Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus

ISBN: 0395250587
ISBN 13: 9780395250587
By: Rainer Maria Rilke A. Poulin Jr.

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About this book

Rilke is one of the most widely read poets of the 20th century. In his poetry, Rilke addresses the problems of death, God, and "destructive time," and attempts to overcome and transform these problems into an indestructive inner world.

Reader's Thoughts


I don't know what's going on for half of this book, but I'm not sure I care--that's how gorgeous some of these lines are. Really lovely and mysterious.

Alex Obrigewitsch

These works are the epitome of Rilke's greatness.Mitchell's translations are good as well, sticking fairly close to Rilke's language(if that makes any sense when speaking of translation)


I wish I was fancy enough to comment on this translation versus others. Alas, I am not fancy. Only deeply impressed by Rilke's elegies. I had read them before and enjoyed the terrifying angel, and Rilke's observation that terror must be attendant to beauty. But this reading, oh, this reading. If I had the eyes and mentality of an animal I might be able to do justice to all that is beautiful here. But I am only too human.


Kadangi su poezija nelabai sutariu, t.y. nelabai ją „pagaunu“, negaliu tvirtinti, kad iš tiesų perskaičiau... tiksliau būtų pasakyti nuskanavau.

Justin Evans

Probably the most infuriating book of poetry I've ever read, perhaps will ever read. The highs and lows are so dizzyingly high and so mind-numbingly, banally low that I couldn't always keep pace. The first and tenth elegies were high, the other elegies interesting and beautiful, if you can stomach the whole whiney little boy thing he falls into occasionally, and his affection for idiot-metaphysics ('Sein Aufgang ist Dasein' and so forth). Many of the sonnets, however, are appalling. Once Rilke ditches the generally critical stance of the elegies (complaints on injustice, suffering etc...) the idiot-metaphysics becomes overwhelming: "Be - and at the same time know the implication of non-being... to nature's whole supply of speechless, dumb, and also used up things, the unspeakable sums,rejoicing, add yourself and nullify the count." Not to say there aren't great sonnets in there too, but my overall impression was one of disgust at this wonderful poet - what's more human than poetry? - wanting to become an object, thrilling in a mysticism of death. Add this to the apparent desire for a god to save us from the injustice and suffering so perfectly evoked in the elegies (uh... couldn't we save ourselves?), and my brain explodes. Because the whole thing is so beautiful, and at once so horrible, that there's nothing else for my brain to do.


I apologize. I don't speak German, and I just don't understand this. The chains of images don't always follow from one another, and, rather than extending metaphors, he just mixes them. I do not enjoy being confused, much less being confused every single page. It felt like reading Gibran or Ashbery, and had me running back to Keats. I'd rather read a cookbook--at least it's lucid.


Loved the Elegies, thought the Sonnets were a bit...uneven maybe? But still, oh, but still."Let yourself peal among the beamsof dark belfries."—from "Sonnet 29"

David Radavich

Rainer Maria Rilke is one of my all-time favorite poets - an artist of stunningly original gifts. I always read his work in German, which is a special gift, because although I have translated his work myself, so much of the original genius is untranslatable. Nonetheless, I recommend that everyone give the English a try and glance now and then at the German originals.


I'm not sure how I made it this long without reading and Rilke, but after reading Gravity's Rainbow I felt compelled, finally, to read the poems that so influenced Pynchon. The Duino Elegies are really amazing, even in translation.


şaire haksızlık etmek istemem ama çeviriler bence şiir kitapları için yetersiz kalıyor. yanlış anlaşılmasın çevirmenin de burda bir hatası olduğunu düşünmüyorum. fakat ne kadar okursam okuyayım şiirdeki ahengi bütünde bulamıyorum. ben de ahenkli bulduğum satırlarla yetinmeye çalışıyorum. Böyle saklamak istiyorum seni, kendini aynaya koyduğu gibi, en içine ve her şeyden uzağa. Rilke

Debbie Hu

Yesterday our campus bookstore had a sale and so I went and bought books including this one. Then instead of doing math homework I laid in the grass and read Rilke out loud to myself for two hours. I didn't mind that my throat got dry after a while.

christopher leibow

An OK translation of the Elegies, but an excellent translation of the Sonnets. It you know the Elegies you have to read the Sonnets, you will not be disappointed.


A constant companion.Rilke's verse has been attempted by many a translator (Edward Snow and Stephen Mitchell are favorites), but not one has truly approached the master himself. For the Greeks, the poet was a "maker" (poeites) who coaxed new creations out of language. Rilke does not merely create from language; he recreates language itself, bending the rigid German language into fluid shapes, startling sounds. For these final poems to the Angel and to Orpheus, Lorca's poem "Abajo" might serve as the best commentary: El espacio estrellado se refleja en sonidos. Lianas espectrales. Arpa laberíntica. The expansiveness of starspace reflects itself in sounds. Phantasmatic creepers. Labyrinthine harp.

Jeremy Sabol

pretty good translation - not as transcendent as mitchell'sbook description says "long considered the definitive translation blah blah blah..." huh? by who?

Jeffrey Bumiller

This is a beautiful book. I find it very surprising that this somewhat new (2009) book marks the first time these two works have been collected together, considering how strongly Rilke felt about them working in tandem. I find the story of the genesis of these poems almost as interesting as the poems themselves: Rilke's years of depression, his experience in WWI, the somewhat exotic location of their composition, all culminating in Rilke's "hurricane of the spirit" and the feverish completion of these poems.I can't comment on the translation of these poems since this is the only time I've read them. Stephen Mitchell has also translated every other book of Rilke's that I've read. He is, apparently, The man to turn to for translations of Rilke's work. I found these highly intense, powerful poems inspiring and they renewed my belief in, and fascination with the idea of the "muse." (Rilke apparently heard the first line of the first elegy from a disembodied voice while out on a walk.)The Endnotes, some of which are made up of Rilke's letters, add a whole other layer to the poems as well.This is an incredible book, an important book, and it will remain very close to me.

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