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Rainer Maria Rilke

Poet Details

Black and white photograph of Rainer Maria Rilke
Chronicle / Alamy Stock Photo

Widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets, Rainer Maria Rilke was unique in his efforts to expand the realm of poetry through new uses of syntax and imagery and in the philosophy that his poems explored. With regard to the former, W. H. Auden declared in New Republic, "Rilke's most immediate and obvious influence has been upon diction and imagery." Rilke expressed ideas with "physical rather than intellectual symbols. While Shakespeare, for example, thought of the non-human world in terms of the human, Rilke thinks of the human in terms of the non-human, of what he calls Things (Dinge)." Besides this technique, the other important aspect of Rilke's writings was the evolution of his philosophy, which reached a climax in Duineser Elegien ( Duino Elegies ) and Die Sonette an Orpheus ( Sonnets to Orpheus). Rejecting the Catholic beliefs of his parents as well as Christianity in general, the poet strove throughout his life to reconcile beauty and suffering, life and death, into one philosophy. As C. M. Bowra observed in Rainer Maria Rilke: Aspects of His Mind and Poetry, "Where others have found a unifying principle for themselves in religion or morality or the search for truth, Rilke found his in the search for impressions and the hope these could be turned into poetry...For him Art was what mattered most in life."

Rilke was the only child of a German-speaking family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. His father was a retired officer in the Austrian army who worked as a railroad official; his mother, a socially ambitious and possessive woman. At age eleven Rilke began his formal schooling at a military boarding academy, and in 1891, less than a year after transferring to a secondary military school, he was discharged due to health problems, from which he would suffer throughout his life. He immediately returned to Prague, to find that his parents had divorced in his absence. Shortly thereafter he began receiving private instruction toward passing the entrance exams for Prague's Charles-Ferdinand University. In 1894 his first book of verse, Leben und Lieder: Bilder und Tagebuchblatter, was published.

By 1895 Rilke had enrolled in the philosophy program at Charles-Ferdinand University, but soon became disenchanted with his studies and left Prague for Munich, ostensibly to study art. In Munich Rilke mingled in the city's literary circles, had several of his plays produced, published his poetry collections, Larenopfer and Traumgelkront, and was introduced to the work of Danish writer Jens Peter Jacobsen, who was a decisive influence during Rilke's formative years. Visiting Venice in 1897, Rilke met Lou Andreas-Salome, a married woman fifteen years his senior, who was also a strong influence on Rilke. After spending the summer of 1897 with her in the Bavarian Alps, Rilke accompanied Salome and her husband to Berlin in late 1897 and to Italy the following year.

Rilke's early verse, short stories, and plays are characterized by their romanticism. His poems of this period show the influence of the German folk song tradition and have been compared to the lyrical work of Heinrich Heine. The most popular poetry collections of Rilke's during this period were Vom lieben Gott und Anderes ( Stories of God ) and the romantic cycle Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (The Story of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke), which remained the poet's most widely recognized book during his lifetime. Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor George C. Schoolfield called Rilke's first poetry collection, Leben und Lieder ("Life and Songs"), "unbearably sentimental," but thought later works such as Larenopfer ("Offering to the Lares") and Traumgekroent ("Crowned with Dreams") demonstrated "considerably better proof of his lyric talent." Although none of Rilke's plays are considered major works, and his short stories, according to Schoolfield, demonstrate the author's immaturity, the latter do show "his awareness of language and a certain psychological refinement," as well as "flashes of brilliant satiric gift" and "evidence of a keen insight into human relations." Schoolfield also observed that "some of Rilke's best tales are autobiographical," such as "Pierre Dumont," which features a young boy saying goodbye to his mother at the gates to a military school, and "Ewald Tragy," a two-part story about a boy who leaves his family and hometown of Prague for Munich, where he fights loneliness but enjoys a new sense of freedom.

In 1899 Rilke made the first of two pivotal trips to Russia with Salome, discovering what he termed his "spiritual fatherland" in both the people and the landscape. There Rilke met Leo Tolstoy, L. O. Pasternak (father of Boris Pasternak), and the peasant poet Spiridon Droschin, whose works Rilke translated into German. These trips provided Rilke with the poetic material and inspiration essential to his developing philosophy of existential materialism and art as religion. Inspired by the lives of the Russian people, whom the poet considered more devoutly spiritual than other Europeans, Rilke's work during this period often featured traditional Christian imagery and concepts, but presented art as the sole redeemer of humanity. Soon after his return from Russia in 1900, he began writing Das Stundenbuch enthaltend die drei Bücher: Vom moenchischen Leben; Von der Pilgerschaft; Von der Armuth und vom Tode, a collection that "marked for him the end of an epoch," according to Bowra and others. This book, translated as The Book of Hours; Comprising the Three Books: Of the Monastic Life, Of Pilgrimage, Of Poverty and Death, consists of a series of prayers about the search for God. Because of this concern, Hound and Horn critic Hester Pickman noted that the book "might have fallen out of the writings of Christian contemplatives," except that "the essential pattern is an inversion of theirs. God is not light but darkness—not a father, but a son, not the creator but the created. He and not man is our neighbor for men are infinitely far from each other. They must seek God, not where one or two are gathered in His name, but alone."

