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Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

4.47 of 5 stars 4.47  ·  rating details  ·  2,617 ratings  ·  151 reviews
At the beginning of this century, a young German poet returned from a journey to Russia, where he had immersed himself in the spirituality he discovered there. He "received" a series of poems about which he did not speak for a long time - he considered them sacred, and different from anything else he ever had done and ever would do again. This poet saw the coming darkness ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Riverhead Books (first published 1905)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
199th out of 1,494 books — 1,640 voters
Rilke's Book of Hours by Rainer Maria RilkeFour Quartets by T.S. EliotPrufrock and Other Observations by T.S. EliotMind and Nature by Gregory BatesonThe Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram
1st out of 14 books — 3 voters

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My favorite poem of Rilke's is found in this book. I first read it in the bathroom of the Video Saloon where it had been written with sharpie in the first stall.

"I am praying again, Awesome One"
(Ich bete wieder, du Elauchter)

You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.

I’ve been scattered in pieces,
torn by conflict,
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.

In alleyways I sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
With my half-mouth I stammer you,
who are eternal i
First read 2006

There is very little pre-modern poetry that I am able to read myself, (though I can often appreciate it being recited) and I am not sure whether it's Rilke's genius or Babette Deutsch's musical, mainly free verse translation that makes these poems so beautiful, so perfectly clear and direct, like a mountain spring rolling over your toes, like a smooth cool pebble dropped into your hand.

As an atheist I have to interrogate myself and work hard for a meaningful interpretation when I
The task of a translator, I think, has always been unappreciated. It is a demanding one, a task that can never be done to the perfection it begs. Language is a living, breathing thing, and it holds within it an entire culture, and in that culture, an entire people, and within these people, an entire world. It is not possible to withdraw one such world and make it fit into the shape of another.

Yet if we are to even try to understand one another, the many of us on this earth and our ways, then tr
Whoa. Whoa.

I read a checked-out library copy of this book, but about halfway through I realized that I was going to need to own it. Still working on that. But thanks to Rilke, I finally understand the point of poetry. Don't get me wrong - I've appreciated poetry before, like the imagery it evoked or the cadence it gave or whatever. But THIS. Well, just refer to the first two words of the review.

I found this stuff profound. In almost every poem I found a stanza or thought that would just stop me
Jennifer Locke
Read this book several years ago and decided that I had to own it, mainly for this poem:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon, a storm,
or a great song?

Du, Nachbar Gott, wenn ich dich manchesmal

You, God, who live next door–

If at times, through the long night, I trouble you
with my urgent knocking–
this is why: I hear you breathe so seldom.
I know you’re all alone in that room.
If you should be thirsty, there’s no one
to get you a glass of water.
I wait listening, always. Just give me a sign!
I’m right here.

As it happens, the wall between us
is very thin. Why couldn’t a cry
from one of us
break it down? It would crumble

it would barely make a sound.
I came upon an old, now out-of-print edition of this (with a stained glass window on the cover...) in a library years ago, and almost wept among the stacks. I do not know what I feel about God...I subscribe to no formal religion at present, though I find myself uttering prayers now and again, or earnestly thanking *something* under my breath, so perhaps my half-belief is what causes these words to move me so, still. But perhaps it is the profound HUMANITY to be found in Rilke's lines, alongside ...more
This is a wonderful researcher's volume of the Book of Hours. For them, I give this volume five stars. Lots of front matter before the poems explain who Rilke was, the times he was living in, etc. However, as a volume of poetry, it doesn't work that well. For that, I'd give it three stars. I have this on my Kindle, so that may influence the way it reads, but, at least on Kindle, don't buy this version if you just want to get the overall flavor of the Book of Hours. Each English version of the po ...more
I live my life in widening circles
I love the dark hours of my being
You, God, who live next door
If only for once it were still.
I read it here in your very word
You, darkness, of whom I am born,
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken
I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
You see, I want a lot
She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
I am, you anxious one
Your first word of all was light
You come and go. The doors swing closed
You many assaulted cities
Only in our doing can we grasp yo
J L Kruse
It is, honestly, daunting approaching a book as timeless, and personal, and profound as "Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God". Written without the initial intention for publication, inspired by Rilke's experience of Italian Renaissance religious art in Tuscany, and his intimate relationship with Lou Andreas-Salome (she had called Rilke "the first true reality" in her life), there is a meditative melancholy to Rilke's verses that make them almost gritty, in a way, alternately praising his in ...more
First of all, I have to clarify: I'm not a student of the English language or poetry, so my feelings for these poems, like most of us, are truly from my personal perspective. From the those poems that we all had to read in school, and the few that I occasional encounter here or there, I have never been affected as deeply as the writing of Rainer Maria Rilke. Since Rilke wrote in German, it's a wonder how English translations of his works still affect me so deeply and effortlessly.

This edition ce
Nic Sebastian
Much interesting about Rilke’s attitude to God at this period. In paraphrase: - You are not where or what I have thought you to be. I create you. You need me as much as I need you. And oh, what will you do when I am gone? You are my heir, my protégé.

He writes, and this strikes one as signature:

I feel it now: there’s power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world.

