Duino Elegies

ISBN: 0520229231
ISBN 13: 9780520229235
By: Rainer Maria Rilke C.F. MacIntyre

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Reader's Thoughts


[Ma perché essere qui è molto, e perché pareche il tutto qui ha bisogno di noi, questosvanire che strano ci accade. A noi,i più svanenti. Una volta,ciascuno, solo una volta. Una volta, e non più.E noi anche una volta. Mai più. Ma questoesser stato una volta, seppure solo una volta:esser stato terreno, non sembrava revocabile.]Dalla Nona elegia

David Lentz

In "Duino Elegies" it seems as if Rilke is explaining the meaning of his life indirectly to God through divine messengers the presence of whom we can scarcely sense. The 10 elegies succeed in finding the world in a word, as William H. Gass advised was the objective of the most earnest poets. Rilke's greatness emanates from his fearlessness in taking on an epic macro-perspective. He is, after all, peering out into the universe and hearing the whispers of angels to inspire him:"Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the AngelicOrders? and what if one of them would suddenlytake me to his heart."Rilke in the First Elegy goes on to say that "Beauty is nothing else but the beginning of terror, which we are just able to bear and we are stunned by it because it so serenely disdains to destroy us."This is fairly bold, even daunting positioning for a poet and Rilke means to attack the big stuff. He is grand like Faust addressing Mephistopheles. Or Milton in "Paradise Lost." Or Dante in "Inferno."Rilke's poetry is rich and densely packed with meaning. His elegies are epic in his perspective of the universe but there is a relative brevity compared to epic poets who take on the universe in lengthy discourse.It is perhaps the height of optimism that Rilke believes he can directly confront the meaning of the universe from a castle near Trieste, where Joyce also wrote, on the Adriatic Sea under the auspices of a patron in Marie Von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlohe over four months.But the muse does come speaking in the undertones of summoned angels and Rilke listens attuned to their whispers to build in the divine dialogue an opus magnus from the turrets and towers of the castle walls.In the Second Elegy he writes:"Each angel is terrifying. And, alas, even though I knowabout you, almost deadly birds of the soul, I still invoke you."Some truly intriguing questions are framed from Rilke's discourse among the angels:"Does then the cosmic spaceinto which we dissolve, taste of us? Do the Angelsreally hold only that which spring from them,or do they, at times, as if by oversight, enfold unto themselvesa hint of our being as well?"In the Fourth Elegy he invokes the images of puppetry as he sits before the stage:"An angel has to come, take part, and draw the puppets up high.Angel and puppet: at last there is a real play."In the Seventh Elegy we find that Rilke is taking on the Zeitgeist, the spirit of time:"Do not believe that destiny is more than a summing up of childhood...The Zeitgeist builds vast reservoirs of power for itself, shapelessas the tense urge that it extracts from all things.He no longer recognizes temples. We are secretly hoarding these extravagances of the heart."In the Eighth Elegy he speaks more of destiny:"That's what destiny is: to opposeand nothing but that, and forever to oppose...And we: spectators, always, everywhere,turned toward everything and never outward.It overfills us. We arrange it. It falls apart.We rearrange it and we, ourselves, fall apart."A favorite few lines emerges from this elegy by Rilke:"Who, then, has turned us around like this, that we,whatever we do, appear like someone aboutto depart? So much like the man on the final hillthat shows him his whole valley for one last time,who turns, and stops there, lingering-,this, then, is how we live, forever taking our leave."In the Ninth Elegy he has advice for us when we address the angels and God:"Praise the world to the Angel, not the unspeakable one, youcan't impress him with grand emotion: in the Universe,where he feels so intensely, you are only a beginner. So showhim simplicity, shaped from generation to generation,that is ours and lives near our hands and within our sight.Tell him things. He will stand amazed...Look, I live. On what? Neither childhood nor futuregrows less... A surfeit of beingwells up in my heart."The final elegy deals with a woman named Lament:"That some day, emerging from the grim vision,I might sing jubilation and praise to assenting Angels.That of the clear striking hammers of my heartno one would fail me from slack wavering orbroken strings. That my weeping face wouldmake me more radiant; that my trivial tears might flower...We were, she says, a great race once."I urge you to take on Rilke's "Duino Elegies" and to read it slowly and linger on every radiant word: this is the really good stuff.Are we all no less than Rilke in his castle by the sea seeking to make sense of the tumult of the universe in dialogue with our own angels?The translation by Leslie P. Gartner is inspiring.


