Sonnets to Orpheus

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Written with astonishing rapidity in two weeks of February 1922, when Rilke was finally completing the Duino Elegies that had occupied him intermittently for a decade, Sonnets to Orpheus is a series of fifty-five brilliant and affirmative songs. It is in a sense a spontaneous creative dividend generated by a larger work. Because the sonnets were written only four years before Rilke's death, they belong properly to his final and philosophic period, and offer a sharp and striking contrast to the less mystical Das Buch der Bilder and Neue Gedichte.

Rainer Maria Rilke was one of Germany's most important poets. His influences include the paintings of the Worpswedders and the French Impressionists, the sculpture of Rodin (to whom he was both friend and secretary), and the poetry of Baudelaire, Verlaine, Mallarmé, and other symbolists. His poetry is innovative, enigmatic, and entertainingly idiosyncratic. C.F. Mac
Intyre's translations are both true to the original and poetic in their own right, and in each book he includes an introduction and notes. German text faces the English translation.

"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

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.
From the Publisher
“An undisputed masterpiece by one of the greatest modern poets translated here by a master of translation”—Voice Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520229228
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/22/2001
  • Edition description: Bilingual Edition
  • Pages: 159
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.25 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

C.F. Mac
(d.1967) was well known as a translator.
In addition to works by Rilke, he translated Goethe's Faust and many of the French symbolists: Nerval, Baudelaire,Verlaine, Corbière, Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Laforgue, and Valéry. His volumes of original poems include The Black Bull, Cafés and Cathedrals, and Poems.

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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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