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Duino Elegies

4.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,918 Ratings  ·  159 Reviews
We have a marvelous, almost legendary, image of the circumstances in which the composition of this great poem began. Rilke was staying at a castle (Duino) on the sea near Trieste. One morning he walked out on the battlements and climbed down to where the rocks dropped sharply to the sea. From out of the wind, which was blowing with great force, Rilke seemed to hear a voice ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1923)
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The Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaThe Trial by Franz KafkaThe Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilSteppenwolf by Hermann HesseFaust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Best German/Austrian Literature
14th out of 600 books — 698 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 1920's
12th out of 337 books — 739 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Carmo Santos
Apr 10, 2015 Carmo Santos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poesia, checos
Provavelmente merece 5 *, mas de tão metafórico que é, senti-me afundar num abismo de sombras e emergir bêbada de ignorância.
David Lentz
Oct 08, 2013 David Lentz rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2009 matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetic-rapture

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 wa
Peter Schmidt
Jan 28, 2016 Peter Schmidt rated it it was amazing
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 p ...more
Jan 19, 2008 Jesse rated it it was amazing
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 s ...more
Apr 14, 2015 rahul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was trying to understand beauty.
How silly of me. One elegy after another,I realized you submit to beauty and its
consequences( 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.
Nov 27, 2011 Denis rated it it was amazing
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 extraor ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Stringbean rated it it was amazing
The question is what I have learned from this book, and my response is difficult to give. Rilke offers so much to us; it is kind of him. Everybody should read this, not out of courtesy for the genius but for self-benefit. The poems here are often overwhelming and will touch your mind in places you have never before been touched in. It is beautiful, intrusive, and works better than a mirror.
Dec 04, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 07, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
This is a lyrical and beautiful set of 10 is bittersweet, brings forth feelings of longing, of desire, nostalgia--but the longing is at once for the past, for the future, for what is inevitable: death, and the nostalgia for the same, with the knowledge that death must come and a feeling of longing to know the god/spirit/creature that is all-knowing. The poems evoke the journey of life by feeling, by relationships, to family (mother, father), lover, and god.

It is, in brief, 10 poems
Oct 05, 2010 Darice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written on the topics most subtle and high of life, the myths all humans live, all the unsaid is revealed in these poems. The Duino Elegies changed my life, shattered the illusion of the material plane and reminded me that poetry is a conduit of truth and elation. These poems are melancholic and take many readings to truly experience the unfolding of its emotion and relevance. I cried in ecstasy the first time I read them, and they changed my life.
Shinji Moon
Dec 28, 2013 Shinji Moon rated it it was amazing
i read the most of this on my weekly commute from manhattan to brooklyn and i would read it aloud softly to myself and everything would become so real, so meaningful, so much more. there is an astute clarity to his writing, a truth in his poetry that is so stoic and so human. his words vibrate. read him. it's worth it.
Apr 18, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: german, poetry, favorites
Incredibly beautiful and illuminating. I already have some passages memorized and hope to learn more.
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Elegías de Duino de Rainer Maria Rilke. Lo sublime poético

En el epílogo de Alberto Vital del Seminario de Hermenéutica de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México encontramos una de esas reflexiones que, en mi opinión, resumen a la perfección lo que es, o debería ser, la poesía:
“Sólo la poesía que escribimos o que leemos (y entonces en cierta medida la hacemos nuestra) es capaz de desnudar el alma humana. La poesía (o, si se quiere, la poies
Nov 23, 2015 Meem rated it it was amazing
Rilke is all of this rolled into one:

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Oct 18, 2012 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I started this back in the summer and read the first elegy, under depressing circumstances. I ended up setting it aside until this week, when I decided to finish it. Rilke is something you really have to be in the mood for, but when you are, his verses are absolutely lovely and utterly haunting.

I read two translations (Snow and Young), and referenced a third (Leishman). I found that seemed to help me recapture more of the original ideas than just reading one alone, as I unfortunately do not rea
Oct 09, 2008 Andrew rated it it was amazing
There's nobody like Rilke. He's a gentler T.S. Eliot, just as beautiful if less intelligent, more heartfelt, more genuine.

His poetry embraces the world. Nobody is larger than Rilke. The burning hot fervent prayer that is his mind is one we all need to hear, and help transmit.

Get the Stephen Mitchell translation, and get goin'
Whitney Peck
It was time for a re-read of this AMAZING author and his Elegies. There is hardly a word that he has scribbled that didn't take the breath straight from my lungs.
ex: "the 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."
Jan 14, 2016 Lexxie rated it it was amazing
My favorite book of poems. Dark, but beautiful.
Aug 15, 2009 Eduardo rated it it was amazing
Haunting, brilliant and apocalyptic they look to the future Quartets of TS Eliot, the angelic voice screaming in the wind, Rilke is masterful in the emotion & vision presented in these. Worth reading & re-reading. Wish I could read them in German!
Jul 12, 2008 Krystal rated it it was amazing
I had a copy of this in German with English translations that was a very beautiful gift that I lent to someone and never got back. Was it you? Rilke makes heaven feasable to a heathen and was the first non-American poet I truly loved.
Apr 03, 2013 Sam rated it it was amazing
“Weren’t you always
distracted by expectation, as if every event
announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place
to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
going and coming and often staying all night.)”

Carlin Nicholson
Jan 17, 2014 Carlin Nicholson rated it it was amazing
Rilke is the poet's poet's poet.

Keeping in mind that "a translation is a subtraction" (James Karl Lyon)
Rilke in better translations is mystifying.

In the German original, Rilke is mind blowing.

His visions are simply transcendent.
Jun 15, 2009 Erik rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, beautiful poetry. Hard to read when disagreeing with the topics. But his words are unbelievable. I haven't stopped thinking of them, and haven't wanted to memorize poetry as much as this one in years.
Gerry LaFemina
Mar 18, 2012 Gerry LaFemina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's a beauty to this book beyond the words and the pacing and the images and the ecstatic frenzy. Rilke's angels seem all around after re-reading it (for the first time in years). What a joy. What delight.
Sep 05, 2007 Leila rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who ever looked for God.
Absolutely soul-searching fantastic. I loved the translation, and furthermore the poems themselves reflect this search for God that is all at once suprising and familiar. I have a new crush and his name is Rilke.
Christine Cather
Feb 07, 2009 Christine Cather rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Reading beauty.
To read this on a day or a weekend all by yourself is truly inspiring.This edition has the original German and is also very beautiful to read alongside the English translation.
Dec 02, 2008 Ruaidhri rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who lives for art, or arts to live
Recommended to Ruaidhri by: a guy in ithaca, new york. hadn't met him before, haven't seen h
Shelves: meops, les-meilleur
Sometimes things can scare the life out of us.

And that life rises out of us, sees beyond and into us.

Beauty is frightening, and fear is beautiful.
christopher leibow
This book is one of the reasons I write poetry. I have part of the first elegy stenciled on my living room wall.
John M.
Dec 22, 2014 John M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is there to say? Among the very greatest poems of the 20th century and in Snow's superb translation.
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  • Harmonium
  • Poems of Paul Celan
  • The Selected Poems
  • Elegy
  • New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001
  • Collected Poems
  • Selected Poems and Fragments
  • The Collected Poems, 1957-1987
  • Selected Poems
  • Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
  • The Complete Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • Complete Works
  • Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great
  • Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-1916)
  • Residence on Earth
  • Praise
  • Poems
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...

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“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
Every angel is terrible.”
“Every angel is terrifying.” 255 likes
More quotes…