Saturday, 29 March 2014

Letters to a Young Poet

I recently read Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. These consisted of 10 letters that the Bohemian-Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) wrote between 1902 and 1908 offering advice to the aspiring poet Franz Xaver Kappus (1883–1966). They were collected by Kappus and published in 1929.

As somebody who likes solitude and quiet, I was particularly struck by the following passages taken from Letter 6.

...What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours - that is what you must be able to attain. To be solitary as you were when you were a child, when the grownups walked around involved with matters that seemed large and important because they looked so busy and because you didn't understand a thing about what they were doing.

     And when you realize that their activities are shabby, that their vocations are petrified and no longer connected with life, why not then continue to look upon it all as a child would, as if you were looking at something unfamiliar, out of the depths of your own world, from the vastness of your own solitude, which is itself work and status and vocation? Why should you want to give up a child's wise not-understanding in exchange for defensiveness and scorn, since not understanding is, after all, a way of being alone, whereas defensiveness and scorn are a participation in precisely what, by these means, you want to separate yourself from.