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
my looking ripens things
and they come toward m
Harry Allagree
Reading Rilke's Book of Hours is something like a religious experience. No surprise there, since the subtitle is "Love Poems to God". Joanna Mays & Anita Barrows published a translation of this work 10 years ago. This edition, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Rilke's original work is beautifully & sensitively crafted, & I appreciated the translators' painstaking explanation of their process of rendering Rilke's poems. An added treat is that Rilke's original German text of each ...more
Always loved Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet," and loved his insight, imagery and word choice as well as resonated with his feelings and yearnings in these. Some of my favorites:

The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
And they come toward me, to meet and be met.

Brilliant meditations on mystery, our responsibility to create, what it means to see and seek God, responsibility to the poor, the worth in poverty, what we find in nature, the corruption of cities, and the mind (which, Rilke writes, "fabricates itself."). I dog-ear my books like a madwoman, but probably none so much as this book, the page corners of which are almost entirely folded down. Highly recommended for anyone interested in spirituality.
Stefani Akins
This edition caught my eye because of the lovely cover (see, good cover art works!). The fact that the pages are unevenly cut, however, immediately subtracted from its attractiveness. It is a feature I only know from cheap, crappy books, and cheap this was not.

Each of the authors/translators working on this little book provides a preface, then there is an introduction and a note on the translation, which took roughly a decade. The plus is that the book not only contains the translated poems but
A friend loaned me this right before I was caught with insomnia in a haunted attic. I read it through three times that night- and believe it's one of those books that found me a the perfect time.

"Maybe you don't know what the nights are like for people who can't sleep. They all feel guilty..."

Honest and original.
Stephen Roach
This is one of those works that bears a seed of eternity within it. I keep coming back to these poems again and again and each time I am moved beyond myself. my perspective on what it means to relate to God and the world we live in widens over and again.
To say that I read this collection is an understatement. I read and re-read and pondered and absorbed. I want to brush up on the German I started learning in college so that I can read it in its original language.

250 pages of poetry consumed, and I mean consumed, in just over an hour. I am coming back down to earth now, coming down for landing, from a place where words, beautiful words, made a nonsense of time.
M. Ashley
The Book of Hours in other translations is definitely worth the read, however, this translation is unadulterated rubbish. Find a M.D. Herter Norton or Edward Snow versions if you plan to dive into this.
I usually don't much like all the new translations of Rilke, but Barrows does a really good job of making these extraordinary, strange, and mystical poems retain their wildness in English. Very good.
Thank you, Shannon. ;)
My god, Rilke is a poet. The poems that comprise the three books within Rilke's Book of Hours are among the most endearing I have ever read. I've always been a fan of the metaphysical poetry of Donne and Herbert, and Rilke stands with them, even though he comes out of different strands of literature and aesthetics. He provides thoughtful and heartfelt meditations on the duality of darkness and light and on the intimate relationship between God and humanity, of the known and the unknown, and of t ...more
Taymara Jagmohan
The most beautiful poem:

'Many are the rich who display themselves,
The palaces preen like gorgeous birds
Whose cry is a raucous screech.
But they are not truly rich.

Not rich like the nomad chieftains
Whose multitudes of sheep
Swept across green plains
Like a morning tide;
Or those whose camels moved against
The sky in majestic silhouettes.

The smell of their cattle herds
Lingered, warm and heavy,
Ten days after they passed.
And, as at a fine wedding,
The good wine flows like the world right through,
So ran
I read the forty pages of preface material and a bunch of the poems, and I was so hooked, I bought my own copy (a different version, which includes the German text as well), which I am using to really study the poems. The prefaces by each translator are marvelous. And the introduction that places the poems in the context of Rilke's life was concise and insightful. The translation notes were fascinating. Part of why I love this translation of the poems is that they are done by women, and women wi ...more
Kevin Brown
I tend to like Rilke's Duino Elegies more than the rest of his poetry, but I enjoyed this collection. I especially liked the final section, The Book of Poverty and Death. While the poems do stand alone, many of them are connected to poems before or after them. I started out by reading one or two a day, but, by the end, I was reading several of them together, given those connections.
Lorelie Mansur
This is a very controversial translation, but I like it anyway. It brings forward the issues of translation, especially in poetry. Should one be literal, or truer to the feeling of the work, or the rhythm, etc? Or is one free to coerce the original into something else, as these translators have been accused of? I remember reading several translations of some Pablo Neruda poems and remarking to a Chilean friend how different they were from one another. He said, this one, this is the most literal. ...more
One of my most beloved quotes:

"I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?"

Despite that, I really wasn't impressed with many of these poems. they struck me as too religious, just a more palatable way of describing the bible stories. Once in a while there is another g
Sometimes I go to the quiet dusty library corner in my mind where sunlight scatteres through aged glass and choose a thought to mull over. Apparently Rilke occupied this spot I thought was only mine..he does it so much better though. His thoughts and heart fly beyond human imagination and dwell in the deeply spiritual, where there is no sound only being and truth. He suspends a ticking clock..and the reader fully inhabits the moment. Rilke reminds me of an Impressionist painter of the master cla ...more
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Rainer Maria Rilke is considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets.

His haunting images tend to focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety — themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.

He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two mos
More about Rainer Maria Rilke...
Letters to a Young Poet The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke Duino Elegies The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge Sonnets to Orpheus

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“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.” 1327 likes
“I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough
to make every moment holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough
just to lie before you like a thing,
shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action;
and in those quiet, sometimes hardly moving times,
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.
I want to be a mirror for your whole body,
and I never want to be blind, or to be too old
to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
and I want my grasp of things to be
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at
closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that carried me
through the wildest storm of all.”
More quotes…