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The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

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Parallel German text and English translation. The influence and popularity of Rilke’s poetry in America have never been greater than they are today, more than fifty years after his death. Rilke is unquestionably the most significant and compelling poet of romantic transformation, of spiritual quest, that the twentieth century has known. His poems of ecstatic identification Parallel German text and English translation. The influence and popularity of Rilke’s poetry in America have never been greater than they are today, more than fifty years after his death. Rilke is unquestionably the most significant and compelling poet of romantic transformation, of spiritual quest, that the twentieth century has known. His poems of ecstatic identification with the world exert a seemingly endless fascination for contemporary readers. In Stephen Mitchell’s versions, many readers feel that they have discovered an English rendering that captures the lyric intensity, fluency, and reach of Rilke’s poetry more accurately and convincingly than has ever been done before. Mr. Mitchell is impeccable in his adherence to Rilke’s text, to his formal music, and to the complexity of his thought; at the same time, his work has authority and power as poetry in its own right. Few translators of any poet have arrived at the delicate balance of fidelity and originality that Mr. Mitchell has brought off with seeming effortlessness. Originally published: New York : Random House, 1982.


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Parallel German text and English translation. The influence and popularity of Rilke’s poetry in America have never been greater than they are today, more than fifty years after his death. Rilke is unquestionably the most significant and compelling poet of romantic transformation, of spiritual quest, that the twentieth century has known. His poems of ecstatic identification Parallel German text and English translation. The influence and popularity of Rilke’s poetry in America have never been greater than they are today, more than fifty years after his death. Rilke is unquestionably the most significant and compelling poet of romantic transformation, of spiritual quest, that the twentieth century has known. His poems of ecstatic identification with the world exert a seemingly endless fascination for contemporary readers. In Stephen Mitchell’s versions, many readers feel that they have discovered an English rendering that captures the lyric intensity, fluency, and reach of Rilke’s poetry more accurately and convincingly than has ever been done before. Mr. Mitchell is impeccable in his adherence to Rilke’s text, to his formal music, and to the complexity of his thought; at the same time, his work has authority and power as poetry in its own right. Few translators of any poet have arrived at the delicate balance of fidelity and originality that Mr. Mitchell has brought off with seeming effortlessness. Originally published: New York : Random House, 1982.

45 review for The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

  1. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Yet, no matter how deeply I go down into myself, my God is dark, and like a webbing made of a hundred roots that drink in silence.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke Rainer Maria Rilke seems to stretch his words from the dirt to the stars with his poems. His verse is my favorite kind of poetry. He is wrestling with angels, looking for the THING, peeling back the skin on tangerines while counting the seeds. This is both the poetry of my youth (I first read Rilke in H “Yet, no matter how deeply I go down into myself, my God is dark, and like a webbing made of a hundred roots that drink in silence.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke Rainer Maria Rilke seems to stretch his words from the dirt to the stars with his poems. His verse is my favorite kind of poetry. He is wrestling with angels, looking for the THING, peeling back the skin on tangerines while counting the seeds. This is both the poetry of my youth (I first read Rilke in HS) and my maturity. Rilke dances in that void between love, sex and death and makes the gravity of it ALL work. I should also mention that I love Stephen Mitchell as a translator. I'm not sure exactly how many languages he reads, but his ability to turn German poetry into English poetry; his ability to turn Latin poetry into English poetry -- hell, it amazes me. Like Pinsky's translation of The Inferno of Dante, Rilke's 'Selectee Poetry' is one of those poet translations I believe is a must in a literate library.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    This is a book you might need years to prepare for. Rilke is complex, his images interweave and play off each other. I believe it has something to do with the penchant for puns and hyphenated, conjuncted words that German is prone to. "Archaic Torso Of Apollo" is one of the most powerful, moving pieces in all of 20th Century poetry. Rilke is light years beyond you, dear reader, as he is for 90% of all his readers. But he is accessible in small glimpses if you come correct with an open mind and re This is a book you might need years to prepare for. Rilke is complex, his images interweave and play off each other. I believe it has something to do with the penchant for puns and hyphenated, conjuncted words that German is prone to. "Archaic Torso Of Apollo" is one of the most powerful, moving pieces in all of 20th Century poetry. Rilke is light years beyond you, dear reader, as he is for 90% of all his readers. But he is accessible in small glimpses if you come correct with an open mind and reverence and inquisitiveness... "Who, if I were to cry out, would hear me among the angels' heirarchies?" Splendid. Elegant, aesthetic, cosmopoltian, skeptical, dense, rewarding, compelling. This would change your life, if only you had enough of one to change.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Many poets can distill their thoughts, observations, and feelings into poetry in a way that I could never accomplish, but I don't necessarily view them as wise human beings. They might have all sorts of other strengths, but deep interior wisdom is not what they give me. There are some poets, however, who take me to places that resonate so deeply and do it in language that I would never discover in myself. What they say is suffused with wisdom. Rilke is such a poet for me. Wisława Szymborska is a Many poets can distill their thoughts, observations, and feelings into poetry in a way that I could never accomplish, but I don't necessarily view them as wise human beings. They might have all sorts of other strengths, but deep interior wisdom is not what they give me. There are some poets, however, who take me to places that resonate so deeply and do it in language that I would never discover in myself. What they say is suffused with wisdom. Rilke is such a poet for me. Wisława Szymborska is another. Rilke's poems are so dense with imagery, feeling, and insight they require an on-going relationship and an evolving understanding. So for me this is not a book to read and set aside, but one to savor and turn to repeatedly over the years. Rilke created poems that span a space between the beauty and wonder of life and the recognition of death as an inevitable conclusion. Awareness of that conclusion makes everything more wondrous right now and Rilke is incredible at conveying observed details as well as evoking imagery that make you contemplate the world immediately around you. But the poems remind you that these things -- and ourselves -- are all more precious because they are fleeting. Another reviewer called his writing "vaporous." I think that's an adequate description. It's like they trigger awareness of that sense of transience in life, temporarily sustain the moment for you, and then disappear. But isn't that how insight is? There then gone? Then there again?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Cowley

