Book Review: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1929)

41Ba82VmcdL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dear Mr. Rilke,

Assuming it to be a frequent phenomenon with you, I partake in pleasure and liberty of appointing you the receiver of yet another letter, from a besotted admirer of your wisdom and expression.

You see I have always felt that the best stories are those that we wish turned true; stories that uplift us with their depths and spring us back to the surface to stay afloat; stories that carry our thoughts in their seams and weave the most warm blankets to protect us in the winters of life; stories that complete the half-drawn picture, packing us to a destination of solace.

But above all, a story works best when the mind inking it knows its reader like a best friend; knowing when to let her be and when to rejig her. When the pen joins dots to create conversations between its one such holder and this distant best friend, the creations turn alive, ringing their elevating bells for years to come.

Although I laid hands on a bunch of letters your wrote to Mr.Kappus, your young poet friend, I was taken aback by the loud resonance that penetrated my soul upon reading them. You came to bless me with your songs on life at a time when I was getting crushed under boulders of fear and anxiety with my arms turning deplorably limp to make even the smallest of difference. These bouts are not uncommon but this time, they were of epic proportions. When the ground beneath one’s ideals is suddenly shaken in virulent jolts, she looks upto the skies in hope of a miraculous intervention. You, were mine. Like a supreme entablature, your sagacity descended upon me, stabilizing my fledgling structure. Your distilled prudence covered every open bevel, every bruised crevice in my existence and all at once, I was steady, sturdy and breathing again.

And your doubts can become a good quality if you school them. They must grow to be knowledgeable, they must learn to be critical. As soon as they begin to spoil something for you ask them why a thing is ugly, demand hard evidence, test them, and you will perhaps find them at a loss and short of an answer, or perhaps mutinous. But do not give in, request arguments, and act with this kind of attentiveness and consistency every single time, and the day will come when instead of being demolishers they will be among your best workers – perhaps the canniest of all those at work on the building of your life.

It might be heartening for you to know that I have been attributing my strength to my doubts as much as to my beliefs. In fact, I have often found myself strolling on numerous evenings, absorbed in an inconsequential mist of doubts and dilemmas. Donning the robe of a forced soloist has never stopped me from performing but has often questioned my embrace of solitude. Is it even worth? All those seconds ticking away without another pair of eyes in the vicinity?

What is needed is this, and this alone: solitude, great inner loneliness. Going into oneself and not meeting anyone for hours – that is what one must arrive at.

You quelled my fear; in the most beautiful way. You didn’t deflect me from my walk. Instead you slipped an inexpressible kind of validation beneath my feet that transformed the weather all at once. Holding your finger, the hard road of complexities and predicaments turned a generous grass-bed of soft, white clouds – engulfing me in a feeling of beauty, tenderness, clarity and alacrity while sending buoyant tremors of spirit into my being.

I know I would continue to run into speed-breakers during this voyage of mine; occasional skidding on account of poor reflexes on dense complexes would also be inevitable. But both in bountiful and sick days, I would survive on your inspiring truths; those that cannot be seized by time or place, those that do not have any negative cape, those that find beauty in much, those that detect a breath in dust.

If there is something ailing in the way you go about things, then remember that sickness is the means by which an organism rids itself of something foreign to it. All one has to do is help it to be ill, to have its whole illness and let it break out, for that is how it mends itself.

 

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One thought on “Book Review: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1929)

  1. Pingback: The All-Season Antidote | Fleeting Brook

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