The New Republic
Duino Elegiesby Rainer Maria Rilke, Robert Hunter (Translator), Maureen Hunter (Illustrator)
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Perhaps no cycle of poems in any European language has made so profound and lasting an impact on an English-speaking readership as Rilke's Duino Elegies. These luminous new translations by Martyn Crucefix, facing the original German texts, make it marvellously clear how the poem is committed to the real world observed with acute and visionary intensity.
Completed in 1922, the same year as the publication of Eliot's The Waste Land, the Elegies constitute a magnificent godless poem in their rejection of the transcendent and their passionate celebration of the here and now. Troubled by our insecure place in this world and our fractured relationship with death, the Elegies are nevertheless populated by a throng of vivid and affecting figures: acrobats, lovers, angels, mothers, fathers, statues, salesmen, actors and children. This bilingual edition offers twenty-first century readers a new opportunity to experience the power of Rilke's enduring masterpiece.
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Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic
orders? And even if one of them pressed me
suddenly to his heart: I'd be consumed
in his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we can just barely endure,
and we stand in awe of it as it coolly disdains
to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.
-from "The First Elegy"
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Meet the Author
Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague, Bohemia, in December 1875, In 1897 he had an affair with Louise Andreas (neA(c) von Salome), who was to remain a friend and influence on him throughout his life. In 1901, he married the sculptor Clara Westhoff and later that year their daughter Ruth was born, though the family lived in poverty. Rilke later went to Paris to meet the sculptor Rodin, a meeting that greatly influenced his own writings. He died in December 1926 at Valmont of leukemia.
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