April 7, 2011

Solitude Will Be a Support

Miners in the Snow at Dawn
letter sketch by Vincent van Gogh

It is good that you are about to enter a profession [the military] that will make you self-sufficient and set you on your own feet. Wait patiently to see if your inner life narrows in the grip of this profession. I consider it to be a very difficult and challenging one, for it is greatly burdened with conventions and allows little room for personal interpretations of its duties. But in the midst of these very unfamiliar conditions your inner solitude will be a support and a home to you. It will be the starting point of all your journeys.

Worpswede, July 16, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet


  1. What I like about Rilke is that I can relate so well to many of his writings. Kind of timeless in my eyes.

  2. my grandfather told me that all things that are useful and worthwhile in life begin with work. i've found that "inner work" thrives in the most constricting and unlikely of circumstances. steven

  3. Rilke knew about military school - his father, in an attempt to clean the dreamy over mothered poet, sent him off to one. It was pretty horrific, but as he said elsewhere, the angels were there to help him through. This passage I think goes into his notion of stretching oneself between the widest of contradictions to that "the god can know himself in you": His gift of inwardness became a survival tool in military school, giving him an almost animal ferocity in defending it. - Brendan

  4. I've been immersed in poetic forms for a couple of weeks, and this strikes me in the same way. Being "burdened with conventions" can "narrow the inner life" — or it can be a thrilling starting point for new journeys. I personally find constraints to be freeing, because the narrowing that happens somehow points my focus more intensely on what is here inside.


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!