Duino Elegies/The Sonnets of Orpheus

ISBN: 0618565892
ISBN 13: 9780618565894
By: Rainer Maria Rilke A. Poulin Jr. Mark Doty

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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

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.


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.


I loved the First Elegy, but everything afterward annoyed the hell out of me. Taken one phrase at a time, a lot of what Rilke has to say is interesting, and he does seem to have a way with words (if the translation is anywhere close to the original German), but the little frightened mama's boy that starts to emerge is a very unattractive figure, and seen in that light his intellectual exercises seem like hollow replacements for real living. Maybe I just wasn't getting it. It seems like every time I think I've found a poet I like who lived later than 18th century, I get frustrated with either their pointless obscurantism which barely conceals the fact that they're actually writing about nothing at all, or I find them dreadfully, embarrassingly earnest. I would accuse Rilke of both.

Jeffrey W.

Pretty uneven, but there are moments of greatness.

Mark Bennett

Read and reread the Elegies in different translations from the library. Decided to buy this particular translation for my bookshelf.From the Sonnets,"Oh where are we? Freer and freer,like kites torn loose, tattered by wind,we race midair, edged with laughter."


Something is definitely lost in translation. I have no doubt that Stephen Mitchell is the anglo authority on Rilke, and this is probably as good as it gets, but all I could think is that I really need to learn German to appreciate the original (not to mention also getting around to reading my favourite book Das Parfum in its original language...) I've come to realize that I don't like reading translations of poetry. The only exception being Baudelaire, translated by Poe (and vice-versa - check it out if you're bilingual. I guess they used to have depressed bromies translation seshes).


Poesía elegiaca, intimista y reflexiva.De gran belleza, aunque a mi juicio demasiado abstracta. Únicamente, en alguno de los sonetos, se refleja la pasión por la vida y la poesía.


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.


hmm, Duino, so beauty is the skin of terror, or it's the pavers on the road that leads to terror, or terror really means horror, and beauty is really divinity emulsified. Angels are scary, in any case. Works for me.

Beverly Atkinson

Roger Housden's "ten poems to change your live again & again" begins with Part Two, XII of Rilke's "Sonnets to Orpheus." Housden includes this sonnet (from a translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy) and then explicates the poem, commenting on it from his own life experience. Reading this particular sonnet led to get a copy of all the "Sonnets to Orpheus," dual language edition with the German translated by Stephen Mitchell, from the public library. Although my German proficiency is weak from disuse, I was compelled to read (orally) each sonnet first in German, then in English, stop to reflect, and read again in German. What an enriching experience!I came across Anita Barrows while reading Krista Tippett, "Speaking of Faith" and/or "Einstein's God" (I think the latter) which led me again to Rilke, this time "The Book of Hours."


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


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


Both of these books are translations, but try to get the translations from Edward Snow. Ellen Bass told me he is one of the very best translators for Rilke.

Stevie Lynne

so FUCKING good. like, SO fucking good. like he built a universe out of nothing. read the stephen mitchell translation-- not the one that's shown in this image.


I suspect I would have gotten a lot more out of this book, on an emotional level, were I more poetically-inclined/-informed/-etc. As it is, what few poems I understood intellectually were outstanding.This is one of those new-fangled high-speed books printed in dual languages. The English translations of the German, the few times I checked them, were both poetically and semantically sound.I know a huge number of people have gained great insight from reading Rilke's poetic output—but I guess I'm not one of them yet. This is definitely a work I want to pick up again later (I'm not completely put off by my lack of understanding of him at all—much of Rilke is very approachable), but I think this volume requires a bit more intensive study than I'm able to put out.

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