Poetry Sunday(?): 1929 (part 4)

My apologies for the delay….soon I’ll be free of school obligations for the summer, and it will be much easier to keep to my schedule.  As it was, with more assignments last week than there were schooldays (and a sermon to write for this morning—my priests do like to bring me in for my quarterly sermon on holiday weekends, it seems), this is as soon as I could get to the latest installment of our reflections on poetry.  As with last week, I offer an excerpt from one of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, which was published in English in 1929.  To chastise myself a little for being late, I offer his (not terribly encouraging) thoughts on literary criticism from the third letter:

Read as little as possible of literary criticism—such things are ether partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today, and tomorrow the opposite view.  Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism.  Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them.—Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights.  Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing.  To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to a completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as well as creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing.  Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come.  It does come.  But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.  I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!”

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