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Sonnets to Orpheus

Rainer Maria Rilke

Publication Year: 1987

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.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Series: Wesleyan Poetry in Translation


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pp. v

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pp. vii-xv

In February 1922, Rainer Maria Rilke recovered his creative energies as a poet with a suddenness and abundance virtually unparalleled in the history of poetic composition. The resulting masterpieces—the Duino Elegies, a long-standing project, and the unplanned Sonnets to Orpheus—were in one respect a bolt from the blue and in another the result of patient effort and unswerving ....

First Part

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pp. 1-54

Second Part

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pp. 55-114


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pp. 115-116

E-ISBN-13: 9780819572660
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819551597

Page Count: 134
Publication Year: 1987

Edition: Bilingual German-English ed.
Series Title: Wesleyan Poetry in Translation