German lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was born René Karl Wilhelm Johann Joseph Maria Rilke in Prague. He called his upbringing, "petit bourgeois" (lower middle class) and began his literary career at age 19 when he published a collection of love poems.
"The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things," said Rilke, who touched readers with his beautiful and expressive words.
Working for a time as the secretary to sculptor Auguste Rodin, their friendship helped Rilke learn to write with greater attention to detail.
Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, ten passionate letters to the young officer Franz Xavier Kappus, written between 1903 and 1908, later became a publishing classic as it revealed the creative heart of inspiration and motivation.
"Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write," Rilke urged. "See whether it has spread its roots into the depth of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.
The poet became internationally known for his collection, Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus (1923), poems that celebrated life and humanity.
"We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it," believed Rilke, who wrote with strong imagery and was a major contributor to the symbolism movement of his time. His poetry celebrated the profound: love, wisdom, growth and transformation, and death.
"Live the questions," he urged passionately and spent much of his life traveling throughout Europe to gather inspiration.
"We live our lives, forever taking leave."
More RILKE Quotations
To love is to give. To give is to love.