovers are those whose relationships and contact no one moment resembles another.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“I am of the opinion that ‘marriage’ as such does not deserve as much emphasis as it has acquired through the conventional development of its nature. It does not occur to anyone to expect a single person to be ‘happy’ -but if he marries, people are much suprised if he isn’t.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“Marriage is, in many respects, a simplification of one’s way of life, and the union naturally combines the forces and wills of two young people so that, together, they seem to reach farther into the future than before. -Only, those are sensations by which one cannot live.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seriousness, -a new challenge to and questioning of the strength and generosity of each partner and a great new danger for both.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“In marriage, the point is not to achieve a rapid union by tearing down and toppling all boundaries. Rather, in a good marriage each person appoints the other to be guardian of his solitude and thus shows him the greatest faith he can bestow.”

-Poet’s Guide to Life (trans. Ulrich Baer)


“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, an wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“Physical pleasure is a sensual experience no different from pure seeing or the pure sensation with which a fine fruit fills the tongue; it is a great unending experience, which is given us, a knowing of the world, the fullness and the glory of all knowing. And not our acceptance of it is bad; the bad thing is that most people misuse and squander this experience and apply it as a stimulant at the tired spots of their lives and as a distraction instead of rallying toward exalted moments.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“Artistic experience lies so incredibly close to that of sex, to its pain and its ecstasy, that the two manifestations are indeed but different forms of one and the same yearning and delight.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


“Sex is difficult; yes. But they are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious. If you only recognize this and manage, out of yourself, out of your own nature and ways, out of your own experience and childhood and strength to achieve relation to sex wholly your own (not influenced by convention and custom), then you need no longer be afraid of losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your best possession.”

-Letters to a Young Poet

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