Whenever Rilke writes about God, however, he is not referring to the deity in the traditional sense, but rather uses the term to refer to the life force, or nature, or an all-embodying, pantheistic consciousness that is only slowly coming to realize its existence. "Extending the idea of evolution," Eudo C. Mason explained in an introduction to The Book of Hours, "and inspired probably also in some measure by Nietzsche's idea of the Superman, Rilke arrives at the paradoxical conception of God as the final result instead of the first cause of the cosmic process." Holding in contempt "all other more traditional forms of devoutness, which . . . merely 'accept God as a given fact,'" Rilke did not deny God's existence, but insisted that all possibilities about the nature of life be given equal consideration.

The real theme of The Book of Hours, concluded Mason, is the poet's "own inner life," his struggles toward comprehension, and, "above all . . . his perils as a poet." The second major concept in The Book of Hours is Rilke's apotheosis of art. "'Religion is the art of those who are uncreative,'" Mason quoted Rilke as having said; the poet's work is often concerned with the artist's role in society and with his inner doubts about his belief in poetry's superiority. Because of the firm establishment of these two themes in The Book of Hours, the collection "is essential to the understanding of what comes afterwards" in Rilke's writing, attested Pickman. The Book of Hours was also another of the poet's most popular works, second only to The Story of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke during his lifetime. But despite being a "very beautiful" book, it also "remains too constantly abstract. It lacks the solid reality of great poetry," according to Pickman.

Rilke fixed his verse more firmly in reality in his next major poetry collection, Neue Gedichte ( New Poems ). The major influence behind this work was Rilke's association with the famous French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. Working as Rodin's secretary from 1905 to 1906, Rilke gained a greater appreciation of the work ethic. More importantly, however, the poet's verses became objective, evolving from an impressionistic, personal vision to the representation of this vision with impersonal symbolism. He referred to this type of poetry as Dinggedichte (thing poems). These verses employed a simple vocabulary to describe concrete subjects experienced in everyday life. Having learned the skill of perceptive observation from Rodin and, later, from the French painter Paul Cezanne, Rilke "sustained for a little while the ability to write without inspiration, to transform his observations—indeed his whole life—into art," according to Nancy Willard, author of Testimony of the Invisible Man. The "'thingness' of these poems," explained Erich Heller in The Artist's Journey into the Interior and Other Essays, "reflects not the harmony in which an inner self lives with its 'objects'; it reflects a troubled inner self immersing itself in 'the things.'" But although this objective approach innovatively addressed subjects never before recognized by other poets and created "dazzling poems," Rilke realized, according to Willard, that it "did not really open the secret of living things."

By this point in his career, Rilke was reaching a crisis in his art that revealed itself both in New Poems and his only major prose work, the novel Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge ( The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge). These works express the poet's growing doubts about whether anything existed that was superior to mankind and his world. This, in turn, brought into question Rilke's very reason for writing poetry: the search for deeper meaning in life through art. In her book, Rainer Maria Rilke, E. M. Butler averred that " The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge" marks a crisis in Rilke's attitude to God, a crisis which might be hailed as the loss of a delusion, or deplored as the loss of an ideal. . . . [His concept of the] future artist-god had never been more than a sublime hypothesis, deriving from Rilke's belief in the creative and transforming powers of art." Having failed, in his mind, to accurately represent God in his poetry, Rilke attempted to "transform life into art" in his New Poems. "What he learnt," Butler continued, "is what every artist has to face sooner or later, the realisation that life is much more creative than art. So that his mythological dream, the apotheosis of art, appeared to be founded on delusion. Either art was not as creative as he had thought, or he was not such a great artist. Both these doubts were paralyzing, and quite sufficient to account for the terrible apprehension present in every line of Malte Laurids Brigge. For this skepticism struck at the roots of his reason and justification for existence. Either he was the prophet of a new religion, or he was nobody."

