Duino Elegies


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About this book

Long dissatisfied with the highly romantic and often obscure translations in English of Rilke's great poem cycle, brother and sister Willam and Mary Crichton determined to work toward a translation that would be as straightforward and transparent, yet as lyrically beautiful as Rilke's German original. Working over the years, the Crichtons have produced a work in English worthy of Rilke's Duino Elegies, written at Duino near Trieste beginning in 1912 and completed in Switzerland in 1922. Rilke considered this one of his greatest achievements. William Crichton lives in Toronto; Mary Crichton lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Reader's Thoughts

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.


"Μακάρι κι εμείς ένα κομμάτι γης να βρίσκαμε ανθρώπινο,ένα μικρό,καθαρό,διατηρημένο,μια δική μας σπιθαμήχώμα καρποφόρο ανάμεσα στον ποταμό και στον βράχο.Γιατί η καρδιά μας η ίδια,όπως κι εκείνους,μας ξεπερνά.Και πια δε μπορούμε να τη ζητούμε σε απεικονίσεις πουτην απαλύνουν,ούτε σε σώματα θεϊκά,όπου το μέγεθοςτη μετριάζει.""Δε θα υπάρξει αγάπη μου κόσμος,μόνο εντός μας.Φεύγει η ζωή μας με μεταμορφώσεις.Κι όλο μικραίνει το έξω και χάνεται..."


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Ahmed Azimov

الشاعر الذي صب كلماته الموزونة في صميم وجوديّة هيدجار

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??????


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."

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.


لا الطفولة ولا الآتي يصيران اقلوجود لا حدود لهيفيض في القلب


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.


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.

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