Letters to a Young Poet

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Rainer Maria Rilke’s letters are a delight to read and I have been rereading these for years now. It’s a treasure for those who want a glimpse inside Rilke’s mind and this extraordinary correspondence is a brilliant reminder of the days gone by when letters still had a special place in our everyday life.

Here’s one such letter handpicked for you from his collection of letters written as a 27-year-old.

To Karl Baron Du Frel 8/1 Bliitenstrasse, Munich

February 16, 1897

It may be an awkward token of my respect, if I offer you my latest book of poems.

But I can give my feelings no other expression. You are the most significant investigator in the domain of hypnotism and will pardon an interested layman the following request, which is: by what road does one become a worthy initiate? There are plenty of pamphlets which deceive and mislead the novice by their charlatanish falsehood, and the unpracticed eye does not know how to differentiate them from those genuine guides which direct one intelligently into the dark lands of clarity and of the future.

Apart from the charm of the mysterious, the domains of spirit-ualism have for me an important power of attraction because in the recognition of the many idle forces and in the subjugation of their power I see the great liberation of our remote descendants and believe that in particular every artist must struggle through the misty fumes of crass materialism to those spiritual intimations that build for him the golden bridge into shoreless eternities.

If I may penetrate into the nature of your science, it will perhaps be vouchsafed me sometime to become with word and pen one of the adherents of the new faith that towers high above church-steeple crosses and shines like the first hint of morning on the princeliest peaks.

Please give me your advice, my dear Baron. What works should I go through and where can I (who am not in a position to buy them) get hold of them?

Do not let this be a burden to you; it seems to me that in my “Visions of Christ,” appearing this year, I shall come a big step nearer to your group. . . .


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