The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge is a loosely autobiographical novel about a student who is the last descendant of a noble Danish family (Rilke believed, erroneously according to his biographers, that he was distantly related to Carinthian nobility), and follows his life from his birth to a grim, poverty-stricken life as a student in Paris. Images of death and decay (especially in the Paris scenes) and Malte's fear of death are a continuous presence throughout the narrative. Because Rilke never finished The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (in one of his letters, the author told a friend he ended the book "'out of exhaustion,'" reported Schoolfield) Malte's ultimate fate is left ambiguous. In one of Rilke's letters translated in Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke: 1910-1926, the author remarked that the most significant question in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge is: "[How] is it possible to live when after all the elements of this life are utterly incomprehensible to us?" As William Rose determined in Rainer Maria Rilke: Aspects of His Mind and Poetry, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge actually was kind of a catharsis for the author in which "Rilke gave full vent . . . to the fears which haunted him." "Without the Notebooks behind him," Wood concluded, "the poet would hardly have ventured" to write the Duino Elegies in 1912.

Duino Elegies "might well be called the greatest set of poems of modern times," claimed Colin Wilson, author of Religion and the Rebel. Wilson averred, "They have had as much influence in German-speaking countries as [T. S. Eliot's] The Waste Land has in England and America." Having discovered a dead end in the objective poetry with which he experimented in New Poems, Rilke once again turned to his own personal vision to find solutions to questions about the purpose of human life and the poet's role in society. Duino Elegies finally resolved these puzzles to Rilke's own satisfaction. Called Duino Elegies because Rilke began writing them in 1912 while staying at Duino Castle on the Italian Adriatic coast, the collection took ten years to complete, due to an inspiration-stifling depression the poet suffered during and after World War I. When his inspiration returned, however, the poet wrote a total of eleven lengthy poems for the book; later this was edited down to ten poems. The unifying poetic image that Rilke employs throughout Duino Elegies is that of angels, which carry many meanings, albeit not the usual Christian connotations. The angels represent a higher force in life, both beautiful and terrible, completely indifferent to mankind; they represent the power of poetic vision, as well as Rilke's personal struggle to reconcile art and life.The Duino angels thus allowed Rilke to objectify abstract ideas as he had done in New Poems, while not limiting him to the mundane materialism that was incapable of thoroughly illustrating philosophical issues.

The revolutionary poetic philosophy that Rilke proposed in Duino Elegies is considered significant to many literary scholars. "No poet before him had been brave enough to accept the whole of [the dark side of the] world, as if it were unquestionably valid and potentially universal," asserted Conrad Aiken in his Collected Criticism. Like the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who lived about the same time as Rilke, the poet determined his objective to be "[praise] and celebration in the face of and in full consciousness of the facts that had caused other minds to assume an attitude of negativity," wrote Emergence from Chaos author Stuart Holroyd. But even though the final purpose of Duino Elegies is to praise existence, the "predominant note . . . is one of lament." By overcoming his quandaries in this collection, Rilke was completely free to devote his poetry to praise in Sonnets to Orpheus.

"The Sonnets are the songs of his victory," affirmed Bowra in The Heritage of Symbolism. "In the Sonnets," Bowra wrote, "Rilke shows what poetry meant to him, what he got from it and what he hoped for it. The dominating mood is joy. It is a complement to the distress and anxiety of the Elegies, and in Rilke's whole performance the two books must be taken together." Aiken similarly commented that the " Sonnets to Orpheus . . . is, with the Elegies, Rilke's finest work—the two books really belong together, shine the better for each other's presence."

In the last few years of his life, Rilke was inspired by such French poets as Paul Valery and Jean Cocteau, and wrote most of his last verses in French. Always a sickly man, the poet succumbed to leukemia in 1926 while staying at the Valmont sanatorium near Lake Geneva. On his deathbed, he remained true to his anti-Christian beliefs and refused the company of a priest. Hermann Hesse summed up Rilke's evolution as a poet in his book, My Belief: Essays on Life and Art: "Remarkable, this journey from the youthful music of Bohemian folk poetry . . . to Orpheus, remarkable how . . . his mastery of form increases, penetrates deeper and deeper into his problems! And at each stage now and again the miracle occurs, his delicate, hesitant, anxiety-prone person withdraws, and through him resounds the music of the universe; like the basin of a fountain he becomes at once instrument and ear." Without his parents' religious ideals to comfort him, Rilke found peace in his art. As Holroyd concluded, the "poetry which Rilke wrote to express and extend his experience . . . is one of the most successful attempts a modern man has made to orientate himself within his chaotic world."




