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Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  4,727 ratings  ·  325 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, 166 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Riverhead Books (first published 1899)
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Michael Decamp I'm reading Joanna Macy's and Anita Barrows translation, I think 172 pages but still abridged. German on one page and English on the opposing. The…moreI'm reading Joanna Macy's and Anita Barrows translation, I think 172 pages but still abridged. German on one page and English on the opposing. The translations are exquisite.(less)

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4.42  · 
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 ·  4,727 ratings  ·  325 reviews

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Jun 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Jennifer Locke
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
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?
Steven Godin
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, austria, germany
Beautiful, spiritual, insightful poetry. I appreciate all aspects of his work, this one in particular though is one to be treasured. It's like binding words into serene works of art. Essential reading for those who seek a deeper understanding of Rilke's journey, as both man and poet.

I picked out the poem below, which I feel sums up Rilke's mind during this book.

What will you do, God, when I die?
When I, your pitcher, broken, lie?
When I, your drink, go stale or dry?
I am your garb, the trade you p
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.

There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,

and held like a legend,
and understood.

I'm slipping, I'm slipping away
like sand

slipping through fingers. All
my cells

are open, and all
so thirsty. I ache and swell

in a hundred places, but mostly
in the middle of my heart

I want to die. Leave me
Neil R. Coulter
I found this copy of the Book of Hours on a giveaway shelf several months ago, and I believe it's the best free book that has ever come to me. I would even say it's destiny that let me find this collection of amazing poems and reflections on God.

I'm not much interested in poetry. I often find it either gimmicky (bound by certain rules that make it seem artificial to me) or impenetrable (re: almost any poem that appears in the New Yorker). But Rilke's poems knocked me off my chair again and again
Robert Case
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This book was savored, digested a few poems at a time last summer, while on a 6-week bicycling tour of the western US. One of the trip's many purposes was to unplug from the pace of city living, to better reassess my own path and priorities. The bicycle and this book were both vehicles for that practice. Writing over one hundred years ago, Rilke's poems describe and promote a reciprocal relationship with the Divine. They are full of possibilities and challenges, making the book an ideal companio ...more
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing-
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
Jennifer Hughes
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I put this on my Christmas wish list, and then promptly ordered it for myself Christmas afternoon when I did not find it under the tree! :D Over the last month, I have been savoring this incredible book.

In "Book of Hours: Love Poems to God," Rilke explores our relationship to the divine in exquisite, must-read poetry. As I read, many of the poems resonated with me on a cellular level. Some feel sacred as scripture. This book is such a treasure.

The translators have been thorough and really transp
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry

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.
Mar 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-poets
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
Stephen Roach
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I first read Rilke's Book of Hours a number of years ago, and just recently picked it up again. I'm not a deeply spiritual person, and I'm far from religious, but the imagery and emotion in these poems resonated with me immediately. Rilke does not write of God or Christianity as we see them around us today, but rather about a more primitive, naturalist, personal, spiritual sense of the divine. Written as the 19th century bled into the 20th, Rilke speaks to the encroaching darkness of an increasi ...more
Erin Henry
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Amazing. I never thought I would like poetry. But these really speak to me. I read one several times a day. So good.
Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spir-tual, inspire-me
Well I loved these poems so I won't say much! Instead I'm just going to write my favorite parts. That will make for a very long post! :D

"I am the yearning for good." -Hildegard Von Bingen

We become so accustomed to you,
we no longer look up
when your shadow falls over the book we are reading
and makes it glow. For all things
sing you: at times
we just hear them more clearly.

Ich bete wieder, du Erlauchter
I am praying again, Awesome One.

You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward
Reem Rafei
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm so glad i got introduced to Rilke's words , im trying to dive into his marvelous style, to dig into each and every stanza and I'm completely amazed!

“You, my own deep soul,
trust me. I will not betray you.
My blood is alive with many voices
telling me I am made of longing.”

“You, my own deep soul,
trust me. I will not betray you.
My blood is alive with many voices
telling me I am made of longing.”

Excerpts From: Rainer Maria Rilke. “Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.” iBooks.
Nov 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Now the hour bows down, it touches me, throbs
metallic, lucid and bold:
my senses are trembling. I feel my own power -
on the plastic day I lay hold.

Until I perceive it, no thing was complete,
but waited, hushed, unfulfilled.
My vision is ripe, to each glance like a bride
comes softly the thing that was willed.

There is nothing too small, but my tenderness paints
it large on a background of gold,
and I prize it, not knowing whose soul at the sight,
released, may unfold . . .


You, neighbour God, if sometim
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.

Scott Maclellan
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hauntingly beautiful yet sad at the same time. This book made me think on both my religion and mortality in new ways.

Try it.
J L Kruse
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, poetry
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
Karen Ng
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
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
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in spirituality, lovers of nature, philosophers
I have no idea how to review poetry, but I'll start with saying that I was deeply moved by several of the poems in this collection. Even if you aren't a spiritual person, Rilke's exploration of humans' relationships with the divine both within and without is really moving. While there is some imagery that can be connected directly to Christianity, most of the poems could be about any spiritual being you believe in. There are a lot of poems that focus on nature and the way humans have gotten furt ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The Book of Hours does everything great poetry is supposed to do. It breaks your heart while also lifting your spirit. It mourns the world while also finding ways to celebrate it. Rilke is a poet who takes in all emotions in his quest to understand his higher self. He knows where there is despair, hope is waiting to burst through. He sees that for every sorrow, an equal force of rapture waits to be embraced. If the day feels like it is slipping away, he looks for any chance to seize it back. Whe ...more
Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality, poetry
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
John Kulm
May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I see why his work is loved. Here are three of the many passages I liked:

I love the hours when I’m blue, depressed,
my senses sharpened and I wide awake;
for then I have found, as in letters of late,
my future life lived out like stories
and lived out at best.
These hours give me assurance that I have
the room for a second, much fuller life.

You see I want much.
Perhaps I want it all:
the dark that goes with any bottomless fall
and the sun-speckled climbing up.

I can’t believe this death spells drea
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
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
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Old Souls Book Club: You see, I want a lot (poem by Rainer Maria Rilke) 1 6 Aug 04, 2016 06:44AM  

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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
“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.” 1536 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…