orders? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly to his heart: I'd be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we can just barely endure,
and we stand in awe of it as it coolly disdains
to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.
-from "The First Elegy"
Over the last fifteen years, in his two volumes of New Poems as well as in The Book of Images and Uncollected Poems, Edward Snow has emerged as one of Rainer Maria Rilke's most able English-language interpreters. In his translations, Snow adheres faithfully to the intent of Rilke's German while constructing nuanced, colloquial poems in English.
Written in a period of spiritual crisis between 1912 and 1922, the poems that compose the Duino Elegies are the ones most frequently identified with the Rilkean sensibility. With their symbolic landscapes, prophetic proclamations, and unsettling intensity, these complex and haunting poems rank among the outstanding visionary works of the century.
In his powerful new translation, skilfully shaped into current English, Ian Crockatt succeeds in catching Rilke's blend of crafted sensuality and inward-focused spiritual searching, while his comprehensive introduction and notes to this selection are both informative and enlightening.
Rainer Maria Rilke was described by another great poet, Maria Tsvetaeva as 'not a poet, but the embodiment of poetry'. His work spans the divide between Europe's turn-of-the-century decadence and its post First World War revolutionary modernism, always struggling to develop, to seek and reach beyond itself.
Combining passion and sensitivity, the poems on love presented here are often not only sensual but sexual as well. Others pursue perennial themes in his work—death and life, growth and transformation. The book concludes with Rilke's reflections on wisdom and openness to experience, on grasping what is most difficult and turning what is most alien into that which we can most trust.