The New Republic
Duino Elegiesby Rainer Maria Rilke
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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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Read an Excerpt
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
Perhaps the greatest lyric poet of the twentieth century, RAINER MARIA RILKE (1875 - 1926) was born in Prague and led a nomadic existence, living in Germany, Russia, Spain, Italy and France before his death in Switzerland from leukaemia. He dedicated himself exclusively to his work, including the New Poems (1907 - 8), the semi-autobiographical novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910), Duino Elegies (1923) and Sonnets to Orpheus (1923). MARTYN CRUCEFIX's own poetry - for which he has won numerous prizes, including a major Eric Gregory award and a Hawthornden Fellowship - has been praised as 'urgent, heartfelt, controlled and masterful' (Poetry London). His collections include Beneath Tremendous Rain (1990), At The Mountjoy Hotel (1993), On Whistler Mountain (1994), A Madder Ghost (Enitharmon, 1997), An English Nazareth (Enitharmon, 2004) and Hurt (Enitharmon, 2012). His translation of Rilke's Duino Elegies (Enitharmon, 2006) was shortlisted for the Corneliu Popescu Prize and chosen by the novelist Philip Pullman as one of his 40 favourite books.
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