[Portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke by Leonid Pasternak]
And I don’t want to write anymore letters. What’s the use of telling someone I’m changing? If I’m no longer who I was; and if I’m something else, it’s obvious that I have no acquaintances. And I can’t possibly write to strangers.
Rainer Maria Rilke: The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Translated by Stephen Mitchell
A really intelligent man feels what other men only know.
Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755)
Below the surface I am a veritable battlefield.
God made the country, and man made the town.
What wonder then that health and virtue, gifts
That can alone make sweet the bitter draught
That life holds out to all, should most abound
And least be threaten’d in the fields and groves?
Possess ye, therefore, ye, who, borne about
In chariots and sedans, know no fatigue
But that of idleness, and taste no scenes
But such as art contrives, possess ye still
Your element; there only can ye shine;
There only mind’s like yours can do no harm.
Our groves were planted to console at noon
The pensive wanderer in their shades. At eve
The moonbeam, sliding softly in between
The sleeping leaves, is all the light they wish,
Birds warbling all the music. We can spare
The splendour of your lamps; they but eclipse
Our softer satellite. Your songs confound
Our more harmonious notes: the thrush departs
Scar’d, and th’ offended nightingale is mute.
There is a public mischief in your mirth;
It plagues your country. Folly such as yours,
Grac’d with a sword, and worthier of a fan,
Has made, which enemies could ne’er have done,
Our arch of empire, steadfast but for you,
A mutilated structure, soon to fall.
William Cowper (1731-1800)
It is a general rule of human nature that people despise those who treat them well, and look up to those who make no concessions.
Thucydides (c. 460 – c. 400 BC)
MY life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
Emily Dickinson (1830–86)
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
(William Wordsworth, 1770 – 1850)