Rilke’s Late Poetry: Duino Elegies, the Sonnets to Orpheus and Selected Last Poems

ISBN: 1553800249
ISBN 13: 9781553800248
By: Rainer Maria Rilke Graham Good

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About this book

The late poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is one of the summits of European poetry in the twentieth century. Completed in 1922, as were T S Eliot's The Waste Land and James Joyce's Ulysses, Duino Elegies ranks with them as a classic of literary Modernism, and as an inquiry into the spiritual crisis of modernity. The ten long poems grapple with the issue of how the human condition and the role of art have altered in the modern era, with the decline of religion and the acceleration of technology.1922 also saw the unexpected birth and completion of a new work, The Sonnets to Orpheus, a cycle of 55 sonnets giving lyrical expression to the philosophical insights gained in the Elegies. This is dedicated to Orpheus, the mythic singer and lyre player, who becomes a symbol for Rilke of the acceptance of transience in life and transformation in art. The third part of the late poetry consists of the less known brief lyrics. Rilke wrote in the five years prior to his death in December 1926. These last poems constitute a kind of third testament, along with the Elegies and Sonnets. Graham Good's edition is the first to combine translations of all three into a single volume. original within fluid and readable English verse, while the introduction and detailed commentary elucidate the contexts, themes and allusions to help make Rilke's late poetry accessible to contemporary poetry lovers and spiritual seekers.

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.

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.


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"


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.


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.

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."

Matthew Mitchell

These poems had a huge impact on me in college. Finally, poems about life! "...animals already know by instinct that we are not comfortably at home in our translated world."

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.

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)




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


I consider myself an avid Rilke fan, and this was surprisingly my least favorite of his work, considering how highly celebrated the Duino Elegies are. It had its moments of course, but the works in Uncollected Poems speak much more to me than these Elegies or Sonnets.


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.


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

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