Sonnets To Orpheus / Edition 1

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Overview

Sonnets to Orpheus is Rainer Maria Rilke’s first and only sonnet sequence. It is an undisputed masterpiece by one of the greatest modern poets, translated here by a master of translation, David Young.

Rilke revived and transformed the traditional sonnet sequence in the Sonnets. Instead of centering on love for a particular person, as has many other sonneteers, he wrote an extended love poem to the world, celebrating such diverse things as mirrors, dogs, fruit, breathing, and childhood. Many of the sonnets are addressed to two recurrent figures: the god Orpheus (prototype of the poet) and a young dancer, whose death is treated elegiacally.

These ecstatic and meditative lyric poems are a kind of manual on how to approach the world – how to understand and love it. David Young’s is the first most sensitive of the translations of this work, superior to other translations in sound and sense. He captures Rilke’s simple, concrete, and colloquial language, writing with a precision close to the original.

"It is easy to feel that if Rilke had written in English, he would have written in this English." New York Times Book Review A masterful translation of one of the masterpieces of 20th cintury poetry.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An undisputed masterpiece by one of the greatest modern poets translated here by a master of translation”—Voice Literary Supplement
Publishers Weekly
With acclaimed versions of The Duino Elegies and Uncollected Poems already in print, Edward Snow's historic rendering of the Rilke oeuvre gets one step closer to completion with Sonnets to Orpheus. Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) composed the first set of 26 sonnets just before completing the monumental elegies, and the second 29 just after. Rendered here without rhyme and with German facing text, Snow makes clear why the sonnets are "Sayable only by the singer./ Audible only by the god." Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus (published 1923 in German) rank with the most distinguished works of modern poetry. Written in an extraordinary burst of inspiration, these poems reveal a vision of ``a mode of being in which all the ordinary human dichotomies (life/death, good/evil) are reconciled in an infinite wholeness.'' Stephen Mitchell's translations are masterful re-creations of the original, giving both precise renderings of Rilke's language and sensitive interpretations of his poetic intent. This fine dual-language edition is highly recommended. Ulrike S. Rettig, German Dept., Hervard Univ.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819561657
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 6/15/1987
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry in Translation Series
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 136
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

RAINER MARIA RILKE was born in Prague in 1875. After a motley education at military and business schools and at Prague’s Charles University, he traveled in Europe, Russia, Egypt, and Tunsinia. In addition to Sonnets to Orpheus, Rilke’s works include the Duino Elegies, The Book of Pictures, Poems from the Book of Hours, New Poems, and The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge. Rilke died in 1926.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : Rilke and the ecstasy of creation 1
On the translation of Sonnets to Orpheus 91
Part 1
I A tree sprang into life 103
II And it was almost a girl 105
III A god can do it 107
IV O you delicate ones 109
V Raise no memorial stone 111
VI Does he live among us? 113
VII To praise is foremost! 115
VIII Only in the realm of praising 117
IX Only one who has raised the lyre 119
X I welcome you, ancient coffins 121
XI Look at the sky 123
XIII Cheer the spirit 125
XIV We are absorbed in blossom 129
XV Wait. It tastes good 131
XVI You, my friend, you are lonely 133
XVII Way down under the old 135
XVIII Master, do you hear? 137
XIX Although the world quickly changes form 139
XX What can I dedicate to you, lord? 141
XXI Spring has come again 143
XXII We drive on 145
XXIII Only on a day when flight 147
XXIV Shall we reject our ancient friendship? 149
XXV But you whom I knew like a flower 151
XXVI You, holy Orpheus, poet 153
Part 2
I Breath, you invisible poem! 157
II Just as the master's genuine brushstroke 159
III Mirrors 161
IV O here you have the beast 163
V Flower muscle of the anemone 165
VI Rose on your throne 167
VII Flowers, sisters 169
VIII O you few playmates 171
IX Judges, don't brag 173
X All we have gained, the machine threatens 175
XI Many calmly ordered rules of death 177
XII Will transformation 179
XIII Be ahead of all leaving 181
XIV Observe these flowers 183
XV O fountain mouth 185
XVI Orpheus, whom we have torn apart 187
XVII Where, in what blissful watered gardens 189
XVIII Dancer, O you translation 191
XIX Gold lives somewhere 193
XX Between the stars 195
XXI My heart, sing about gardens 197
XXII O despite fate 199
XXIIII Summon me 201
XXIV O this joy always new 203
XXV Listen 205
XSVI How the cry of a bird 207
XXVII Does time destroyer 209
XXVIII O come and go 211
XXIX Silent friend of many distances 213
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2005

    Whisper to the Silent Earth: Willis Barnstone¿s Sonnets to Orpheus

    Go to the poetry section of any major bookstore and you will find numerous versions of Rilke¿s profound and captivating Sonnets to Orpheus, plus many other volumes of his. Besides Dante, Neruda, García Lorca and Rumi, he is one of the world poets most translated into English. Many good versions have been produced and I have bought and enjoyed reading most of them in the past, except some of the earlier, more crabbed versions from last century. The version I remember liking the most was David Young¿s, which, unfortunately, I do not have at hand for comparison. Since I don¿t know German and can¿t access the original, which must be a marvel, I have to trust my instincts concerning an English version, and my instincts tell me to trust Willis Barnstone, one of our foremost translators. This new volume, published by Shambala, includes a revision of Mr. Barnstone¿s earlier translation of the Sonnets published in To Touch the Sky, by New Directions Press, 1999. Mr. Barnstone has not made any major changes to that earlier translation, though he has gone through and made important fine-tunings which give some poems more fluency at certain points than they previously possessed, though the earlier versions read quite smoothly. These changes may not seem important or even that noticeable to the general reader, but they are to the translator and to the more specialized reader. Translation, especially literary translation, is always a work in progress, unless abandoned by the translator. Fortunately, Mr. Barnstone chose not to abandon this work yet, and so we have a newer, brighter version of the Sonnets to enjoy. Another benefit of this volume is the extensive, generous and compassionate introduction. Mr. Barnstone has over the years become a master of the introductory essay, besides being a master translator and poet. The introduction in this volume is the best I¿ve read to date about Rilke. Other introductions have been excellent and informative, but this one provides the most lucid overall picture of Rilke, his life and his art that I can imagine short of reading some of the book-length biographies Mr. Barnstone used as resources. For those interested in the art of translation, a small essay about the tradition of translating the Sonnets in English follows the Introduction. Initially, Mr. Barnstone generously acknowledges the fine work done in the past, starting with J.B. Leishman in 1936 and C.F. MacIntrye in 1940--those earlier 'crabbed' versions I mention above--which makes me want to seek them out again, if only to understand where they have been successful. He then goes on to explain his approach: making the 'literal literary.' This is vastly more difficult than it sounds, and calls for a craftsman of profound skill and experience. To be literal, but unmusical, which is what I understand Mr. Barnstone to mean when he uses the term 'literalistic,' is to deprive the reader of the poem, though it may give a more accurate understanding of the 'meanings' of the words. As Mr. Barnstone points out, when translating poetry, one must attempt the impossible: to make the translation sing in the target language while staying as accurate as possible to the original. It is an impossible task--a quixotic task, to say the least--,especially when attempting to approximate original meter and rhyme scheme, but like many attempts at the impossible, it can at times yield felicitous results, and one of these is Mr. Barnstone¿s Sonnets to Orpheus. If you or one of your poetry-loving friends haven¿t encountered this amazing, multi-layered and influential book yet, Mr. Barnstone¿s volume makes an excellent starting point. If you have read other translations, this one will serve to either re-kindle your interest or inspire you to do

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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