  • Leben und Lieder: Bilder und Tagebuchblaetter (poems; main title means "Life and Songs"), Kattentidt, 1894.
  • Larenopfer (poems; title means "Offering to the Lares"), Dominicus (Prague), 1896.
  • Todtentaenze: Zwielicht-Skizzen aus unseren Tagen, Loewit & Lamberg (Prague), 1896.
  • Traumgekroent: Neue Gedichte (title means "Crowned with Dreams: New Poems"), Friesenhahn (Leipzig), 1896.
  • Wegwarten (poems), Selbstverlag (Prague), 1896.
  • In Fruehfrost: Ein Stueck Daemmerung, Drei Vorgaenge (play), Theaterverlag O. R. Eirich (Vienna), 1897.
  • Advent (poems), Friesenhahn, 1898.
  • Ohne Gegenwart: Drama in zwei Akten, Entsch (Berlin), 1898.
  • Am Leben hin: Novellen und Skizzen, Bonz (Stuttgart), 1898.
  • Zwei Prager Geschichten, Bonz, 1899, translation by Angela Esterhammer published as Two Stories of Prague, University Press of New England, 1994.
  • Mir zur Feier: Gedichte (poems), Meyer (Berlin), 1899, reprinted as Die fruehen Gedichte, Insel (Germany), 1909, Ungar, 1943.
  • Vom lieben Gott und Anderes: An Grosse für Kinder erzaehlt (short stories), Schuster & Loeffler, 1900, published as Geschichten vom lieben Gott, Insel, 1904, Ungar, 1942, translation by Nora Purtscher-Wydenbruck and M. D. Herter Norton published as Stories of God, Norton, 1932, revised edition, 1963.
  • Das taegliche Leben: Drama in zwei Akten (play; first produced in Berlin at the Residenz Theater, December, 1901), Langen (Munich), 1902.
  • Zur Einweihung der Kunsthalle am 15. Februar 1902: Festspielszene, [Bremen], 1902.
  • Buch der Bilder (poems), Juncker (Berlin), 1902, enlarged edition, 1906, Ungar, 1943.
  • Die Letzten, Juncker, 1902.
  • Worpswede: Fritz Mackenses, Otto Modersohn, Fritz Overbeck, Hans am Ende, Heinrich Vogeler, Velhagen & Klasing, 1903.
  • Auguste Rodin (biography), Bard (Berlin), 1903, translation by Jesse Lemont and Hans Trausil published as Auguste Rodin, Sunwise Turn (New York City), 1919, published as Rodin, Haskell Booksellers, 1974.
  • Das Stundenbuch enthaltend die drei Bücher: Vom mönchischen Leben; Von der Pilgerschaft; Von der Armuth und vom Tode (poems), Insel, 1905, translation by Babette Deutsch published as Poems from the Book of Hours, New Directions, 1941, reprinted, 1975, translation by A. L. Peck published as The Book of Hours; Comprising the Three Books: Of the Monastic Life, Of Pilgrimage, Of Poverty and Death, Hogarth, 1961, published as Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, Riverhead Books, 1996.
  • Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (prose poem), Juncker, 1906, translation by B. J. Morse published as The Story of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke, Osnabrueck, 1927, translation by Herter Norton published as The Tale of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke, Norton, 1932, translation by Stephen Mitchell published as The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke, Arion, 1983, new edition, Graywolf Press, 1985.
  • 1907-08 Neue Gedichte (poems), two volumes, Insel, translation by J. B. Leishman published as New Poems, New Directions, 1964 , translation by Edward Snow, North Point Press, Volume 1: New Poems (1907), 1984, Volume 2: New Poems: The Other Part (1908), 1987.
  • Requiem (poems), Insel, 1909.
  • Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (novel), Insel, 1910, translation by John Linton published as The Journal of My Other Self, Norton, 1930, translation by Norton published as The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Norton, 1964, translation by Mitchell published as The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Random House, 1983.
  • Erste Gedichten, Insel, 1913, Ungar, 1947.
  • Das Marien-Leben, Insel, 1913, translation by R. G. L. Barrett published as The Life of the Virgin Mary, Triltsch (Würzburg), 1921, translation by Stephen Spender published as The Life of the Virgin Mary, Philosophical Library, 1951.
  • Poems, translation by Lemont, Wright, 1918.
  • Aus der Fruehzeit Rainer Maria Rilke: Vers, Prosa, Drama (1894-1899), edited by Fritz Adolf Huenich, Bibliophilenabend (Leipzig), 1921.
  • Mitsou: Quarante images par Baltusz, Rotapfel, 1921.
  • Puppen, Hyperion (Munich), 1921.
  • Duineser Elegien (poems; also see below), Insel, 1923, Ungar, 1944, translation by V. Sackville-West and Edward Sackville-West published as Duineser Elegien: Elegies from the Castle of Duino, Hogarth, 1931, translation by Leishman and Spender published as Duino Elegies, Norton, 1939, translation by Robert Hunter and Gary Miranda published as Duino Elegies, Breitenbush, 1981, translated by Stephen Cohn, preface by Peter Porter, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1998, translated by John Waterfield, E. Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1999.
  • Die Sonette an Orpheus: Geschrieben als ein Grab-Mal fuer Wera Ouckama Knoop (poems; also see below), Insel, 1923, Ungar, 1945, translation by Leishman published as Sonnets to Orpheus, Written as a Monument for Wera Ouckama Knoop, Hogarth, 1936, translation by Norton published as Sonnets to Orpheus, Norton, 1942, translation by Mitchell published as The Sonnets to Orpheus, Simon & Schuster, 1986, published as Os Sonetos a Orfeu, Quetzal Editores, 1994.
  • Vergers suivi des Quatrains Valaisans, Editions de la Nouvelle Revue Francaise (Paris), 1926, translation by Alfred Poulin, Jr., published as Orchards, Graywolf Press (Port Townsend, Wash.), 1982.
  • Gesammelte Werke, six volumes, Insel, 1927.
  • Les Fenetres: Dix Poemes, Officina Sanctandreana (Paris), 1927, translation by Poulin published as The Windows in The Roses and the Windows, Graywolf Press, 1979.
  • Les Roses, Stols (Bussum, Netherlands), 1927, translation by Poulin published as The Roses in The Roses and the Windows, Graywolf Press, 1979.
  • Erzaehlungen und Skizzen aus der Fruehzeit, Insel, 1928.
  • Ewald Tragy: Erzaehlung, Heller (Munich), 1929, Johannespresse (New York City), 1944, translation by Lola Gruenthal published as Ewald Tragy, Twayne, 1958.
