The Rainer Maria Rilke Archive

Poetry, Quotations, & Writings

On Strength and Adversity

“I would like to find this strength to base my life entirely on this truth, on this infinite and simplicity and joy that is sometimes given to me.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

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

– Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

“One must never despair  upon losing something, whether it is an individual or an experience of joy or happiness; everything returns even more magnificently. What has to decline, declines; what belongs to us, stays with us, for everything works according to laws that are greater than our capacity for understanding and that only seem to contradict us.”

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

“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

“The most wonderful aspect of life still seems to me that some coarse and crude intervention and even a blatant violation can become the occasion for establishing a new order within us. This is indeed the most suberb achievement of our vitality: that it interprets evil as something good and quite actually inverts the two.”

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

“Whatever is heavy and difficult, as long as it is only borne properly, also marks the precise weight of life. It teaches us the measure by which we may know our strength and which we may then also apply when we feel blessed with happiness.”

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

“Do not assume that he who seeks to comfort you now, lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours. Were it otherwise, he would never have been able to find these words.”

-Letters to a Young Poet

“For a strength,…for an inconquerable strength of heart, from which my true strength for God will only begin to develop, that strength must be firmly tied to what is human, otherwise it will break in those heights where no one can help it any longer, and wither away in the air.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence

“Don’t forget that I belong to solitude, that I must not need anyone, that all my strength is born from this detachment.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence

“…for sometime now I have believed that it is our own force, all our own force that is still too great for us. It is true that we do not know it; but is it not just that which is most our own of which we know the least?”

-Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

“What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

“He who does not at some time, with definite determination consent to the terribleness of life, or even exalt in it, never takes possession of the inexpressible fullness of the power of our existence.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

“…these fears that fell to my lot out of every day stirred a hundred other fears, and they stood up in me against me and agreed among themselves, and I couldn’t get beyond them. In striving to form them, I came to work creatively on them ; instead of making them into things of my will, I only gave them a life of their own which they turned against me…”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

“There is an element of death in life, and I am astonished that one pretends to ignore it: death, whose unpitying presence we experience in each turn of fortune we survive because we must learn how to die slowly. We must learn to die: all of life is in that.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

“…so deeply does death lie within the nature of love that death contradicts love at no point;…where else, finally, but into the heart itself may death thrust the unutterable things we bear in our hearts.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

“…let happy memories sustain you if your strength fails you, they are always there, and their current does not run backwards, even across foggy country it floats toward the future.”

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

“What is sacrifice? I believe it is nothing other than the boundless, no longer limitable resolve of a human being to reach his purest inner potential.”

-Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.”

-Letters to a Young Poet


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