Duino Elegies

ISBN: 0393328848
ISBN 13: 9780393328844
By: Rainer Maria Rilke David Young

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About this book

We have a marvelous, almost legendary, image of the circumstances in which the composition of this great poem began. Rilke was staying at a castle (Duino) on the sea near Trieste. One morning he walked out on the battlements and climbed down to where the rocks dropped sharply to the sea. From out of the wind, which was blowing with great force, Rilke seemed to hear a voice: Wer, wenn ich schriee, horte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen? (If I cried out, who would hear me up there, among the angelic orders?). He wrote these words, the opening of the first Duino Elegy, in his notebook, then went inside to continue what was to be his major work and one of the literary masterpieces of the century.

Reader's Thoughts

Stephen

But still prefer Mitchell's

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.

Milly

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.

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.

Garrett Peace

Actual score: 3.5. I'll place some blame on the translation for now, as I just grabbed whatever the library had, but I wasn't as in love with these as I thought I would be. The Eighth and Ninth Elegies are the most striking on first read and made reading all ten worth it (this is not to disparage the other eight elegies: they're quite good), but as a whole it lacked an emotional resonance that I'm looking for with poetry like this. Disappointing but definitely worth a read. I will be researching different translations for further (re)reading.

matt

I thought Stephen Mitchell's translation was the best that could ever possibly exist. I was, happily, totally wrong. I picked this up at a friend's house by chance and was completely absorbed. The Chrichtons bring out a sort of conversational quality in the writing which I hadn't been aware even existed. Rilke's meditations are spectral, evanescent, secular and luminous. I didn't know there were other ways to appraoch the Elegies and now I see that there's a whole new world inside this text I was never quite aware of before. If you're already into Rilke, and even if you're not, do yourself a huge favor and dig in to the primal metaphysical mojo going on here. It could change your life.O, and the inclusion of three letters he wrote about the sequence are enough to make you stand up on the midnight subway and shout incomprehensibly about Time, God, Nothingness, Returns, and the inevitability of all parting. Yep. It's THAT good.

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.

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!

Sherwin

I've had this in my possession for several years now, and always found myself too distracted to get beyond the first elegy. Despite the short lines (David Young translates the longer lines of the original into tiny, indented triads), extracting meaning from te elegies requires holding several triads' worth of content at the front of my mind, as the concepts are continually nested.

Trevor Pardon

two thoughts, related- 1. why do people quote the bible so much? 2. why isn't this the bible??????

Ahmed Azimov

الشاعر الذي صب كلماته الموزونة في صميم وجوديّة هيدجار

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-

D_

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.

Laura Stone

Poetry has generally been a difficult medium for me to appreciate, but I was thoroughly engrossed in Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies. I would love to be able to read it in it's native form (German, alas, I do not understand you nearly well enough!)What did I like? Rilke seems to take on themes of death, human consciousness, connection, and "the realm beyond" with both skepticism and grace. By weaving different motifs into and out of each poem, I thought the author used each succeeding poem to explore and also build on these themes. There was something so emotionally honest and intimate about Rilke's phrasing, which drew me in and left me captivated. I wish I could say more but I'm finding that the connection with the book was very emotional, less intellectual, and thus difficult for me to describe. Regardless, I recommend it for fans of poetry and skeptics alike.

Xavier

I can't write it better than this editorial review. Read on."We have a marvelous, almost legendary, image of the circumstances in which the composition of this great poem began. Rilke was staying at a castle (Duino) on the sea near Trieste. One morning he walked out on the battlements and climbed down to where the rocks dropped sharply to the sea. From out of the wind, which was blowing with great force, Rilke seemed to hear a voice: Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen? (If I cried out, who would hear me up there, among the angelic orders?). He wrote these words, the opening of the first Duino Elegy, in his notebook, then went inside to continue what was to be his major work and one of the literary masterpieces of the century."

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