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The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke: Bilingual Edition (English and German Edition) (German) Paperback – March 13, 1989
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These aren't feel-good poems in any lighthearted sense; they feel good because they remind us we're not alone in feeling our weight, our mortality, our transience.
We're lucky, in fact, to feel all those things. Even the angels envy us...
Create a vase and preserve it. Set it among the joys
not yet open to us; on that lovely urn
praise it with the ornately flowing inscription:
Rainier Maria Rilke surely was touched by an angel, and through his magnificent poems, so are we. Stephen Mitchell seems to have been touched also by these great spirits when he translated and interpreted almost 300 pages of Rilke's poems and other writings. This generous-hearted book includes selections from Rilke's major works: The Book of Hours; The Book of Pictures; New Poems; Requiem; Uncollected Poems (1913-1918); The Duimo Elegies; The Sonnets to Orpheus; Uncollected Poems (1923-1926);and The Notebooks of Malte Lauris Brigge (prose).
Gloriously, all of the Elegies are given. ("Oh gather it, Angel" is from the Fifth Elegy, dedicated to Frau Hertha Koenig.) One can hardly read these, particularly the selections from the "Sonnets to Orpheus," suffused with Rilke's feelings associated with the too-early death of a young girl, without trembling.
This book offers riches upon riches:
--A wise, informative introductory essay, "Looking for Rilke," by Robert Hass
--The poems themselves, in German and English on facing pages
--45 pages of notes with many translations of Rilke's letters about the poems
--a title & first line index in German and another title & first line index in English
The poetry is of profound beauty in both languages. Some believe Rilke may have been the greatest of poets writing in German. Reading the poems aloud in German can help convey one aspect---the play of sound on/in the ear---even if we're not fluent in Rilke's first language. (Later, he wrote in French.) However, Mitchell's wonderful poems in English capture Rilke's voice, the complexity and humanity of his thoughts, and his amazing images. Mitchell gives us the cadence, the style (including Rilke's own changes over the years), and the darkness, angers, longings, questionings, depths & heights of Rilke's feelings.
Reader alert: Could other translations be made? Sure, but perhaps not as true to the beauty and power of Rilke, so splendid is Mitchell's achievement. Yet this is a 1982 book, reprinted in 1989 by Vintage International. There are later translations and what some future poet/translator may achieve, who can say? In some places---a very few, in my opinion---perhaps the English word-net has not quite caught the nuances of Rilke's thought. Other reviewers might see more instances, still others none.
A reminder too that these are selections from Rilke: parts, not the whole of his work. Some readers may find their favorites missing.
For me, Stephen Mitchell's "The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke" is a treasure almost beyond measure----and at used book prices, an outstanding value.
Most highly recommended.
Top international reviews
Amazon deserve 5 stars for immediately agreeing to a refund and did not require the slim volume to be sent back.
das Buch selbst ist phantastisch , die besten Rilke-Übersetzngen, die ich kenne!!!!!
Da es ein Geschenk sein sollte, habe ich es gleich noch einmal gekauft, in der Hoffnung, diesmal ein neues Exemplar zu erhalten, und behielt das offensichtlich gebrauchte für mich.
At the end of every session of reading a poem or two, I feel tempted to write my pieces. Such is the inspiration that I derive from its verses