The emperor has no clothes? I love modernist poetry so I thought I would like Rilke. Maybe it was just a bad translation, but it seemed as if I was attending a boring lecture that was vaguely philosophical but not at all evocative or meaningful.It was very difficult even to get through because there seemed to be no continuity in the imagery or the narrative. While T.S. Eliot was creating paintings of the world and using them to ask questions about life, Rilke was rambling; similar themes, very different effects.

Carly Milne

as always, i learn so many things from Rilke -- things i cannot imagine living without.Never in my life... have I called a book, or anything, "enchanting". This one truly is. I had to read the first page 600 times for some reason, but the rest of it was like going down a waterslide. Amazing. Just amazing. The characters. The dialogue. The pacing. The tension. The weirdness. The philosophical aspects/queries. The physical description. I'm just blown away.

Matt Ambs

I would really love to read this in German. Rilke expresses human nature's imperceptible forms; moving through love, the dead youth, the hero, lamentations, death, life, to trace the soul and distinguish the being, and define that vastness or "the open" which man demarcates with his degree of consciousness. Yet, it is this awareness of death in our very hearts which creates life in an insurmountable and incalculable form. " We live our lives, forever taking leave." -R.M. Rilke-


Rilke himself wrote that he didn't know what these meant. I very much enjoy poetry--am addicted to the rhythm and sound and feeling of words, often to my detriment as a fiction reader--but I thought this was horrendous. Perhaps I would have enjoyed them more in the original.... In English, at least, the words and rhythms were wrong, and the ideas didn't resonate (perhaps because the poet wasn't sure what the ideas were). When I finished reading I was left only with a sense of pretentious emptiness. I've read some of Rilke's other work, and enjoyed that, but the Duino Elegies were incredibly unsuccessful from my point of view. Very famous, I realize, but... some of the worst poetry I've ever read.

Mara Shaw

This is absolutely gorgeous! Plumbing life to all its depths. Recognizing our solitariness, yet standing in wonderment at the physical world which is so often overlooked. Extolling the "here and now" as heaven on earth almost a century before Eckhard Tolle.Not all elegies resonated equally with me, but some phrases were so moving and affirming and thought-provoking that it was a joy to read. Definitely one to re-read again with equal attention.I loved the joy of the 7th!


These poems blew my mind, kicked my ass and sent chills down my back. Never have poems so resonated with that dark secret place I keep hidden from view. But these poems threw back the curtain and shined with angelic vengeance upon my internal cowardice. And this, really, is what I want poems to do: let me know I am not alone and that others have felt as despondant and helpless (in a very mental and spiritual way) as I have. I almost didn't finish reading the poems because I felt my heart being stabbed (literally) and I couldn't take, what Henry James calls, the surprise of recognition. Only this was a brutal and beautiful surprise. One that changed the way I saw poetry and myself . This was some sort of poetical acid: sinister and illuminating, horrifying and unforgetable.


This is a lyrical and beautiful set of 10 elegies...it is bittersweet, brings forth feelings of longing, of desire, nostalgia--but the longing is at once for the past, for the future, for what is inevitable: death, and the nostalgia for the same, with the knowledge that death must come and a feeling of longing to know the god/spirit/creature that is all-knowing. The poems evoke the journey of life by feeling, by relationships, to family (mother, father), lover, and god.It is, in brief, 10 poems that encapsulate the collapse between life and death--that life means death, and both can be beautiful, because of the spaces of longing and unknowing. this is captured in such lines as:Throw the emptiness out of your armsto add to the spaces we breathe; maybe the birdswill feel the expansion of air, in more intimate flight.(First elegy)from the 7th elegy:Nowhere, beloved, will world be, but within. Ourlife passes in change. And ever-shrinkingthe outer diminishes. the 8th elegy, in my opinion, is the most poignant. An excerpt: And how dismayed anything is that has to fly,and leave the womb. As if it wereterrified of itself, zig-zagging through the air, as a crackruns through a cup. As the trackof a bat rends the porcelain of evening.And we: onlookers, always, everywhere,always looking into, never out of, everything.It fills us. We arrange it. It collapses.We arrange it again, and collapse ourselves.Who has turned us round like this, so that,whatever we do, we always have the aspectof one who leaves?


