No Comment, Quotation — February 11, 2008, 12:00 am

Rilke on Beauty in the Perspective of the Child

cezanne-chestnut-trees-in-jas-de-bouffan

So kommt es, daß die meisten Menschen gar nicht wissen, wie schön die Welt ist und wieviel Pracht in den kleinsten Dingen, in irgendeiner Blume, einem Stein, einer Baumrinde oder einem Birkenblatt sich offenbart. Die erwachsenen Menschen, die Geschäfte und Sorgen haben, und sich mit lauter Kleinigkeiten quälen, verlieren allmählich ganz den Blick für diese Reichtümer, welche die Kinder, wenn sie aufmerksam und gut sind, bald bemerken und mit dem ganzen Herzen lieben. Und doch wäre es das schönste, wenn alle Menschen in dieser Beziehung immer wie aufmerksame und gute Kinder bleiben wollten, einfältig und fromm im Gefühl, und wenn sie die Fähigkeit nicht verlieren würden, sich an einem Birkenblatt oder an der Feder eines Pfauen oder an der Schwinge einer Nebelkrähe so innig zu freuen wie an einem großen Gebirge oder einem prächtigen Palast. Das Kleine ist ebensowenig klein, als das Große—groß ist. Es geht eine große und ewige Schönheit durch die ganze Welt, und diese ist gerecht über den kleinen und großen Dingen verstreut; denn es gibt im Wichtigen und Wesentlichen keine Ungerechtigkeit auf der ganzen Erde.

And so it is that most people have no idea how beautiful the world is and how much magnificence is reveal in the tiniest things, in some flower, in a stone, in tree bark, or in a birch leaf. The grown-ups, going about their business and worries, and tormenting themselves with all kinds of details, gradually lose the perspective for these riches that children, when they are attentive and good, soon notice and love with their whole heart. And yet the greatest beauty would be achieved if everyone remained in this regard always like attentive and good children, simple and pious in sensitivities, and if people did not lose the capacity for taking pleasure as intensely in a birch leaf or a peacock’s feather or the wing of a hooded crow as in a mighty mountain or a splendid palace. What is small is not small in itself, just as that which is great is not—great. A great and eternal beauty passes through the whole world, and it is distributed fairly over that which is small and that which is large; for in such important and essential matters, no injustice is to be found on earth.

Rainer Maria Rilke, letter to Helmut Westhoff, Nov. 12, 1901 in: Briefe, p. 31 (R. Sieber-Rilke ed. 1950) (transl. S.H.)

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  • Victor Provenzano

    “And so it is that most of us have no idea how exquisite the world is and
    how much radiance is revealed in the tiniest of things: a flower, a
    stone, tree bark, or a birch leaf. The grown-ups, going about their
    worries and business, harrying themselves with all kinds of details,
    little by little lose their perspective for the same riches that
    children, when they are attentive and good, soon notice and love with
    their whole heart. And yet an utmost beauty would be attained if
    everyone remained, in this way, always like attentive and good children,
    simple and pious in their sensibility, and if we did not lose our
    ability to take pleasure as intensely in a birch leaf or a peacock’s
    feather, or the wing of a hooded crow, as in an immense mountain or a
    splendid palace. What is small is not small in itself, just as that
    which is great is not great. An unending beauty passes through all the
    world, and it has been sown fairly in things both big and small; for in
    such vital and essential matters, there is no injustice to be found on
    earth.”—-Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (my rewriting of the Scott Horton
    translation).

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