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 ...
See more details below
Sonnets to Orpheus

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook - Bilingual German-English ed.)
BN.com price


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.

Read More Show Less

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.

Praise for Duino/Elegies (NPP, 2000)

"[Snow's work stands the highest test that can be put to any translation: it would be a worthy poetic achivement even without the original to prop it up."
-- Brian Phillips, The New Republic

Praise for The Book of Images (NPP, 1994)

"Edward Snow, who so insightfully translated the two volumes of Rilke's New Poems, has now turned to The Book of Images, one of the poet's most startling and diverse masterworks. Snow has rendered with great skill and accuracy a work both familiar and unknown, more complicated and more immediate than many have suspected, at once grave, mysterious, and beautiful." --Edward Hirsch

Praise for New Poems (NPP, 1987):

Rilke's first great work . . . [Snow's translation] is clear, accurate, and fluent."
--Stephen Mitchell

Praise for Duino Elegies (NPP, 2000)

"I have been engrossed in English versions of Duino Elegies for years, and Snow's is by far the most radiant and, as far as I can tell, the most faithful . . . Reading this rendition provided new revelations into Rilke's symbolic landscapes of art, death, love and time."
--Frederic Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819572660
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2011
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry in Translation
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Bilingual German-English ed.
  • Pages: 134
  • File size: 2 MB

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.
Read More Show Less

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
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)