  • Verse und Prosa aus dem Nachlass, Gesellschaft der Freunde der Deutschen Buecherei (Leipzig), 1929.
  • 1930-33 Gesammelte Gedichte, four volumes, Insel.
  • Ueber den jungen Dichter, [Hamburg], 1931.
  • Gedichte, edited by Katharina Kippenberg, Insel, 1931, Ungar, 1947.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke auf Capri: Gespraeche, edited by Leopold von Schloezer, Jess (Dresden), 1931.
  • Spaete Gedichte, Insel, 1934.
  • Bücher, Theater, Kunst, edited by Richard von Mises, Jahoda & Siegel (Vienna), 1934.
  • Der ausgewaehlten Gedichten anderer Teil, edited by Kippenberg, Insel, 1935.
  • Ausgewaehlte Werke, two volumes, edited by Ruth Sieber-Rilke, Carl Sieber, and Ernst Zinn, Insel, 1938.
  • Translations from the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Norton, Norton, 1938, reprinted, 1962.
  • Fifty Selected Poems with English Translations, translation by C. F. MacIntyre, University of California Press, 1940.
  • Selected Poems, translation by Leishman, Hogarth, 1941.
  • Tagebücher aus der Fruehzeit, edited by Sieber-Rilke, Insel, 1942, translation by Snow and Michael Winkler published as Diaries of a Young Poet, Norton, 1997.
  • Briefe, Verse und Prosa aus dem Jahre 1896, two volumes, Johannespresse, 1946.
  • Thirty-one Poems, translation by Ludwig Lewisohn, Ackerman, 1946.
  • Freundschaft mit Rainer Maria Rilke: Begegnungen, Gespraeche, Briefe und Aufzeichnungen mitgeteilt durch Elga Maria Nevar, Zuest (Buempliz), 1946.
  • Five Prose Pieces, translation by Carl Niemeyer, Cummington Press (Cummington, MA), 1947.
  • Gedichte, edited by Hermann Kunisch, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Goettingen), 1947.
  • Gedichte in franzoesicher Sprache, edited by Thankmar von Muenchhausen, Insel, 1949.
  • Aus Rainer Maria Rilkes Nachlass, four volumes, Insel, 1950, Volume 1: Aus dem Nachlass des Grafen C. W., translation by Leishman as From the Remains of Count C. W., Hogarth, 1952.
  • Werke: Auswahl in zwei Baenden, two volumes, Insel, 1953.
  • Gedichte, 1909-26: Sammlung der verstreuten und nachgelassenen Gedichte aus den mittleren und spaeteren Jahren, translation, with additions, by Leishman published as Poems 1906 to 1926, Laughlin (Norfolk, CT), 1953, reprinted, Knopf, 1996.
  • Selected Works, two volumes, translation by G. Craig Houston and Leishman, Hogarth, 1954, New Directions, 1960.
  • 1955-66 Saemtliche Werke, six volumes, edited by Zinn, Insel.
  • Angel Songs/ Engellieder (bilingual), translation by Rhoda Coghill, Dolmen Press (Dublin), 1958.
  • Die Turnstunde und andere Novellen (novella collection), edited by Fritz Froehling, Hyperion, 1959.
  • Selected Works: Prose and Poetry, two volumes, 1960.
  • Poems, edited by G. W. McKay, Oxford University Press, 1965.
  • Werke in drei Baenden, three volumes, Insel, 1966.
  • Gedichte: Eine Auswahl, Reclam (Stuttgart), 1966.
  • Visions of Christ: A Posthumous Cycle of Poems, translation by Aaron Kramer, edited by Siegfried Mandel, University of Colorado Press, 1967.
  • Das Testament, edited by Zinn, Insel, 1975.
  • Holding Out: Poems, translation by Rika Lesser, Abbatoir Editions (Omaha, NE), 1975.
  • Possibility of Being: A Selection of Poems, translation by Leishman, New Directions, 1977.
  • The Voices, translation by Robert Bly, Ally Press, 1977.
  • Duino Elegies [and] The Sonnets to Orpheus, translation by Poulin, Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
  • Werke: In 3 Baenden, three volumes, edited by Horst Nalewski, Insel, 1978.
  • Where Silence Reigns: Selected Prose, New Directions, 1978.
  • Nine Plays, translation by Klaus Phillips and John Locke, Ungar, 1979.
  • I Am Too Alone in the World: Ten Poems, translation by Bly, Silver Hands Press, 1980.
  • Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Bly, Harper, 1980.
  • Requiem for a Woman, and Selected Lyric Poems, translation by Andy Gaus, Threshold Books (Putney, Vt.), 1981.
  • An Unofficial Rilke: Poems 1912-1926, edited and with translation by Michael Hamburger, Anvil Press, 1981.
  • Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, edited and with translation by Mitchell, Random House, 1982.
  • The Astonishment of Origins: French Sequences, translation from the French by Poulin, Graywolf Press, 1982.
  • Selected Poems, translation by A. E. Flemming, Golden Smith (St. Petersburg, Fla.), 1983.
  • The Unknown Rilke: Selected Poems, translation by Franz Wright, Oberlin College, 1983.
  • The Migration of Powers: French Poems, translation by Poulin, Graywolf Press, 1984.
  • Between Roots: Selected Poems, translation by Lesser, Princeton University Press, 1986.
  • The Complete French Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Poulin, Graywolf Press, 1986.
  • Die Briefe en Karl und Elisabeth von der Heydt (letters), Insel, 1986.
  • Rodin and Other Prose Pieces, translation by G. Craig Houston, Salem House, 1987.
  • Shadows on the Sundial (selected poems), edited by Stanley H. Barkan, translation by Norbert Krapf, Cross-Cultural Communications, 1989.
  • The Best of Rilke, translation by Walter Arndt, University Press of New England, 1989.
  • The Book of Images (selected poems), translation by Snow, North Point, 1991.
  • Rilke: Poisia-Coisa, edited by Augusto de Campos, Imago, 1994.
  • Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke: The Book of Fresh Beginnings, translated by David Young, Oberlin College, 1994.
  • Two Stories of Prague: "King Bohush" and "The Siblings," translation by Angela Estherhammer, University Press of New England, 1994.
  • Uncollected Poems, translated by Snow, North Point Press, 1995.
  • Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, edited by Mitchell, Modern Library, 1995.
  • The Duino Elegies: A Critical Presentation, introduction, translation, and commentary by Jeno Platthy, Federation of International Poetry Associatons (Evansville, IN), 1999.
  • The Essential Rilke, selected and translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1999.
  • The Duino Elegies: Bilingual Edition, translated by Snow, North Point Press, 2000.


