“And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” [emphasis is my own]
– Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), Austrian poet and novelist
Source text: Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations of Rainer Maria Rilke by John J. L. Mood.
To read more of my thoughts about Rilke’s writing, please see the blog post Timeless Advice: Letters to a Young Poet. It features several passages that I recommend from Rilke’s correspondence with a student struggling to find his voice — and his place in the world.
The following image of Rilke is from a painting by Russian artist Leonid Pasternak (1890-1960) who, in 1928, created this likeness of the poet as a young man. The work is entitled Rilke in Moscow, and the portion shown below was obtained from the website of The Paris Review.
Note – The photographs featured above were taken by photographers Thomas Despeyroux (upper) and Sharon McCutcheon (lower). They were obtained from Unsplash.com.