Rilke, "The Dragon-Princess", (excerpt), trans. and comment. below by j.l. mood

While still only in his twenties, Rilke penned what is for me the most affirmative passage of nonfiction prose I have ever come across. Characteristically, it is in a letter..

We, however are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accomodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if we could only arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now 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 once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

15 comments:

eeyore said...

oddly enough, to me this has always been like beowulf, the gita, and patanjali yoga sutras all squished into one letter.

joy suzanne said...

This is gorgeous.

Thank you, dear Donkey. I had been feeling poorly and the last thing I read was Stefan Zweig's suicide letter, which didn't help matters. ;)

boodiba said...

I have certainly seen things work that way in Lucid Dreaming Land.

annabella said...

That is very beautiful... I love the part about the dragons...

But I also think dragons are misunderstood. Instead of turning into princesses, perhaps the dragons really are good, and brave, and beautiful, just as they are, and we only have to see them a different way.

eeyore said...

excactly! smudgewoozles look like dragons, but happy:)

eeyore said...

j.s., i'm glad it makes things a little brighter. sad zweig letter, i know.

i hope their was Lucid Dreaming Land this morning?

boodiba said...

I haven't practiced lucid dreaming in awhile. No time for all that dream journaling!! But I had a lovely time in yoga. That counts right?

eeyore said...

oh yes.

annabella said...

I have a whole book of dragon poetry. My favorite one is about the night all the dragons sing...

eeyore said...

that sounds like my kind of thang! um, i want to see it, but don't want you to have to post it, it would be good incentive for me to get out there!

(0v0) said...

oh, 'yore. are you hiding from the dragon-princess?

she is quietly, methodically following you across the universe...

eeyore said...

what a thing to be tracked by; let's hope i'm faster than basset hounds!

Liz said...

Such a great entry, thanks for sharing it (and reminding me to keep up with your blog!)- Such a beautiful and haunting way to describe struggle, perspective, illusion...
To the bookstore I go!

eeyore said...

i'm really glad you like it, liz. i'd like to see rilke try kapo:)

Jim said...

can anyone remember a story where a dragon turned into a princess? I can't think of one.