  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonette nach dem Portugiesischen, Insel, 1908.
  • Maurice de Guerin, Der Kentaur, Insel, 1911.
  • Die Liebe der Magdalena: Ein franzoesischer Sermon, gezogen durch den Abbe Joseph Bonnet aus dem Ms. Q I 14 der Kaiserlichen Bibliothek zu St. Petersburg, Insel, 1912.
  • Marianna Alcoforado, Portugiesische Briefe, Insel, 1913.
  • Andre Gide, Die Rueckkehr des verlorenen Sohnes, Insel, 1914.
  • Die vierundzwanzig Sonette der Louise Labe, Lyoneserin, 1555, Insel, 1918.
  • Paul Valery, Gedichte, Insel, 1925.
  • Valery, Eupalinos oder Ueber die Architektur, Insel, 1927.
  • Uebertragungen, Insel, 1927.
  • Dichtungen des Michelangelo, Insel, 1936.
  • Gedichte aus fremden Sprachen, Ungar, 1947.
  • Maurice Maeterlinck, Die sieben Jungfrauen von Orlamuende, Dynamo (Liege), 1967.


  • Briefe an Auguste Rodin, Insel, 1928.
  • Briefe aus den Jahren 1902 bis 1906, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Sieber, Insel, 1929.
  • Briefe an einen jungen Dichter, Insel, 1929, translation by Norton published as Letters to a Young Poet, Norton, 1934, translation by K. W. Maurer published as Letters to a Young Poet, Langley (London), 1943, revised edition, Norton, 1963, translation by Mitchell, Random House, 1984, translation by Joan J. Burnham, foreword by Kent Nerburn, New World Library (Novato, CA), 2000.
  • Briefe an eine junge Frau, Insel, 1930, translation by Maurer published as Letters to a Young Woman, Langley, 1945.
  • Briefe aus den Jahren 1906 bis 1907, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Sieber, Insel, 1930.
  • Briefe und Tagebuecher aus der Fruehzeit, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Sieber, Insel, 1931.
  • Briefe aus den Jahren 1907 bis 1914, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Sieber, Insel, 1933.
  • Ueber Gott: Zwei Briefe, Insel, 1933.
  • Briefe an seinen Verleger 1906 bis 1926, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Sieber, Insel, 1934.
  • Briefe aus Muzot 1921 bis 1926, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Sieber, Insel, 1935.
  • 1936-39 Gesammelte Briefe, six volumes, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Sieber, Insel.
  • Lettres a une Amie Venitienne, Asmus, 1941.
  • Briefe an eine Freundin, edited by Herbert Steiner, Wells College Press, 1944.
  • Briefe, Oltener Buecherfreunde (Olten), 1945.
  • Briefe an Baronesse von Oe, edited by von Mises, Johannespresse, 1945.
  • Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Jane Bannard Greene and Norton, Norton, Volume 1: 1892-1910, 1945, reprinted, 1969, Volume 2: 1910-1926, 1948, reprinted, 1969.
  • Briefe an eine Reisegefaehrtin: Eine Begegnung mit Rainer Maria Rilke, Ibach (Vienna), 1947.
  • Briefe an das Ehepaar S. Fischer, edited by Hedwig Fischer, Classen (Zurich), 1947.
  • La derniere amitie de Rainer Maria Rilke: Lettres inedites de Rilke a Madame Eloui Bey, edited by Edmond Jaloux, Laffont (Paris), 1949, translation by William H. Kennedy published as Rainer Maria Rilke: His Last Friendship; Unpublished Letters to Mrs. Eloui Bey, Philosophical Library, 1952.
  • "So lass ich mich zu traeumen gehen," Mader, 1949, translation by Heinz Norden published as Letters to Benvenuta, Philosophical Library, 1951.
  • Briefe an seinen Verleger, two volumes, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Sieber, Insel, 1949.
  • Briefe, two volumes, edited by Sieber-Rilke and Karl Altheim, Insel, 1950.
  • Die Briefe an Graefin Sizzo, 1921 bis 1926, Insel, 1950, enlarged edition, edited by Ingeborg Schnack, Insel, 1977.
  • Briefwechsel in Gedichten mit Erika Mitterer 1924 bis 1926, Insel, 1950, translation by N. K. Cruickshank published as Correspondence in Verse with Erika Mitterer, Hogarth, 1953.
