Duino Elegies


Classics Currently Reading Favorites Favourites German German Literature Literature Poems Poetry To Read

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


"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..."


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?

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-


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.

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.


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.


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.

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!


لا الطفولة ولا الآتي يصيران اقلوجود لا حدود لهيفيض في القلب

Peter Schmidt

Rilke's Duino Elegies are a contender for the greatest lyric sequence of the 20th century (in a century that featured some really great ones, by Yeats, H.D. (Trilogy), Eliot, Stevens (Auroras of Autumn in particular!), Pound, Hughes, and many others could be named. Lots of the translations of Rilke's Elegies in English are really mediocre: turgid Rilke is a complete contradiction in terms. David Young's is by far the best in print for English-speaking readers. Young uses Williams' triadic or 3-step line to give Rilke's Germanic syntax in English light and grace and power, balancing rapidity of thought with poise and depth. HIghly recommended! It's a poem I try to read about once a year, sort of like taking a spirit quest.


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."

Trevor Pardon

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


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.


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.


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.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *