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


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.


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.


E l'abbraccio, per voi [amanti], è una promessaquasi d'eternità. Eppure, dopo lo sgomentodei primi sguardi, e lo struggersi alla finestrae la prima passeggiata fianco a fianco, una volta per il giardino,amanti, siete amanti ancora? quando vi sollevateper porvi alla bocca l'un l'altro -: bevanda a bevanda:o come stranamente bevendo sfuggite a quel bere.[II elegia](Rilke è talmente immenso che segue un filo tutto suo.)Ma se i morti infinitamente dovessero mai destare un simbolo in noi,vedi che forse indicherebbero i penduli amentidei nocciòli spogli, oppurela pioggia che cade su terra scura a primavera.E noi che pensiamo la felicitàcome un'ascesa, ne avremmo l'emozionequasi sconcertantedi quando cosa ch'è felice, cade.[X elegia](E comunque esistono talmente tante traduzioni, che al solito l'unica versione che meriterebbe di esser letta è l'originale.)


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.


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.


The question is what I have learned from this book, and my response is difficult to give. Rilke offers so much to us; it is kind of him. Everybody should read this, not out of courtesy for the genius but for self-benefit. The poems here are often overwhelming and will touch your mind in places you have never before been touched in. It is beautiful, intrusive, and works better than a mirror.


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.

Ahmed Azimov

الشاعر الذي صب كلماته الموزونة في صميم وجوديّة هيدجار

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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