  • Lettres francaise a Merline 1919-1922, du Seuil (Paris), 1950, translation by Violet M. Macdonald published as Letters to Merline, 1919-1922, Methuen, 1951.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/Marie von Thurn und Taxis: Briefwechsel, two volumes, edited by Zinn, Niehans & Rokitansky (Zurich), 1951 , translation by Nora Wydenbruck published as The Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke and Princess Marie von Thurn and Taxis, New Directions, 1958.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/Lou Andreas-Salome, Briefwechsel, edited by Ernst Pfeiffer, Insel, 1952, revised and enlarged edition, 1975.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/Andre Gide: Correspondance 1909-1926, edited by Renee Lang, Correa (Paris), 1952.
  • Briefe über Cezanne, edited by Clara Rilke, Insel, 1952, translation by Joel Agee published as Letters on Cezanne, Fromm, 1985.
  • Die Briefe an Frau Gudi Noelke aus Rilkes Schweizer Jahren, edited by Paul Obermueller, Insel, 1953, translation by Macdonald published as Letters to Frau Gudi Noelke during His Life in Switzerland, Hogarth, 1955.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/ Katharina Kippenberg: Briefwechsel, edited by Bettina von Bomhard, Insel, 1954.
  • Briefwechsel mit Benvenuta, edited by Kurt Leonhard, Bechtle (Esslingen), 1954, translation by Agee published as Rilke and Benvenuta: An Intimate Correspondence, Fromm, 1987.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke et Merline: Correspondance 1920-1926, edited by Dieter Basserman, Niehans (Zurich), 1954, reprinted, Paragon House, 1988.
  • Lettres milanaises 1921-1926, edited by Lang, Plon (Paris), 1956.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/Inge Junghanns: Briefwechsel, edited by Wolfgang Herwig, Insel, 1959.
  • Selected Letters, edited by Harry T. Moore, Doubleday, 1960.
  • Wartime Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1914-1921, translation by Norton, Norton, 1964.
  • Briefe an Sidonie Nadherny von Borutin, edited by Bernhard Blume, Insel, 1973.
  • Über Dichtung und Kunst, edited by Hartmut Engelhardt, Suhrkamp (Frankfurt), 1974.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations, edited by John J. L. Mood, Norton, 1975.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/Helene von Nostitz: Briefwechsel, edited by Oswalt von Nostitz, Insel, 1976.
  • Briefe an Nanny Wunderly-Volkart, two volumes, edited by Niklaus Bigler and Raetus Luck, Insel, 1977.
  • Lettres autour d'un jardin, La Delirante (Paris), 1977.
  • Hugo von Hofmannsthal/ Rainer Maria Rilke: Briefwechsel, edited by Rudolph Hirsch and Schnack, Suhrkamp, 1978.
  • Briefe an Axel Juncker, edited by Renate Scharffenberg, Insel, 1979.
  • Briefwechsel mit Rolf Freiherrn von Ungern-Sternberg, edited by Knorad Kratzsch, Insel Verlag Anton Kippenberg (Leipzig), 1980.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/Anita Forrer: Briefwechsel, edited by Magda Kerenyi, Leipzig (Frankfurt am Main), 1982.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/Marina Zwetajewa/Boris Pasternak: Briefwechsel, edited by Jewgenij Pasternak, Jelena Pasternak, and Konstantin M. Asadowski, Insel, 1983, translation by Margaret Wettlin and Walter Arndt published as Letters Summer 1926, Harcourt, 1985.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke: Briefe an Ernst Norlind, edited by Paul Astroem, Paul Astroems Forlag (Partille), 1986.
  • Rilke und Russland: Briefe, Erinnerungen, Gedichte, edited by Asadowski, Russian text translation by Ulrike Hirschberg, Insel, 1986.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke: Briefwechsel mit Regina Ullman und Ellen Delp, edited by Walter Simon, Insel, 1987.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke/Stefan Zweig: Briefe und Dokumente, edited by Donald Prater, Insel, 1987.
  • Briefe an Schweizer Freunde, Insel, 1994.
  • Briefwechsel mit Anton Kippenberg 1906 bis 1926, edited by Ingeorg Schnack and Renate Scharffenberg, Insel, 1995.