    I first discovered Rilke earlier this month when one of my friends posted a snippet of his poetry for National Poetry Month. The lines entranced me, and I decided I wanted to read more. So I found this selection of his poetry and read it from start to finish. I loved the critical introduction by Robert Haas--it was a fascinating look at Rilke's life and poems, and helped me get a lot more out of my reading, by understanding the context. My impression of Rilke is that his poems describe the beaut I first discovered Rilke earlier this month when one of my friends posted a snippet of his poetry for National Poetry Month. The lines entranced me, and I decided I wanted to read more. So I found this selection of his poetry and read it from start to finish. I loved the critical introduction by Robert Haas--it was a fascinating look at Rilke's life and poems, and helped me get a lot more out of my reading, by understanding the context. My impression of Rilke is that his poems describe the beauty of loneliness, the meaning in emptiness, and the self-discovery in loss. In one of his requiems, Rilke writes: I have my dead, and I have let them go, and was amazed to see them so contented, so soon at home in being dead, so cheerful, so unlike their reputation. Only you return.... The brilliantly crafted ten elegies that make up Duino Elegies were incredibly sorrowful, bringing death close, but in some ways transcending death itself. In one of his sonnets to Orpheus, Rilke writes: Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were behind you, like the winter that has just gone by. One of my favorite poems is Rilke's first sonnet to Orpheus: A tree ascended there. Oh pure transcendence! Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear! And all things hushed. Yet even in that silence a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared. Creatures of stillness crowded from the bright unbound forest, out of their lairs and nests; and it was not from any dullness, not from fear, that they were so quiet in themselves, but from simply listening. Bellow, roar, shriek seemed small inside their hearts. And where there had been just a makeshift hut to receive the music, a shelter nailed up out of their darkest longing, with an entryway that shuddered in the wind-- you built a temple deep inside their hearing. Reading Rilke makes me want to look, to see, to experience the world more deeply. It makes me want to stop running from my sorrows, and instead let myself experience them. Since I've never read Rilke before, I can't comment on this particular translation or edition in comparison to the others. This one does have the original German on the opposite page, for those who happen to read German (I do not). I need more poetry in my life. Reading Rilke has made that clear to me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    I have read many of the poems in this collection dozens of times, by a handful of different translators, and I never, ever tire of Rilke. No modern poet goes as far into himself, into "the invisible, unheard center", and returns with such gems, really revelations. Revelatory image succeeds revelatory image. Am I being a bit too grandiose? That's fine, I think Rilke is the greatest poet of the 20th century, and high praise is not praise enough. A pure writer. Mitchell's translations are gorgeous I have read many of the poems in this collection dozens of times, by a handful of different translators, and I never, ever tire of Rilke. No modern poet goes as far into himself, into "the invisible, unheard center", and returns with such gems, really revelations. Revelatory image succeeds revelatory image. Am I being a bit too grandiose? That's fine, I think Rilke is the greatest poet of the 20th century, and high praise is not praise enough. A pure writer. Mitchell's translations are gorgeous and this should be the edition that introduces the new reader to Rilke. Then read all his letters and the Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Then reread ad infinitum.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Yuval

    I'm not the world's biggest poetry buff, but Rilke's work is more like lyric philosophy, and the depth of ideas and richness of imagery is overwhelming. It's been way too long since reading these, and I've thoroughly loved the re-read over the last few weeks. Last time I read this, I did not speak German, so this is the first time I was able to assess Stephen Mitchell's translations of the poems from German. They are truly amazing; accurate, graceful, and lovely. I can't imagine any better.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Keith Michael

    Rilke is truly incredible. his style is so vaporous- the images linger and cloud together, broken up by indefinite semicolons and dashes, and the final lines are like cold glass against the cheek. he's overwhelmingly receptive to beauty and intensity in the world; in letters, he wrote to a friend about the hours he spent watching deer at the zoo. i recognized a lot of romantic sublimity in his earlier poems, in the descriptions of potential in the animals' limbs and gazes, the latent power sugge Rilke is truly incredible. his style is so vaporous- the images linger and cloud together, broken up by indefinite semicolons and dashes, and the final lines are like cold glass against the cheek. he's overwhelmingly receptive to beauty and intensity in the world; in letters, he wrote to a friend about the hours he spent watching deer at the zoo. i recognized a lot of romantic sublimity in his earlier poems, in the descriptions of potential in the animals' limbs and gazes, the latent power suggested everywhere in nature. he's radically unlike any English-speaking poets that i've read, so much so that reading his poetry is like bedding someone who doesn't speak your native tongue, it's simultaneously very intimate and very alienating. you feel very close but you can barely communicate. he's so sincere, and his yearnings, untempered by self-consciousness, are painful to read. part pioneer, part shepherd, the androgynous Rilke is a wandering eye. stangely, he reminds me of lot of jeff mangum from neutral milk hotel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    I have read this edition of Rilke’s poetry several times since 1993, and I am sure that my recent reading will not be my last. Stephen Mitchell has done a good job of editing and translating Rilke’s work, and this bilingual edition would seem ideal for those readers who read German (alas, I do so poorly). Included in the book are poems from several of Rilke’s collections as well as selections from his prose work, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. There are no selections from Letters to a Yo I have read this edition of Rilke’s poetry several times since 1993, and I am sure that my recent reading will not be my last. Stephen Mitchell has done a good job of editing and translating Rilke’s work, and this bilingual edition would seem ideal for those readers who read German (alas, I do so poorly). Included in the book are poems from several of Rilke’s collections as well as selections from his prose work, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. There are no selections from Letters to a Young Poet, but Mitchell has published a translation of that complete work independently. The Sonnets to Orpheus are also published incompletely, and I wish all of them had been included. But the highlight for me of this book are the complete Duino Elegies, of which Mitchell’s translations are masterful. Rilke (1875-1926) was Bohemian-Austrian by birth but traveled widely throughout Europe, working for a time as secretary to the sculptor Rodin. His poetry is intensely lyrical and often highly introspective. Here are some examples: THE SWAN This laboring through what is still undone, as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, is like the awkward walking of the swan. And dying – to let go, no longer feel the solid ground we stand on every day – is like his anxious letting himself fall into the water, which receives him gently and which, as though with reverence and joy, draws back past him in streams on either side; while, infinitely silent and aware, in his full majesty and ever more indifferent, he condescends to glide. THE LAST EVENING And night and distant rumbling; now the army’s carrier-train was moving out, to war. He looked up from the harpsichord, and as he went on playing, he looked across at her almost as one might gaze into a mirror: so deeply was her every feature filled with his young features, which bore his pain and were more beautiful and seductive with each sound. Then, suddenly, the image broke apart. She stood, as though distracted, near the window and felt the violent drum-beats of her heart. His playing stopped. From outside, a fresh wind blew. And strangely alien on the mirror-table stood the black shako with its ivory skull. And these three lines from Requiem: We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it. I wish that I were able to select lines from the Duino Elegies to share, but they are too rich and too dense to pluck lines from. I like them the best of all Rilke’s poetry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Miroku Nemeth

    Rilke's words spring from a compassion and nobility that plunges into the depths and rises to the heights of human experience. Spend time with this book. You will increase your humanity. Everywhere transience is plunging into the depth of Being....It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, 'invisibly,' inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to Rilke's words spring from a compassion and nobility that plunges into the depths and rises to the heights of human experience. Spend time with this book. You will increase your humanity. Everywhere transience is plunging into the depth of Being....It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, 'invisibly,' inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the visible." (Rilke in a letter Witold Hulewicz, 1925). "For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been given to us, the ultimate, the final problem and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation....Love does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person...Rather, it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for another's sake...." Rilke "The bird is a creature that has a very special feeling of trust in the external world, as if she knew that she is one with its deepest mystery. That is why she sings in it as if she were singing within her own depths; that is why we so easily receive a birdcall into our own depths; we seem to be translating it without residue into our emotion; indeed, it can for a moment turn the whole world into inner space, because we feel that the bird does not distinguish between her heart and the world's" Rilke "Letter to Lou Andreas-Salome" 1914) Angel!: If there were a place that we didn't know of, and there, on some unsayable carpet, lovers displayed what they never could bring to mastery here--the bold exploits of their high-flying hearts, their towers of pleasure, their ladders that have long since been standing where there was no ground, leaning just on each other, trembling,--and could master all this, before the surrounding spectators, the innumerable soundless dead; Would these, then, throw down their final, forever saved-up, forever hidden, unknown to us, eternally valid coins of happiness before the at last geniunely smiling pair on the gratified carpet? Rilke, Duino Elegies, the Fifth Elegy

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    There are not enough stars on Goodreads for Rilke. I loved this book, which included a little sampler from each of his books, chronologically, except the Duino Elegies, which was here in its entirety. I read the Duino Elegies first and was hooked, but the others are almost as good. The Sonnets to Orpheus especially are great, and some of his stand alone poems. Also because this was roughly chronological, you can see his progression as a poet, and how he developed his ideas, themes, and writing. There are not enough stars on Goodreads for Rilke. I loved this book, which included a little sampler from each of his books, chronologically, except the Duino Elegies, which was here in its entirety. I read the Duino Elegies first and was hooked, but the others are almost as good. The Sonnets to Orpheus especially are great, and some of his stand alone poems. Also because this was roughly chronological, you can see his progression as a poet, and how he developed his ideas, themes, and writing. He's not one of those writers who repeats the same poem throughout his career. Every book here has a different flavor and feel to it, he seemed to be perpetually striving. Stephen Mitchell's translations are very satisfying. I've read a few other translations on the web, but none approached the ones in this book. If you read Rilke before in another translation, I urge you to give this one a try. In a bad translation, Rilke can seem overly dramatic, overly romantic, or just plain "icky". But rest assured, he is not. Here was my original review of Duino Elegies (on 9/16/2008): I just finished this. It's incredible. I can't believe I hadn't read this before. Poets don't write like this anymore. Who dares to tackle the enormity of these themes, the meaning of life, death, god, love, pain? All conveyed in sometimes concrete sometimes abstract language but always avoiding the easy conclusions. There are so many beautiful passages here where he just tips things slightly so that you see them askew & anew. Then in elegy 9 he almost sounds like Stevens, talking about thing-ness and language. Just a little taste, here's the opening of Eighth Elegy: With all its eyes the natural world looks out into the Open. Only our eyes are turned backward, and surround plant, animal, child like traps, as they emerge into their freedom. We know what is really out there only from the animal's gaze; for we take the very young child and force it around, so that it sees objects--not the Open, which is so deep in animals' faces. Free from death, We, only, can see death; the free animal has its decline in back of it, forever, and God in front, and when it moves, it moves already in eternity, like a fountain.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tortla

    Honorary "dragons" shelving for being just that awesome. EDIT: Also, I think I've read all the poems and most of the extra stuff, but I'm not sure if I consider this as "read," yet. I think it's going to stay on the currently-reading shelf until I learn German and French so as to be able to read the pre-translated half (so it's quite possible that this book shall never be "read"). Seriously, Rilke has made me want to learn German and French so I can read his stuff in the original languages (and un Honorary "dragons" shelving for being just that awesome. EDIT: Also, I think I've read all the poems and most of the extra stuff, but I'm not sure if I consider this as "read," yet. I think it's going to stay on the currently-reading shelf until I learn German and French so as to be able to read the pre-translated half (so it's quite possible that this book shall never be "read"). Seriously, Rilke has made me want to learn German and French so I can read his stuff in the original languages (and understand it...I've read parts of the the French/German and been able to tell what some of the words were, but it'd be nice to understand them without their translations, since translated poetry probably loses a lot of its meaning). ...I'm feeling pretty pretentious. I think Rilke was a feminist. Case in point: "We are only just now beginning to consider the relation of one individual to a second individual objectively and without prejudice, and our attempts to live such relationships have no model before them. And yet in the changes brought about by time there are already many things that can help our timid novitiate. The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavious and misbehaviour and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex....This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be surprised and struck by it." -letter to Franz Xaver Kappus, May 14, 1904 I mean, his portrayal of females tends to be a little outdated, but this was the early 20th century, so I think he has every right to be outdated. I think it's pretty adorable how much he seems to admire women so much that he says things like "The breaking away of childhood / left you intact." (in Antistrophes). I also really like Palm. That poem's so sweet. re-EDIT: Okay nevermind about the keeping it on currently-reading indefinitely thing. It's read. I should re-read it, but still.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    There are times when I can't read Rilke; there are times when I can't put him away. His images are always occupying space in my head, though. This collection was given to me by a friend about 10 years ago. Over time, the pages have begun to come loose, but they still bear the notes and highlights of past readings. Re-reading it now, those highlighted passages and dog-eared pages are even more beautiful than I remembered. And I love the Robert Haas introduction, which sweeps you up in Rilke. Bewa There are times when I can't read Rilke; there are times when I can't put him away. His images are always occupying space in my head, though. This collection was given to me by a friend about 10 years ago. Over time, the pages have begun to come loose, but they still bear the notes and highlights of past readings. Re-reading it now, those highlighted passages and dog-eared pages are even more beautiful than I remembered. And I love the Robert Haas introduction, which sweeps you up in Rilke. Beware: reading this is an indulgence - as in the end of the Third Elegy, it will stir "primordial time" in you.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Gallaway

    This book is worth fifty stars alone for the opening essay by Robert Hass, which traces the evolution of Rilke from an artist who craves an understanding of the unknown space within him, to his comprehension that this space represents death, and finally to the idea that writing poetry about this space is the life that arises from death. (I'm not really doing it justice, but just to give you an idea.) As for the poems themselves, the translations seem very adept and beautiful to me (not that I ca This book is worth fifty stars alone for the opening essay by Robert Hass, which traces the evolution of Rilke from an artist who craves an understanding of the unknown space within him, to his comprehension that this space represents death, and finally to the idea that writing poetry about this space is the life that arises from death. (I'm not really doing it justice, but just to give you an idea.) As for the poems themselves, the translations seem very adept and beautiful to me (not that I can read German), and I was left wanting more, as many of the selections -- particularly Orpheus -- are incomplete. That's not a criticism, though, because the book doesn't pretend to be "complete."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Winston O'Toole

    Beautiful. "But because truly being here is so much. Because everything here apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all. Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too, just once. And never again. But to have been this once, completely, even if only once: to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Anybody who tells you that Germans are a gruff, unromantic bunch never read Rilke. This is the most delicate, romantic poetry I've ever read. "If you are the dreamer, then I am the dream. But when you want to wake, I am your wish."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Szplug

    Achingly beautiful German poetry from the arboreal mists of Central Europe. My German is pitiful and leaves me with no way of knowing how faithful Stephen Mitchell remained to his brilliant source, but I do know that his English renderings are lovely and sublime in and of themselves. Although the famous Duino Elegies, Requiem and Sonnets to Orpheus are ripe with concentrated genius, the entire compendium is a breathtaking achievement, my favorite poetry collection of recent years and, along with Achingly beautiful German poetry from the arboreal mists of Central Europe. My German is pitiful and leaves me with no way of knowing how faithful Stephen Mitchell remained to his brilliant source, but I do know that his English renderings are lovely and sublime in and of themselves. Although the famous Duino Elegies, Requiem and Sonnets to Orpheus are ripe with concentrated genius, the entire compendium is a breathtaking achievement, my favorite poetry collection of recent years and, along with Residence on Earth , the most thumbed book on my bedside shelves. Check out the lean, taut elegance of Mitchell's version of The Panther: His vision, from the constantly passing bars, has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else. It seems to him there are a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world. As he paces in cramped circles, over and over, the movement of his powerful soft strides is like a ritual dance around a center in which a mighty will stands paralyzed. Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly--. An image enters in, rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles, plunges into the heart and is gone. It would be remiss of me to fail to include the consonantal, guttural Schönheit of Rilke's original German: Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe so müd geworden, dass er nichts mehr hält. Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt. Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte, der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht, ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte, in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht. Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille sich lautlos auf -. Dann geht ein Bild hinein, geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille - und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mr.

    Du im Voraus Verlone Geliebte, Nimmergekimmene, Nicht weiss ich, welche Tone dir lieb sind. Nicht mehr versuch ich, dich, wenn das Kommenende wogt, Zu erkennen. Alle die grossen Bilder in mir, im Fernen erfahrene Landschaft, Stadte und Turme und Brucken und un- Vermutete Wedung der Wege Und das Gewaltige jener von Gottern Einst durchwachsenen Lander: Steigt zur Bedeutung in mir Deiner, Entgehende, an. You who never arrived In my arms, Beloved, who were lost From the start, I don't even know what Du im Voraus Verlone Geliebte, Nimmergekimmene, Nicht weiss ich, welche Tone dir lieb sind. Nicht mehr versuch ich, dich, wenn das Kommenende wogt, Zu erkennen. Alle die grossen Bilder in mir, im Fernen erfahrene Landschaft, Stadte und Turme und Brucken und un- Vermutete Wedung der Wege Und das Gewaltige jener von Gottern Einst durchwachsenen Lander: Steigt zur Bedeutung in mir Deiner, Entgehende, an. You who never arrived In my arms, Beloved, who were lost From the start, I don't even know what songs Would please you. I have given up trying To recognize you in the surging wave of the next Moment. All the immense images in me-the far-off, deeply-felt landscape, Cities, towers, and bridges, and un- Suspected turns in the path, And those powerful lands that were once Pulsing with the life of the gods- All rise within me to mean You, who forever elude me. This has been a passage from Rilke's `You who never arrived', one of the many beautiful and profound poems in this extraordinary collection, provided with an equally extraordinary translation by Stephen Mitchell. Rilke is almost universally established as the most important European poet of the 20th century. The poems in this collection will stay in your mind and in your heart long after you finish reading.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    The side by side German/ English text is most welcome and encouragement enough to learn Deutsche. I have read only a few other translations of Rilke and Stephen Mitchell's flows very well, although I cannot speak to how many liberties he takes with the original German. This book contains arguably Rilke's best works: the Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, and others that he wrote during different stages of his life. The poems are arranged chronologically, and its fascinating to see his developmen The side by side German/ English text is most welcome and encouragement enough to learn Deutsche. I have read only a few other translations of Rilke and Stephen Mitchell's flows very well, although I cannot speak to how many liberties he takes with the original German. This book contains arguably Rilke's best works: the Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, and others that he wrote during different stages of his life. The poems are arranged chronologically, and its fascinating to see his development and gradual awakening as an artist and seeker. Certainly Rilke isn't for everybody. His work is almost religiously austere; nearly devoid of humor and lighthearted playfulness. I remember attempting to read the Sonnets to Orpheus for the first time as a teenager finding them inscrutable and arcane. Those with mystical or romantic inclinations will certainly find much to love, and Rilke's early works are more straightforward and accessible. The Sonnets to Orpheus are rightfully considered his masterwork, a rapturous alchemy of language that can be appreciated on so many different levels. This is poetry that you can return to year after year and be rewarded with new meanings and insights.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wordsmith

    POEMS by Rainier Maria Rilke 5 stars ☆☆☆☆☆ and numerous lyrical notes ♪♪♪♪♪♪( θ`)ノ (OK, so I love this man! Does it "show?") “The only way I know to describe the beauty of Rilke's poetry is to say it this way: Imagine God Himself or His choir invisible or a Seraphim Angel breathing soft, ohhh, with such pure divine tranquility, akin to a whispered, mellifluous lullaby, with all the transcendence that IS the sublime Word Painter Rilke, being sung directly into your heart, indeed, to the deepest corn POEMS by Rainier Maria Rilke 5 stars ☆☆☆☆☆ and numerous lyrical notes ♪♪♪♪♪♪( ´θ`)ノ (OK, so I love this man! Does it "show?") “The only way I know to describe the beauty of Rilke's poetry is to say it this way: Imagine God Himself or His choir invisible or a Seraphim Angel breathing soft, ohhh, with such pure divine tranquility, akin to a whispered, mellifluous lullaby, with all the transcendence that IS the sublime Word Painter Rilke, being sung directly into your heart, indeed, to the deepest corner of your soul. There is no other Poet like Rainier Maria Rilke. Any person who ever loved a sentence should read at least one compilation of this divinely guided prose master's genius and feel this heart song for your own pleasure. Highly, Highly Recommended.”

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cristian Iglesias

    I haven't read a poem since high school. In fact, I had forgotten how to read poetry. Best advice I found was to read it literal. And so I did. And let me tell you, from the first poem to the last, I fell in love with Rilke over and over and over again. Some touched my heart while others played with my mind. They riddled my thoughts giving me the opportunity to dig deeper, for an understanding. And the deeper I dug the more profound the verses became. I highly recommend Rilke to anyone who likes I haven't read a poem since high school. In fact, I had forgotten how to read poetry. Best advice I found was to read it literal. And so I did. And let me tell you, from the first poem to the last, I fell in love with Rilke over and over and over again. Some touched my heart while others played with my mind. They riddled my thoughts giving me the opportunity to dig deeper, for an understanding. And the deeper I dug the more profound the verses became. I highly recommend Rilke to anyone who likes to complicate the easiest things in life only to understand how simple it really was in the first place.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Shuffield

    I've worn this book out. Stephen Mitchell's translations of Rilke are still the ones I prefer. They eschew Rilke's original meters and rhyme structures in favor of capturing his precise images and moods. Other translations attempt the rhymes but seem awkward, and still others seem little more than pale, New Agey impressions of the orignals. I wish there was a complete Mitchell translation of the Book of Hours, but if you love poetry and have not read Rilke, this will be a wonderful introduction I've worn this book out. Stephen Mitchell's translations of Rilke are still the ones I prefer. They eschew Rilke's original meters and rhyme structures in favor of capturing his precise images and moods. Other translations attempt the rhymes but seem awkward, and still others seem little more than pale, New Agey impressions of the orignals. I wish there was a complete Mitchell translation of the Book of Hours, but if you love poetry and have not read Rilke, this will be a wonderful introduction to the greatest of modern German poets.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Robson

    The introduction and the notes were excellent but of course it is the Duino Elegies that will haunt me. I feel I really need to read them again and again. They are so layered and challenging. I would actually like to own my own copy of the Elegies but without any other poems added to the collection. Not sure if they are available by themselves. I also have liked, for a long time - You Who Never Arrived and hope to read one of his last poems written at the next Poetry at the Pub.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marck Rimorin

    I've always been somewhat partial to Robert Bly's translations, but this was amazing in its own right. Skipped the German parts because I didn't understand, but I loved the two poems from "The Book of Hours" (which is something I should probably find soon), and of course, "You who never arrived" and "As once the winged energy of delight."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amy Joslyn

    This is one of my favorite poets...on ongoing read...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brian Morrison

    this is my absolute favorite book in the world. it's so much a favorite, i didn't even add it to my favorites list. it's even more favoriter than that!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Oh sweet mysteries of life I have found you...over and over again, here.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dipankar

    If only we too could discover a pure, contained, human place, our own strip of fruit-bearing soil between river and rock. For our own heart always exceeds us, as theirs did. And we can no longer follow it, gazing into images that soothe it or into the godlike bodies where, measured more greatly, it achieves a greater repose. Rilke talks about things that lie just at the periphery of even our most eclectic moments of far reaching contemplations, things that just elude us from grasping them with both our If only we too could discover a pure, contained, human place, our own strip of fruit-bearing soil between river and rock. For our own heart always exceeds us, as theirs did. And we can no longer follow it, gazing into images that soothe it or into the godlike bodies where, measured more greatly, it achieves a greater repose. Rilke talks about things that lie just at the periphery of even our most eclectic moments of far reaching contemplations, things that just elude us from grasping them with both our hands, sometimes because we are afraid to wander that far in our thoughts - fearing each time we do, we may never come back to where we began, as a person and as a soul, but still those farthest of the most remotely eclectic thoughts just, just manage to get the faintest touch of our outstretched fingers before they vanish into the forbidden forest like a mystifyingly haunting faery and that faint sensation of that momentary touch cruelly erodes the very next moment, even before our eyes have had the chance to blink. We feel devastated for a moment and ignorant the next - the memory lost, the adventure forgotten - innumerable times in our lives. Rainer Maria Rilke, the literary alchemist, has frozen those minutest of moments, dived fearlessly into the abyss of its darkest oceans, gathered the spoils from his monumental adventures and with the sincerest of bows, presents them before us, in this book of everlasting poetry sparkling with the most spellbinding elegies. I have opened my present, it is time you should too.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Flan

    When I first got this book I loved the translation, then years later in 2000 I think, I was discussing Rilke with a German friend and she really didn't like the English translation of The Leopardin particular and the book in general. I guess I'm at the mercy of translations until I become multi-lingual,Maybe I like Mitchell because I can feel how much he loves the work. Rilke even in translation transports me out of my tired little self into a human with possiblities.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Persson

    Stephen Mitchell provides by far the most musical and natural sounding translations of Rilke. I don't speak or read German, but the quality of the finished translation is far higher than any other translators of Rilke. I also believe he's pretty well-regarded in the field. Rilke's poetry spoke to my romantic (college) soul and still strikes me as some of the most beautiful language ever produced. The introduction to this edition speaks of Rilke's poetic voice sounding like someone whispering in Stephen Mitchell provides by far the most musical and natural sounding translations of Rilke. I don't speak or read German, but the quality of the finished translation is far higher than any other translators of Rilke. I also believe he's pretty well-regarded in the field. Rilke's poetry spoke to my romantic (college) soul and still strikes me as some of the most beautiful language ever produced. The introduction to this edition speaks of Rilke's poetic voice sounding like someone whispering in your ear. And it's true. It's as if someone has seen through your quotidian self right into the part of you suffused with longing, be it for beauty, love, immortality or more likely an undefined unreachable longing...This is the kind of book a college kid opens to find another world...within him or herself. And I haven't grown out of this book. Loving Rilke, like loving Jack Kerouac seems a bit of a cliche for anyone in their early twenties (which I am well past now), but sometimes those youthful loves hold up.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    this book changed my life and helped me find my path as a dragonslaying princess (read it and you'll see what I mean.) I've read several versions and and Mitchell's translation is the best I've found. Rilke is an old soul and it comes across in his poetry and here in his letters. A firm, but gentle reminder that in the end we are all alone. The thing we should fear most is not being alone, but not being able to sit with ourselves and feel the silence.

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely distains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying. And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we ever turn to in our need? Not angels, not humans, and al Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely distains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying. And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we ever turn to in our need? Not angels, not humans, and already the knowing animals are aware that we are not really at home in our interpreted world. Perhaps there remains for us some tree on a hillside, which every day we can take into our vision; there remains for us yesterday's street and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left. Oh and night: there is night, when a wind full of infinite space gnaws at our faces. Whom would it not remain for -- that longed-after mildly disillusioning presence, which the solitary heart so painfully meets. Is it any less difficult for lovers? But they keep on using each other to hide their own fate. Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds will feel the expanded air with more passionte flying.

  32. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    "And it was almost a girl who, stepping from this single harmony of song and lyre, appeared to me through her diaphanous form and made herself a bed inside my ear. And slept in me. Her sleep was everything: the awesome trees, the distances I had felt so deeply that I could touch them, meadows in spring: all wonders that had ever seized my heart. She slept the world (....)" (from The Sonnets to Orpheus I,2.) Through the brilliant translation of Stephen Mitchell I truly re-discovered Rilke, the poet that h "And it was almost a girl who, stepping from this single harmony of song and lyre, appeared to me through her diaphanous form and made herself a bed inside my ear. And slept in me. Her sleep was everything: the awesome trees, the distances I had felt so deeply that I could touch them, meadows in spring: all wonders that had ever seized my heart. She slept the world (....)" (from The Sonnets to Orpheus I,2.) Through the brilliant translation of Stephen Mitchell I truly re-discovered Rilke, the poet that had first introduced me to poetry and that I had almost gotten too used to over the years to still fully appreciate him. There's a strange effect to reading something familiar in translation. The added filter of someone else's understanding and language inevitably highlights different aspect of Rilke's poetry, and some lines that didn't resonate with me much in German, would set off a little storm of association when reading it in Stephen Mitchell's words. The selection of poems is superb, and hardly ever did I enjoy reading about poetry as much as I did reading Robert Hass' introduction, which is a passionate and insightful analysis of Rilke's poetic universe. "He had a wonderful eye for almost anything he really looked at, dogs, children, qualities of light, works of art; but in the end he looked at them in order to take them inside himself and transform them: to soak them in his homelessness and spiritual hunger so that when he returned them to the world, they were no more at home in it than he was, and gave off unearthly light. In this dialectic, everything out there only drives him deeper inside himself, into the huge raw wound of his longing and the emptiness that fueled it." Robert Hass

  33. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    I'm partial to the novelist William H. Gass' translations of Rilke -- Stephen Mitchell's sometimes read more like a transcript of a poem than an original poem, but they do the trick and often have a nice presence of their own. Plus, this a dual language German-English version, so the original is right there if that's of any use to you. Rilke is captivating in English, but an amazing beast in German. I've been revisiting this book off and on for a year and it's always new. As Gass said (paraphrasi I'm partial to the novelist William H. Gass' translations of Rilke -- Stephen Mitchell's sometimes read more like a transcript of a poem than an original poem, but they do the trick and often have a nice presence of their own. Plus, this a dual language German-English version, so the original is right there if that's of any use to you. Rilke is captivating in English, but an amazing beast in German. I've been revisiting this book off and on for a year and it's always new. As Gass said (paraphrasing Borges), great poetry is like a granary, always ready to take more in. Rilke is certainly that.

  34. 4 out of 5

    Sonic

    by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926) English version by Stephen Mitchell Original Language German ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Buddha in Glory Center of all centers, core of cores, almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet-- all this universe, to the furthest stars all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit. Now you feel how nothing clings to you; your vast shell reaches into endless space, and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow. Illuminated in your infinite peace, a billion stars go spinning through the night, bl by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926) English version by Stephen Mitchell Original Language German ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Buddha in Glory Center of all centers, core of cores, almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet-- all this universe, to the furthest stars all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit. Now you feel how nothing clings to you; your vast shell reaches into endless space, and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow. Illuminated in your infinite peace, a billion stars go spinning through the night, blazing high above your head. But in you is the presence that will be, when all the stars are dead. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Archaic Torso of Apollo     We cannot know his legendary head with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low, gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could a smile run through the placid hips and thighs to that dark center where procreation flared. Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur: would not, from all the borders of itself, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life. Rainer Maria Rilke

  35. 5 out of 5

    Danelle

    (from THE FIRST ELEGY) Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying. THE SWAN This laboring through what is still undone, as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, is like the awkward (from THE FIRST ELEGY) Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying. THE SWAN This laboring through what is still undone, as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, is like the awkward walking of the swan. And dying-to let go, no longer feel the solid ground we stand on every day- is like his anxious letting himself fall into the water, which receives him gently and which, as though with reverence and joy, draws back past him in streams on either side; while, infinitely silent and aware, in his full majesty and ever more indifferent, he condescends to glide. THE VAST NIGHT Often I gazed at you in wonder: stood at the window begun the day before, stood and gazed at you in wonder. As yet the new city seemed forbidden to me, and the strange unpersuadable landscape darkened as though I didn't exist. Even the nearest Things didn't care whether I understood them. The street thrust itself up to the lamppost: I saw it was foreign. Over there- a room, feelable, clear in the lamplight-, I already took part; they noticed, and closed the shutters. Stood. Then a child began crying. I knew what the mothers all around, in the houses, were capable of-, and knew the inconsolable origins of all tears. Or a woman's voice sang and reached a little beyond expectation, or downstairs an old man let out a cough that was full of reproach, as though his body were right and the gentler world mistaken. And then the hour struck-, but I counted too late, it tumbled on past me.- Like a new boy at school, who is finally allowed to join in, but he can't catch the ball, is helpless at all the games the others pursue with such ease, and he stands there staring into the distance,-where-?: I stood there and suddenly grasped that it was you: you were playing with me, grown-up Night, and I gazed at you in wonder. Where the towers were raging, where with averted fate a city surrounded me, and indecipherable mountains camped against me, and strangeness, in narrowing circles, prowled around my randomly flickering emotions-: it was then that in all your magnificence you were not ashamed to know me. Your breath moved tenderly over my face. And, spread across solemn distances, your smile entered my heart.

  36. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I can't comment on the accuracy of this translation of Rilke poetry by Stephen Mitchell or how it compares to others but the English translations alone are beautiful. It contains a selective yet wide sampling of Rilke's many works, making it a good introduction to the poet. After reading many of the poems I've been inspired to seek out both the Book of Hours and his Letters to a Young Poet. My favorite poem at the moment comes from the former: [I am, O Anxious One] I am, O Anxious One. Don't you h I can't comment on the accuracy of this translation of Rilke poetry by Stephen Mitchell or how it compares to others but the English translations alone are beautiful. It contains a selective yet wide sampling of Rilke's many works, making it a good introduction to the poet. After reading many of the poems I've been inspired to seek out both the Book of Hours and his Letters to a Young Poet. My favorite poem at the moment comes from the former: [I am, O Anxious One] I am, O Anxious One. Don't you hear my voice surging forth with all my earthly feelings? They yearn so high, that they have sprouted wings and whitely fly in circles round your face. My soul, dressed in silence, rises up and stands alone before you: can't you see? don't you know that my prayer is growing ripe upon your vision as upon a tree? If you are the dreamer, I am what you dream. But when you want to wake, I am your wish, and I grow strong with all magnificence and turn myself into a star's vast silence above the strange and distant city, Time. And from the latter: "...remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall."

  37. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Like Wallace Stevens, Rilke is perfect for reading in small doses, to reestablish the concept of unrepentant lyric poetry of intelligence. After half an hour or so, the work can start to turn in circles and curdle. The Stephen Mitchell translation is wonderful. Recommended for reading on a fall day when the leaves are brisking down a gray northern street. Take a shot of George Oppen immediately after, to cool down your sensiblities.

  38. 4 out of 5

    Tracy O

    I don't read/speak German so I cannot verify if this translation is somehow truer to the language or spirit of the original than another, but it is really beautiful. What I CAN say is that this is luminous and it grabbed me (with some other translations I haven't felt like Rilke was a writer whose poems I needed to read). I love the First Elegy, Sonnets to Orpheus II, I3 and II, and II, 23 (here is the last) Call me to the one among your moments that stands before you ineluctably: intimate as a dog I don't read/speak German so I cannot verify if this translation is somehow truer to the language or spirit of the original than another, but it is really beautiful. What I CAN say is that this is luminous and it grabbed me (with some other translations I haven't felt like Rilke was a writer whose poems I needed to read). I love the First Elegy, Sonnets to Orpheus II, I3 and II, and II, 23 (here is the last) Call me to the one among your moments that stands before you ineluctably: intimate as a dog's imploring glance but, again, forever, turned away when you think you are holding it at last. What seems so far from you is most your own. We are already free, and were dismissed where we thought we soon would be at home. Anxious, we keep longing for a foothold - we, at time too young for what is old and too old for what has never been; doing justice only where we praise, because we are the branch, the iron blade, and sweet danger, ripening from within.

  39. 5 out of 5

    Alarie

    I prefer shorter poems that look at everyday life and see something unexpected or that open my eyes to something new. Because of my tastes, I wasn’t drawn to Rilke’s Orpheus sonnets or Duino Elegies. His simpler, singular poems were the ones that struck me as astonishingly modern. I can see why he had a huge impact on the world of poetry in the early 20th century, and they were enough to earn my four star-rating for this book. At times I found him hilarious: From “The Drunkard’s Song,” “Then Win I prefer shorter poems that look at everyday life and see something unexpected or that open my eyes to something new. Because of my tastes, I wasn’t drawn to Rilke’s Orpheus sonnets or Duino Elegies. His simpler, singular poems were the ones that struck me as astonishingly modern. I can see why he had a huge impact on the world of poetry in the early 20th century, and they were enough to earn my four star-rating for this book. At times I found him hilarious: From “The Drunkard’s Song,” “Then Wine held this and held that for me/till I came to depend on him totally./Like an ass.” I loved that “Like an ass” got it’s own line. At other times, his writing is sheer beauty: “The sky puts on the darkening blue coat/held for it by a row of ancient trees” (“Evening”). The shortest poem in the book is perhaps my favorite. I love how so few words can say something this astonishing: “Rose, oh pure contradiction, joy/of being No-one’s sleep under so many/lids.”

  40. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Babkirk Wellons

    After reading other translations of Rilke, I find that Stephen Mitchell’s translation is more interpretive and less literal. I think you could make the case for or against his method, but this was my first encounter with Rilke, and I was captivated by these poems when I first read them as a teen. I felt that there was something in them that was hopeful but primal, especially in the sonnets -- something that could be felt, even if it lingered just beyond the reach of my understanding. Even though After reading other translations of Rilke, I find that Stephen Mitchell’s translation is more interpretive and less literal. I think you could make the case for or against his method, but this was my first encounter with Rilke, and I was captivated by these poems when I first read them as a teen. I felt that there was something in them that was hopeful but primal, especially in the sonnets -- something that could be felt, even if it lingered just beyond the reach of my understanding. Even though I now see these poems in a different light, this collection is extensive without being gratuitous, and thus always worth returning to.

  41. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    I enjoyed this collections for mainly two reasons: 1. Having learned some German, it was great to have the original copies next to the translations to be able to fully understand it, but also get the sound and flow of it. 2. Though many of these poems were great, and most speak of the Elegies. I simply loved "Requiem for a Friend". It felt like I was reading my own thoughts from someone else's perspective (which is always the most intriguing part of reading others' poetry). This collection is amazi I enjoyed this collections for mainly two reasons: 1. Having learned some German, it was great to have the original copies next to the translations to be able to fully understand it, but also get the sound and flow of it. 2. Though many of these poems were great, and most speak of the Elegies. I simply loved "Requiem for a Friend". It felt like I was reading my own thoughts from someone else's perspective (which is always the most intriguing part of reading others' poetry). This collection is amazing on all three levels (translation, structure, and heart).

  42. 4 out of 5

    Taka

    For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror... When I read that and the second elegy, I seriously got goosebumps all over my body. And some of the poems really blew me away. To be honest, however, so much of it just flew over my head that I need to read it again to even fathom Rilke's depth expressed in these beautiful poems. For me, the most interesting ones were The Book of Hours, The Duino Elegies, and The Sonnets to Orpheus, and it is too bad that Stephen Mitchell didn't translate all For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror... When I read that and the second elegy, I seriously got goosebumps all over my body. And some of the poems really blew me away. To be honest, however, so much of it just flew over my head that I need to read it again to even fathom Rilke's depth expressed in these beautiful poems. For me, the most interesting ones were The Book of Hours, The Duino Elegies, and The Sonnets to Orpheus, and it is too bad that Stephen Mitchell didn't translate all of the first and the third. The Book of Hours, with all of its religious overtones has a very distinct voice and ambience that are in some ways similar to and simpler (and perhaps shallower) than his last two magnum opuses. Stephen Mitchell only translates two poems out of this work, but there are very interesting poems other than those he translated. For example, from someone else's translation: Extinguish my sight, and I can still see you; plug up my ears, and I can still hear; even without feet I can walk toward you, and without mouth I can still implore. Break off my arms, and I will hold you with my heart as if it were a hand; strangle my heart, and my brain will still throb; and should you set fire to my brain, I still can carry you with my blood. Yeah. i rest my case. Then comes his Elegies, which are complex, profound, and simply beautiful, but considering how long it took the great poet to write it (10 years), a mere few hours spent in plowing through it in one sitting is just way, way too short to even comprehend what's going on (I did spend more than just a few hours, but many, many things about it escaped my understanding, and am more than glad to plunge back in and steep myself in it). Finally, same goes for the Sonnets, which he himself said in one of his letter that it is one of the most enigmatic and mysterious of all the poems he wrote: "Even to me ... the Sonnets to Orpheus are perhaps the most mysterious, most enigmatic dictation I have ever endured and achieved..." So a lot of them perplexed me and I didn't know how to read or understand them, which is not to say that they are worthless flimflam - not at all (though he does say, "True singing is a different breath, about / nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind"). It seems that it just takes time to see what's going on beneath the beautiful and graceful language and penetrate to the bottom (if there is one). For my first read, I gathered and picked up what I could, wondering at the shining gems of poetry in all their reflections. And I do think that reading poetry is just this: finding, however rare, those that speak your voice and resonate with your soul.

  43. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Very pretty; lyrical; what we mean when we say "poetic," I suppose. His early poems show he has a great eye, a real knack for observation. He effaces his ego, transforming himself into an empty receptacle for perceptions (a Transparent Eyeball, maybe?). It's a spiritual feat, of the Buddhist ilk. If he doesn't quite succeed in becoming one with the Void, he at least sings the Void's praises. His later poems showcase his talent for crafting highly complex metaphors. Some float in one ear and out th Very pretty; lyrical; what we mean when we say "poetic," I suppose. His early poems show he has a great eye, a real knack for observation. He effaces his ego, transforming himself into an empty receptacle for perceptions (a Transparent Eyeball, maybe?). It's a spiritual feat, of the Buddhist ilk. If he doesn't quite succeed in becoming one with the Void, he at least sings the Void's praises. His later poems showcase his talent for crafting highly complex metaphors. Some float in one ear and out the other, like clear-skinned balloons; others are comparable to, say, Amichai's best work. Throughout, a shining intelligence. It takes a mathematician-caliber intellect to get away with this level of abstractness, and Rilke fortunately has it. He is equally at ease with Ideas as with Things. There are a lot of Ideas here. I imagine Rilke as a weird pale/poison-green sort of person, a person with something not quite right about him, not quite healthy. Rather elfin or leprechaunish in his Wordsworthian idealization of childhood, as well as his suspicious and skittish attitude toward the smothering nature of love (esp. familial love). Hass is always a solid essayist, but he outdoes himself in the Introduction; his discussion of the "lyrical ego," etc., helpfully orients the reader to the chronology of Rilke's development as an artist. Rilke "wrote letters to Clara [his wife:], and poems to Paula [his artist-friend and kindred spirit:]," we are told---What to make of that?

  44. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    I'm racing my way up to page 43 so far (it's been about 5 months). It's funny, his poems are so image intensive, I never really know how to read, say, 20 at one sitting. That said, here's one of the three I read this morning--its images have some real gems: Spanish Dancer As on all its sides a kitchen-match darts white flickering tongues before it bursts into flame: with the audience around her, quickened, hot, her dance begins to flicker in the dark room. (full post) http://intuitivechef.vox.com/libra I'm racing my way up to page 43 so far (it's been about 5 months). It's funny, his poems are so image intensive, I never really know how to read, say, 20 at one sitting. That said, here's one of the three I read this morning--its images have some real gems: Spanish Dancer As on all its sides a kitchen-match darts white flickering tongues before it bursts into flame: with the audience around her, quickened, hot, her dance begins to flicker in the dark room. (full post) http://intuitivechef.vox.com/library/... (09/2007) I bought this collection because another poet, T.R. Hummer, referenced Rilke's _Duino Elegies_ in his own work, _The Angelic Order_. Hummer opens his book by quoting Rilke: "And if I cried, who'd listen to me in those angelic orders? Even if one of them suddenly held me to his heart, I'd vanish in his overwhelming presence. Because beauty's nothing But the start of terror we can hardly bear, and we adore it because of the serene scorn it could kill us with. Every angel's terrifying." This seemed so profound to me. This sense of the distance of both beauty and the divine. There are moments in the Bible that reference similar sensations: Isaiah in the Temple, seeing the Lord and saying "depart from me, for I am a man of unclean lips...." The Psalmist talking about the "voice of the Lord" breaking the ceders. Those moments make me feel small, insignificant, and I think Beauty can have a similar effect, or Nature. So, I'm reading Rilke to get a further glimpse of that sense of the terror of beauty, its "serene scorn". I didn't get a chance to compare Mitchell's translation to others, which I usually really like to do, but there are some nice blurbs on the back from big city papers, saying this is the "best single volume of Rilke's work available". That was enough for me at the time. As of now, I'm slowly working through this collection, about 1/6th through.

  45. 5 out of 5

    Ashleigh Young

    Why must a man be always taking on Things not his own, as if he were a servant whose marketing-bag grows heavier and heavier from stall to stall, and loaded down, he follows and doesn't dare ask: Master, why this banquet? Why must a man keep standing like a shepherd, exposed, in such an overflow of power, so much a part of this event-filled landscape, that if he were to lean back against a tree trunk he would complete his destiny, forever. Yet does not have, in his too open gaze, the silent comfort of the Why must a man be always taking on Things not his own, as if he were a servant whose marketing-bag grows heavier and heavier from stall to stall, and loaded down, he follows and doesn't dare ask: Master, why this banquet? Why must a man keep standing like a shepherd, exposed, in such an overflow of power, so much a part of this event-filled landscape, that if he were to lean back against a tree trunk he would complete his destiny, forever. Yet does not have, in his too open gaze, the silent comfort of the flock: has nothing but world; has world each time he lifts his head; each time he looks down---world. What gladly yields to others, pierces him like music, blindly enters his blood, changes, disappears. At night he stands up, the distant call of birds already deep inside him; and feels bold because he has taken all the galaxies into his face, not lightly---, oh not like someone who prepares a night like this for his beloved and treats her to the skies that he has known.

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