لا الطفولة ولا الآتي يصيران اقلوجود لا حدود لهيفيض في القلب


I read these I think around the age of 23, when I had my first true existential crisis. I was reading anything and everything I could find that mentioned death, mortality, the pain of existence, etc. I moved from the world of art to the world of psychology, in a sense, and Rilke has always exemplified to me one who is at once artist, philosopher, psychologist, spiritualist. His work vibrates with both the ethereal beauty and searing pain of life. I should read this again.


Encontré algunas ideas interesantes y muy originales en las elegías de Duino. Las enlisto:1. El ángel como ser terrible. Un ser demasiado perfecto para ser soportado por un hombre. Los ángeles de los que habla Rilke no son los ángeles buenos a los que hace referencia la doctrina católica y a quienes podemos acudir como guías, consejeros y protectores. Todo lo contrario, Rilke teme a los ángeles, los ve como seres que pueden destruir al hombre en un abrazo.2. El hombre como ser pasajero.Dice en su segunda elegía que el hombre se va disolviendo a sí mismo cada vez que actúa, mientras que los ángeles crecen con sus acciones pues se iluminan con su propia luz y su perfección regresa a ellos haciéndolos más perfectos.3. La falta de apoyos seguros en esta vida.Rilke habla de que no puede gritar a los ángeles porque son demasiado perfectos; no puede gritar a los animales pues ellos saben que el hombre no se siente a gusto en este mundo interpretado. Sólo puede confiar en el árbol al que ve todas las mañanas y a su casa que perdurará cuando él muera.4. El amor de los amantes como una posesión y no como una entrega.En la tercera elegía habla de las caricias de los amantes, pero sólo como una forma de cerciorarnos de nuestra existencia y de adquirir un placer doloroso. Las compara con tocarnos una mano con la otra o meter el rostro entre nuestras manos. Habla de desaparecer al amante una vez que lo abrazamos. No son caricias de amor, sino de posesión egoísta.5. La figura protectora de la madre.Para Rilke, la madre es la seguridad ficticia; es quien esconde los terrores con símbolos que dan tranquilidad y paz. pero lo terrible no desaparece, sino que es sólo encubierto con los detalles de cuidado maternal. Sin embrago, la madre es incapaz de protegerlo de él mismo, de lo que sucede en su interior.6. El mundo visible e invisible como una sola cosa. Habla de los ángeles y de los muertos como si pudiéramos verlos, como seres con los que convivimos todos los días.Me gustaría leerlo en su idioma original, pues creo que la traducción hace perder mucho de la riqueza y del sentido de los versos.

Carlin Nicholson

Rilke is the poet's poet's poet.Keeping in mind that "a translation is a subtraction" (James Karl Lyon)Rilke in better translations is mystifying.In the German original, Rilke is mind blowing.His visions are simply transcendent.


Good!Having read two translations of Duino Elegies by Stephen Mitchell and Edward Snow, I definitely think that Snow has the first half right while Mitchell the second half. I still have a hard time understanding some of the elegies (3, 5, 6, 10), but the ones I think I understand really ring true and strike the right chord, so to speak, in delineating the transience of human desire. My absolute favorites are the First, Second, and Ninth Elegy. It just can't get better than that.There's not much else to say but that I need to come back again and again and spend more time with each elegy to decoct, glean, and soak up Rilke's incredibly condensed, profound, and at the same time elusive verse. It's amazing poetry, and as such, it takes time to really understand it (in your own way, at least), absorb it, and make it your own.Will be reading again.


Beautifully written on the topics most subtle and high of life, the myths all humans live, all the unsaid is revealed in these poems. The Duino Elegies changed my life, shattered the illusion of the material plane and reminded me that poetry is a conduit of truth and elation. These poems are melancholic and take many readings to truly experience the unfolding of its emotion and relevance. I cried in ecstasy the first time I read them, and they changed my life.

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