I read Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) this past weekend, a new translation by Mark Harmon published in April. The small volume, celebrated over the decades for its statements about the importance of art, is a series of 10 letters written from 1903 to 1908 by Rilke to Franz Kappus, who was a young poet (19) in an Austrian military school who hated it as much as Rilke did when his father placed him in one at a young age.
“Is there anything that can take from you the hope of being one day in Him, at the farthest, the outermost?
“Celebrate Christmas, dear Mr. Kappus, with this devout feeling that it is precisely this fear of life that He needs from you in order to begin; these very days of your transition are perhaps the time when everything in you works upon Him, just as once before in childhood you worked breathlessly on Him. Be patient and without displeasure, and think that the least we can do is not make His becoming any more difficult for Him than the earth makes it for the spring when it chooses to come.
“And be cheerful and confident.”