Beauty and Love in Letters

from Letters to a Young Poet

Rainer Maria Rilke

May 14, 1904, Rome

To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. For this reason young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn it. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered close about their lonely, timid, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and so loving, for a long while ahead and far on into life, is--solitude, intensified and deepened loneness for him who loves. Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over, and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate--?), it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself for another's sake, it is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things.

by Robert Burns

Dear Madam,

The passion of love has need to be productive of much delight; as where it takes thorough possession of the man, it almost unfits him for anything else. The lover who is certain of an equal return of affection, is surely the happiest of men; but he who is a prey to the horrors of anxiety and dreaded disappointment, is a being whose situation is by no means enviable. Of this, my present experience gives me much proof. To me, amusement seems impertinent, and business intrusion, while you alone engross every faculty of my mind. My I request you to drop me a line, to inform me when I may wait upon you? For pity's sake, do; and let me have it soon. In the meantime allow me, in all the artless sincerity of truth, to assure you that I truly am,

my dearest Madam,

your ardent lover, and devoted humble servant

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