January 15, 2011

Through All That Happens

The Danaid, by Auguste Rodin

As you unfold as an artist, just keep on, quietly and earnestly, growing through all that happens to you. You cannot disrupt this process more violently than by looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feeling.

Paris, February 17, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet


  1. Magnificent quote, one that, as a writer, would be beneficial to re-read often, returning to it in order to remember.

  2. I agree. It's especially important to learn this as a young artist-writer, I think, to set the course. As a person grows older (like me), she grows in confidence from experience, and it becomes easier to know that voices outside may or may not be relevant, or even true. But in the beginning of writing, it's far too easy, while studying and learning from the masters, to avoid going within for the most important voice.

  3. The image today features Rodin’s Danaid. We saw a mention of the “daughters of Danaus … drawing water in a sieve” in the passage from Bullfinch’s Mythology on Orpheus’s descent to the underworld to retrieve Eurydice (comment on September 13th post). To continue with the ‘refresher’ course on the mythological characters in the work of Rilke and his friend and deeply admired Rodin, I offer this brief description of the story of Danaus’ daughters (available here:

    Rodin's 'Danaid' is an adaption of the Greek myth of the 50 daughters of King Danaos of Argos. To reconcile with his brother Danaos, Aegyptos, a father of 50 sons, proposed his sons would marry to Danaos's daughters. Although Danaos agreed with the wedding, he instructed the brides to murder their bridegrooms during the wedding night, and all except one stabbed their husbands. As a penalty, the Danaids were forced to fill their jugs with water in the Hades; since these urns were perforated, their efforts were condemned to be in vain.

    And Rilke himself, had this to say about this sculpture:

    “The Danaid, she who has cast herself down from her knees into her flowing hair. It is wonderful to pass about this marble slowly; the long, long way about the rich, unfolding curve of the back, to the face which loses itself in the stone as in a great weeping, to the hand which, like a final blossom, speaks gently one last time of life, deep within the eternal ice of the block.”

  4. I was at first dismayed reading your Rilke reflection on the Danaid sculpture, Lorenzo, that this woman is casting herself down, weeping . . . collapsing into herself, when the passage for today's post is about unfolding. I paired the image with the post, and I thought, Oh no! I have mis-paired. But the more I reflect on it, there is something in that yin-yang pairing that expresses Rilke and his death-life, yes-no, being-nonbeing, duality-nonduality wholeness.

  5. Yes, it is to be oneself, that is art, no matter if you produce art or not, really, but to allow the uniqueness of you to be. I offer my favorite quote which I think speaks to Rilke's passage. I am not a quote person but a friend introduced me to it, and through it somehow a very necessary truth is laid out,

    "What I do is me: for that I came." Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Have a beautiful weekend Ruth and Lorenzo.


  6. in my own experience the outside finds its way in much more easily than the inside finds its way out. this is one part of the conscious suffering attached to any connection to creation. steven

  7. and the recognition that some unfold more slowly than others is important in not rushing through the process

  8. Stunning artwork and a quote that is a keeper.

    I am reminded of Stephen Spender's urging to let the real self blaze through. Doing that allowed me to find my own voice as a poet, a voice I'm still learning how to use.

  9. Rilke's comment has relevance to everyone, both artists and non-artists. Now that I think about it, however, perhaps that's an inappropriate distinction, for each of us, regardless of our profession, is the artist of his or her own life.


"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!