Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies, commentary and further poems

Rilke, Rainer Maria (1875–1926), translated by Kline, A. S. (contact-email)

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Rainer Maria Rilke, was born in Prague, the capital of Bohemia, in 1875. He studied in Prague and Munich before travelling widely. In 1902 he arrived in Paris, where he subsequently became Auguste Rodin’s secretary. It was here that he developed the more objective style of his collection New Poems (Neue Gedichte, 1907).

During the winter of 1911/1912 Rainer Maria Rilke was invited to Castle Duino, near Trieste, where he began the Duino Elegies. The work would, however, remain unfinished for a decade. Creatively muted by bouts of depression, in part caused by the First World War, Rilke did not complete the Elegies until 1922. His Sonnets to Orpheus were written in the same year during a three-week paroxysm of creativity.

The Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus deploy and extend both his early lyrical gifts and subsequently more objective formal style in a poetry of philosophical and spiritual depth, centred around a view of life and death as forming a complete whole, and demanding a full human response to both the positive and negative aspects of both these ‘realms’. Ideas from late nineteenth century existentialist philosophy, the influence of artists like Rodin and Picasso, and a subtle awareness of Psychology as a developing area of intellectual exploration, can all be found in his work.

Author Details

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Kline, A. S.

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