September 15, 2011

To Use Sorrow

Bank of the Oise at Auvers

What you say of your life—that its most painful event was also its greatest—that is, so to speak, the secret theme of these pages, indeed the inner belief that gave rise to them. It is the conviction that what is greatest in our existence, what makes it precious beyond words, has the modesty to use sorrow in order to penetrate our soul.

Letter to Madame M-R
January 4, 1923


  1. But we can never know this deep truth when we're in the midst of it. We know it when we've emerged from plumbing those dark depths thinking we were drowning.

  2. Amen to that, and to Grandmother's comment. The transformation of grief into beauty is a road, a river, a sea-journey. After his death getting ripped asunder by the Maenads of Dionysos, the lyre and head of Orpheus was carried down the river to separate resting places -- scattered, as his flesh, as his one pure song. It is for us to gather back up those pieces inside the shatter of our own lives, and make the song anew.

    It was the death of a young woman, a dancer, that was the inspiration for the "Sonnets to Orpheus" -- not an intimate of Rilke's, the daughter of a friend -- that tripped some wire and sprung the Orpheus in Rilke who so loved what was forever lost in Eurydice. From that impossible loss, the smaller, more human songs of the Sonnets, not the big night music of the Elegies but everything that followed from the last lines of the Elegies:

    ... And we, who have always thought
    of happiness climbing, would feel
    the emotion that almost startles
    when happiness falls.

    (Leishman & Spender translation)

    The grand humility of sorrow is the door to where the Elegies could only fly high over. Accessing a place the Angels have no words for.

    Amen and amen. This is exactly where I go in my blog today, celebrating a complex personal holiday. -- Brendan

    "when a happy thing falls

  3. OOOoohhhhhhhh~

    (and so is it bizarre of me to have an eye open to the joy of learning when i am in the pit of sorrow? is this not normal? it feels, i have to say, somewhat dissociative at times.)


  4. ruth there was a time - a time in my passing through this place - when sorrow was the only window, the only doorway, then joy arrived, and then love - and love gets washed under waves of emotion and is judged as a commodity, a quantifiable state. but it also exists as the great binding force that connects all at the entirely unphysical level of everything and so i know and believe that we are always able to know without pain - without the proviso of suffering - the possibilities that the all of everything contains ... and offers. steven

  5. i think sorrow is a great seed from which much can grow, becoming something else.
    joy and happiness seems a trinket we wear and much more fleeting.
    i'm glad for the joy
    but the moments of sorrow have been the greater labourer reaping greater profit and certainly the more proficient teacher


"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!