Duino Elegies: A Bilingual Edition

ISBN: 0865475466
ISBN 13: 9780865475465
By: Rainer Maria Rilke Edward Snow

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Reader's Thoughts

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.

Trevor Pardon

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


Πουθενά, Αγαπημένη, δέν θα ύπάρχει Κόσμος, παρά έντός μας.Μέ μεταμόρφωση διαβαίνει ή ζωή μας, τό έξωτερικό μας πάντοτεφθίνει και λιγοστεύει.από τις πιο όμορφες ποιητικές συλλογές που διάβασα φέτος. Ενώ τα προηγούμενα έργα του Rilke, τα οποία διάβασα, δε μου άρεσαν ιδιαίτερα ή απλώς δε με ξετρέλαναν, οι ελεγείες του Ντουίνο με επηρέασαν ψυχικά.Η συλλογή αποτελείται από δέκα ελεγείες τις οποίες άρχισε να γράφει ο ποιητής όντας στον πύργο του Duino, κοντά στην Τεργέστη. Όταν συμπληρώθηκε, μέσα σε μία δεκαετία, η γραφή των Ελεγειών, ο ποιητής τις συγκέντρωσε κάτω απ' τον τίτλο Duineser, δηλαδή του Duino.Σίγουρα ένα έργο που αξίζει να διαβάσει ο καθένας.


Duino Elegies,from Rainer Maria Rilke,is considered by critics as one of the major lyrical works in German.The ten poems sad tone suits and began to be written in the castle of Duino,Trieste,on the shores of the Adriatic,on a night when his anguish burst into bitter question: "Who, if I cried out among the legions of angels would hear me?" The Duino Elegies transform human existence in all its implications,in single images.And life is felt as an impossibility,with the men placed in an ambiguous position between animals - immersed in universal course - and angels - immortal and perfect - victims of the greed of the time.This edition comes with the original German.


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.

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-


Excerpt from the Eighth Elegy:And we, spectators always, everywhere,looking at, never out of, everything!It fills us. We arrange it. it decays.We re-arrange it, and decay ourselves.Who’s turned us round like this, so that we always,do what we may, retain the attitudeof someone who’s departing? Just as he,on the last hill, that shows him all this valleyfor the last time, will turn and stop and linger, we live our lives, for ever taking leave.


[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


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.

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!


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."


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?

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.


But still prefer Mitchell's


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.

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