The modest domestic circumstances of Tolstoy, the lack of comfort in Rodin's rooms -- it all points to the same thing: that one must make up one's mind: either this or that. Either happiness or art. On doit trouver le bonheur dans son art: that too, more or less, is what Rodin said. And it is all so clear, so clear. The great artists have all let their lives become overgrown like an old path and have borne everything in their art. Their lives have become atrophied, like an organ they no longer use.
--Rilke in a letter to his wife Clara, Sep. 5th, 1902
Someday people will understand what made this great artist so great: the fact that he was a worker, who desired nothing but to enter, completely and with all his powers, into the humble and austere reality of his art, in this there was a certain renunciation of life. But precisely by such patience did he win life, for the world offered itself to his art.
-- Rilke on Auguste Rodin, 1902
If you are still here with me, if in this darkness
there is still some place where your spirit resonates
on the shallow soundwaves stirred up by my voice:
hear me; help me. We can so easily
slip back from what we have struggled to attain,
abruptly, into a life we never wanted;
can find that we are trapped, as in a dream
and die there, without ever waking up.
This can occur. Anyone who has lifted
his blood into a years-long work may find
that he can't sustain it, the force of gravity
is irresistible, and it falls back, worthless.
For somewhere there is an ancient enmity
between our daily life and the great work.
Help me, in saying it, to understand it.
-- from Requiem
All English translation from Stephen Mitchell's The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke