We Have A Marvelous, Almost Legendary Image Of The Circumstances In Which The Composition Of This Great Poem Began Rainer Maria Rilke Was Staying At Duino Castle, On A Rocky Headland Of The Adriatic Sea Near Trieste One Morning He Walked Out Onto The Battlements And Climbed Down To Where The Cliffs Dropped Sharply To The Sea From Out Of The Fierce Wind, Rilke Seemed To Hear A Voice Wer, Wenn Ich Schriee, Horte Mich Denn Aus Der Engel OrdnungenIf 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 Opus Completely Only After Another Ten, Tormented Years Of Effort And One Of The Literary Masterpieces Of The Century Duino Elegies Speaks In A Voice That Is Both Intimate And Majestic On The Mysteries Of Human Life And Our Attempt, In The Words Of The Translator David Young, To Use Our Self Consciousness To Some Advantage To Transcend, Through Art And The Imagination, Our Self Deception And Our Fear 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. I was trying to understand beauty.How silly of me One elegy after another,I realized you submit to beauty and itsconsequences which hopefully last in you, or so you wish.And complete surrender is a journey on a bridge of understanding with cables of faith dangling and holding them Once over, you light up the bridge to see what new travails unfold before you in the newly surrendered land.Praise be to beauty Praise be to eyes that look for it.Now back to the elegies. In Duino Elegies it seems as if Rilke is explaining the meaning of his life indirectly to God through divine messengers the presence of whom we can scarcely sense The 10 elegies succeed in finding the world in a word, as William H Gass advised was the objective of the most earnest poets Rilke s greatness emanates from his fearlessness in taking on an epic macro perspective He is, after all, peering out into the universe and hearing the whispers of angels to inspire him Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the AngelicOrders and what if one of them would suddenlytake me to his heart Rilke in the First Elegy goes on to say that Beauty is nothing else but the beginning of terror, which we are just able to bear and we are stunned by it because it so serenely disdains to destroy us This is fairly bold, even daunting positioning for a poet and Rilke means to attack the big stuff He is grand like Faust addressing Mephistopheles Or Milton in Paradise Lost Or Dante in Inferno Rilke s poetry is rich and densely packed with meaning His elegies are epic in his perspective of the universe but there is a relative brevity compared to epic poets who take on the universe in lengthy discourse.It is perhaps the height of optimism that Rilke believes he can directly confront the meaning of the universe from a castle near Trieste, where Joyce also wrote, on the Adriatic Sea under the auspices of a patron in Marie Von Thurn und Taxis Hohenlohe over four months.But the muse does come speaking in the undertones of summoned angels and Rilke listens attuned to their whispers to build in the divine dialogue an opus magnus from the turrets and towers of the castle walls.In the Second Elegy he writes Each angel is terrifying And, alas, even though I knowabout you, almost deadly birds of the soul, I still invoke you Some truly intriguing questions are framed from Rilke s discourse among the angels Does then the cosmic spaceinto which we dissolve, taste of us Do the Angelsreally hold only that which spring from them,or do they, at times, as if by oversight, enfold unto themselvesa hint of our being as well In the Fourth Elegy he invokes the images of puppetry as he sits before the stage An angel has to come, take part, and draw the puppets up high.Angel and puppet at last there is a real play In the Seventh Elegy we find that Rilke is taking on the Zeitgeist, the spirit of time Do not believe that destiny isthan a summing up of childhoodThe Zeitgeist builds vast reservoirs of power for itself, shapelessas the tense urge that it extracts from all things.He no longer recognizes temples We are secretly hoarding these extravagances of the heart In the Eighth Elegy he speaksof destiny That s what destiny is to opposeand nothing but that, and forever to opposeAnd we spectators, always, everywhere,turned toward everything and never outward.It overfills us We arrange it It falls apart.We rearrange it and we, ourselves, fall apart A favorite few lines emerges from this elegy by Rilke Who, then, has turned us around like this, that we,whatever we do, appear like someone aboutto depart So much like the man on the final hillthat shows him his whole valley for one last time,who turns, and stops there, lingering ,this, then, is how we live, forever taking our leave In the Ninth Elegy he has advice for us when we address the angels and God Praise the world to the Angel, not the unspeakable one, youcan t impress him with grand emotion in the Universe,where he feels so intensely, you are only a beginner So showhim simplicity, shaped from generation to generation,that is ours and lives near our hands and within our sight.Tell him things He will stand amazedLook, I live On what Neither childhood nor futuregrows less A surfeit of beingwells up in my heart The final elegy deals with a woman named Lament That some day, emerging from the grim vision,I might sing jubilation and praise to assenting Angels.That of the clear striking hammers of my heartno one would fail me from slack wavering orbroken strings That my weeping face wouldmake meradiant that my trivial tears might flowerWe were, she says, a great race once I urge you to take on Rilke s Duino Elegies and to read it slowly and linger on every radiant word this is the really good stuff.Are we all no less than Rilke in his castle by the sea seeking to make sense of the tumult of the universe in dialogue with our own angels The translation by Leslie P Gartner is inspiring. I find writing about poetry extremely difficult because we enter the realm of pure emotions, of the perfect magic that words can possess, and what each reader thinks, and feels, when reading a poem, is not only very personal but also, quite often, impossible to define and to reduce into a few sentences Therefore I rarely review the poetry books that I own, on this site But Rilke could well be my favorite poet, for reasons that I can t explain, except that the scope of his visions, both extraordinarily intimate and magnificently epic, and the power of his writing, touch me deeply The Duino Elegies have been applauded by basically everybody, and are considered, for good reasons, as one of of the most intensely evocative work of poetry of the German language I do understand a little bit of German, but not enough to be able to read Rilke in his native tongue, and that s too bad as good as a translation is, it always does lose something, and that s eventrue for poetry Anyway This is my own way of paying homage to an amazing poet whose only novel is on my shelve, waiting to be read I thought Stephen Mitchell s translation was the best that could ever possibly exist I was, happily, totally wrong I picked this up at a friend s house by chance and was completely absorbed The Chrichtons bring out a sort of conversational quality in the writing which I hadn t been aware even existed Rilke s meditations are spectral, evanescent, secular and luminous I didn t know there were other ways to appraoch the Elegies and now I see that there s a whole new world inside this text I was never quite aware of before If you re already into Rilke, and even if you re not, do yourself a huge favor and dig in to the primal metaphysical mojo going on here It could change your life.O, and the inclusion of three letters he wrote about the sequence are enough to make you stand up on the midnight subway and shout incomprehensibly about Time, God, Nothingness, Returns, and the inevitability of all parting Yep It s THAT good. Rilke s Duino Elegies are a contender for the greatest lyric sequence of the 20th century in a century that featured some really great ones, by Yeats, H.D Trilogy , Eliot, Stevens Auroras of Autumn in particular , Pound, Hughes, Hayden, Merrill, and many others could be named Lots of the translations of Rilke s Elegies in English are really mediocre turgid Rilke is a complete contradiction in terms David Young s is by far the best in print for English speaking readers These versions by poet David P Young use Williams triadic or 3 step line to give Rilke s Germanic syntax in English light and grace and power, balancing rapidity of thought with poise and depth Plus there are very useful notes Highly recommended It s a poem I try to read about once a year, sort of like taking a spirit quest. Rilke nin dima ndan farkl olaca n d nd m bir kitapt olaca n dememdeki sebep ise iirler a tlar hissiyat ma ok yak n ba layarak, her a tta bir ad m daha uzakla arak maalesef kayboldu zellikle birilerine ithaf edilmi ok a t var Ki ileri de bilmemekten kaynakl uzaktan bakan ki i oldum.Sorun bende mi acaba diye rencilerime de derslerde bir ka a t okudum, genel yap s ndan ba ka ok da fazla his uyand rmad.Yine de aralardan se ti im par a c mleler ve tamlamalar payla mak isterim. Sayg larMelek al bu tebess m , topla o minik i ekli ifal otu.Bir vazo bul bulu tur, koru onu Aras na koy, bizim hen z k vr m k vr m s sl yaz yla E ik nedir ki ikiseven i in, kadim e i ini kap lar n nbirazc k a nd rmak, kendilerinden ncekilerve sonrakiler., hafiften Bak ya yorum Neyle Ne ocukluk ne de gelecekazal yor Say s z varolu filizleniyor y re imde Ve biz, mutlulu un t rmand n d nenler, hissederdik o duyguyu,bizi neredeyse deh ete s r kleyen,mutlu biri d t nde The Duino Elegies is undoubtedly his masterpiece.This collection highlights the confusion of the human creature who feels foreign in a world abandoned by the beauty and the sacred.Haunted by the passage of time and death, it is powerless to fully participate in the universal life.In these conditions, the role of the poet is imperative he must endeavor to account for this outpouring of existence whose seizure alone is capable of reducing anxiety.Rilke extends this reflection in the Sonnets to Orpheus where he glorifies death by celebrating the memory of a girl who died at the age of nineteen.This reflection on death thus alleviates anxiety and frees the jubilation that one must feel to be in the world. And so we press on and try to achieve it,try to contain it in our simple hands,in our brimming eyes, our voiceless heart.Rilke is both the reason I mistrust translations and the exception to my rule.