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Sonnets to Orpheus

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  2,174 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
Breathing, you invisible poem!
World-space in pure continuous interchange
with my own being. Equipose
in which I rhythmically transpire.

Written only four years before Rilke's death, this sequence of sonnets, varied in form yet consistently structured, stands as the poet's final masterwork. In these meditations on the constant flux of our world and the ephemerality of experien
ebook, 144 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by North Point Press (first published 1922)
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Steven  Godin
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, deutschland
It's a shame I couldn't have read Sonnets to Orpheus in the original text, but alas, my German is not up to scratch. Whilst writing in 1922 on his deeply philosophical Duino Elegies, and experiencing what he described as a 'savage creative storm' Rilke wrote these extraordinary, darkly bewildering and joyful cycle of sonnets, 55 of them in fact, one just as good as the other, like an album with no filler. They are, Rilke wrote later, 'perhaps most mysterious even to me, in the manner in which th ...more
Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter


(Orpheus, 1891 Franz von Stuck)

The Earth gives forth.

Die Erde schenkt.

My thanks go to Steven, whose review with its subtle combination of words and choice of sonnet impelled me to take Die Sonette an Orpheus off the shelf. All I can ask myself now, is why I have never read this slim but sublime collection of sonnets before.

Orpheus, who established a spiritual order, composed music, which created harmony between art and nature. He gave shape to that which has no form, carrying in his composit
Khashayar Mohammadi
Das erste Buch, das ich habe auf Deutsch gelesen. Ich liebte Rilke von anfang an. Fantastisches buch.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetshere
Even as the farmer labors
there where the seed turns into summer,
it is not his work. It is Earth who gives.

Despite the parched ground it is but a shade of spring outside. The world appears geared to disrupt such edenic days with the distant rumble of foreign thunder and a blurred blunder on the button.

There were flashes here which I truly admired but not others. My hazed judgement might conceal a concern or two -- perhaps it doesn't. This series didn't engender thought so I'm moving on.
Özgür Daş
Öldürmek, bir dışavurumu durmadan yol alan kederimizin...
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
In A Portrait of the Artist, Joyce (or the stand-in for his youth, at least) says that art should invoke a stillness in one’s being. This collection of poetry exemplifies such an invocation. It’s occasionally almost Emersonian in its description of nature and sensuous life, but far more serene, gentle, inclusive. Its effect is cumulative, rather than based on the power of individual verses, but I’ll toss up a favorite quote anyway:

…A few notes of music, a tapping, a faint
hum—: you girls, so wa
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus were written, remarkably, in a few weeks in a kind creative overflow after finishing The Duino Elegies, a group of ten poems that took Rilke ten years to write. Hearing these poems in German is a memorable experience (even if you don't know the language). They are little technical masterpieces, with very strong rhythmic structures, and the rhyme of a classical (Petrarchian) sonnet. Of course, all the structure and form is lost in translation, but they still read remark ...more
Apr 02, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
A classic, certainly. But I always feel like I'm missing out on most of the music when I read poetry in translation.
There is this cemetery I used to go for a walk. It never felt like a cemetery, but a huge park full of tall trees and bizarre and beautiful sculptures and lazy cats. One day I came back there with a friend and accidentally we crashed into a funeral. A hearse, a woman crying, my friend saying that we better go, we better go, but he was too cold to feel any of that. I just felt guilty to be there, to be here, to be alive. I still wash my hands compulsively as to remove the scent of a candle and th ...more
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was bought for me on one of the most romantic and fulfilling evenings of my short life. Fresh from the Met's "Orfeo ed Euridice" wandering into a bookshop in the East Village, and returning home to a mind-gasm of reading aloud with someone I care dearly for. This collection is perfect for anyone who has loved or lost. "She slept the world..." This collection will continue to delight and haunt me for as long as I live.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, poetry, german
While I found some of these sonnets thought-provoking, they were mostly too obscure & difficult to understand for me. I appreciated the translator's notes and made extensive use of them but Rilke's philosophy about death was enigmatic. And the allusions to Orpheus and Eurydice were veiled to say the least!
Rilke çok sevdiğim şairlerden biridir. Yapıkredi Yayınlarının basımını görünce bu kitabı almak istedim. İyi ki almışım, şairin şiirlerine bayıldım. Ve Yapıkredi yayınlarının bu denli güzel çalışması, açıklama ve, şairin notları kısmı çok güzeldi. Kitaplığımın Kazım Taşkent Klasik Yapıtlar Dizisi ile dolması dileğiyle.... 😍
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't stopped reading this book since I received it as a gift in the spring of 2006. Rilke is arguably the greatest poet of the 20th century. He confirms Holderlin's great words that poetry points to being itself.
Nov 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A more literal, sparer translation than the Stephen Mitchell, good for students of German and, if less beautiful, truer to the succinctness of the original. Especially recommended is Sonnet #2, though there is plenty of heart-crushing material to be found here.
May 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, this is strange, passionate, poetry that is concerned with music, death,love, life, ecstacy--but trying to get at those things thru language. You have to read this before you die.
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming back to this volume has been interesting. It has a magical force to it--the speaker and the presumed audience seem to shift in delicate ways, although the presumed structure is Rilke writing to Orpheus, and there is a sense that Rilke is channeling some deep and wise force in the universe, with surprising and delightful incantations resulting: "Dance the orange. Who can forget it,/ drowning it itself, how it struggles against its own sweetness." "The water is strange and the water is your ...more
Her şey dinlendi:
Karanlık ve aydınlık,
çiçek ve kitap.

Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Upon rereading Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus in a one hour sitting, well, except for the two midnight breaks, both being rather heroically flawed attempts to rock my little one to sleep, I found new appreciation for the pure music of the singing parts (the flowing sequence of the sonnets) in relation to the spirited, transforming whole. Here are my highlights this second time around as the child continues to cry into the night:

(from Part One)

Sonnet 21

Spring has come again. The earth
Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Expecting difficulty with his modernist poetry, as I began re-reading this, I first focused on understanding the meaning of the poems. This became a secondary concern after a few pages as I found myself enjoying the beauty of the language and the thought, and not worrying about the meaning.

Although the notes at the back of the book include passages from Ovid's Metamorphoses describing the myth of Orpheus, in fact only two or three of the Sonnets make reference to that myth, and it is possible to
Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vím, že Rilke je jedním z klasiků, ale sama jsem mu asi úplně nepřišla na chuť. Možná je to tím, že se v jeho verších ztrácím a kolikrát váhám nad tím, co tím chtěl asi básník říct.
A o co tedy v knize jde? Rilke se zde vyrovnává s fenoménem smrti a lidské konečnosti. Nepřímo se zde setkáváme s příběhem Orfea, legendárního řeckého básníka a jeho lásky Eurydiky, nymfou a nelidskou bytostí, která umírá následkem uštknutí jedovatým hadem. Kniha je plná podtextů a odkazů na antickou mytologii, plna s
I don't know German, but I love bilingual editions (and not because I believe the translation is inferior or some such nonsense). I've at least heard enough German to approximate some of the sound, and the recurrent words/themes help. I like that mund (mouth) is similar to the Spanish mundo/mundial (world). I also in general like how grammar structures from the source-language translate into novel juxtapositions of words in the target-language. It's hard for me to say if it's Rilke or the langua ...more
May 25, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've been trawling the Rilke sonnets for months and it started with this bi-lingual edition. Meanwhile I have collected numerous other English translations. This edition, with the C.F. MacIntyre translation, has ended up at the bottom of the pile. For a start it's not a very attractively produced book. I like my poetry books to offer a visual and tactile surplus, which this one certainly doesn't. My command of German is reasonably good so I am able, to a certain extent, to assess the quality of ...more
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Wow, just wow. I started off thinking that this collection of sonnets paled in comparison to the Duino Elegies, but reading the last nine poems this morning really drove the entire point home. The whole book builds towards the final sixth of its length, and when you put it all together, it's like magic. Seriously powerful and quite heady -- it's just about the most engrossing poetry I've ever read. I even came in late to work because I got so into it and had to finish reading the whole thing thi ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, poetry
In his notes on translating the Sonnets to Orpheus (I skipped the 90-page introduction, thanks all the same), Willis Barnstone claims his rendering of the Sonnets lets Rilke "sing". If that's true, it's the kind of drunk and desperate singing that Bobcat Goldthwait's character does at the end of Scrooged. I know that translating poetry is an excruciating and often thankless job, but having recently finished Will and Mary Crichton's version of Duino Elegies, I know it can be done better.

4 stars f
Johan Thilander
Poesi har varit mitt främsta intresse sedan jag var - sexton kanske? Ändå har jag alltid avvaktat med Rilke, tagit ner men lagt tillbaka. Nu när jag läst denna, bredvid Duinoelegierna, är jag rätt glad att jag väntade. Detta är väldigt krävande sonetter som, åtminstone för mitt lilla huvud, fordrade flera omläsningar. Blev inte lika drabbad som av Duinoelegierna, men här finns mycket som jag brinner för: temat kring poesiens-språkets roll i samhället särskilt.
Korin McGinty
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this a lot. It's one of those books to pull out during the in-between-times when nothing else is quite working reading or writing wise and you just want something else to focus on because that's the thing that'll jog everything else back into place. I'm definitely going to read "Letters to a Young Poet" at some point.
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It happens only rarely that I pitty that I gave up learning German. This is one of those occasions, but czech translation was done well (at least I was told, I can't be sure since I have no idea how original reads like).

This is that type of peotry I like most: you can read it fast and enjoy flow of cute 'poetic' language with interesting imaginary and than you can read it again and again, maybe more carefully and slowly, to see greater depth of this, to aprehend small nuancies and (quite opposit
Mert Dostol
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Rilke kitapta bazen Orpheus'a bazen de Tanrılara atıfta bulunuyor. Diğer sonelerinde de hem insanlığın başlangıcından beri hem de modern çağın yarattığı çözümlenmemiş/çözümlenmeyecek sorunlarından bahsediyor ki bunlar benim ilgimi daha çok çekti.

aş tüm sınırları bu gecede;
sihirli güç ol düşüncelerinin yol ayrımında;
anlamı ol garip karşılaşmalarının.

Eğer seni bu yeryüzü unutursa,
de ki sessiz duran toprağa: Ben akıyorum.
Hızla akan suya da: Ben varım.

Vilém Zouhar
I fell in R. M. Rilke from the very first page. Some of the poems gave birth to lengthy restful contemplation.

(First poem:)

Da stieg ein Baum. O reine Übersteigung!
O Orpheus singt! O hoher Baum im Ohr.
Und alles schwieg. Doch selbst in der verschweigung
ging neuer Anfang, Wink und Wandlung vor.

There rose a tree. O pure transcendence!
O Orpheus sings! O tall tree in the ear!
And all was silent. Yet still in this silence
proceeded new beginning, sign and transformation.
Peter Korotaev
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: real-cool-books
my favorite rilke, excited to read gass on rilke
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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...

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“Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.”
Sonnets To Orpheus, Part Two, XII

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.
More quotes…