Further Readings



  • Aiken, Conrad, Collected Criticism, Oxford University Press, 1968.
  • Baron, Frank, Ernst S. Dick, and Warren R. Maurer, editors, Rainer Maria Rilke: The Alchemy of Alienation, Regents Press of Kansas, 1980.
  • Borkowska, Ewa, From Donne to Celan: Logo(theo)logical Patterns in Poetry. Uniwersytet Slnaskiego, 1994.
  • Bowra, C. M., The Heritage of Symbolism, Macmillan, 1943.
  • Burnshaw, Stanley, editor, The Poem Itself, Holt, 1960.
  • Butler, E. M., Rainer Maria Rilke, Macmillan, 1941.
  • Casey, Timothy J., Rainer Maria Rilke: A Centenary Essay, Macmillan, 1976.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 81: Austrian Fiction Writers, 1874-1913, Gale, 1989.
  • Feste-McCormack, Diana, The City as Catalyst: A Study of Ten Novels, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1979.
  • Freedman, Ralph, Life of a Poet: A Biography of Rainer Maria Rilke, Farrar, Straus, 1995.
  • Fuerst, Norbert, Phases of Rilke, Indiana University Press, 1958.
  • Gass, William, Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation, Knopf, 2000.
  • Graff, W. L., Rainer Maria Rilke: Creative Anguish of a Modern Poet, Princeton University Press, 1956.
  • Gray, Ronald, The German Tradition in Literature: 1971-1945, Cambridge at the University Press, 1965.
  • Guardini, Romano, Rilke's "Duino Elegies": An Interpretation, translated by K. G. Knight, Henry Regnery, 1961.
  • Heep, Hartmut, A Different Poem: Rainer Maria Rilke's American Translators Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, and Robert Bly, P. Lang, 1996.
  • Heller, Erich, The Artist's Journey into the Interior and Other Essays, Random House, 1965.
  • Hesse, Hermann, My Belief: Essays on Life and Art, Farrar, Straus, 1974.
  • Holyroyd, Stuart, Emergence from Chaos, Houghton Mifflin, 1957.
  • Komar, Kathleen L., Transcending Angels: Rainer Maria Rilke's "Duino Elegies," University of Nebraska Press, 1987.
  • Lewisohn, Ludwig, Cities and Men, Harper & Brothers, 1927.
  • Mandel, Siegfried, Rainer Maria Rilke: The Poetic Instinct, edited by Harry T. Moore, Southern Illinois University Press, 1965.
  • Olivero, Federico, Rainer Maria Rilke: A Study in Poetry and Mysticism, W. Heffer & Sons, 1931.
  • Peters, H. F., Rainer Maria Rilke: Masks and the Man, University of Washington Press, 1960.
  • Poetry Criticism: Volume 2, Gale, 1991.
  • Pollard, Percival, Masks and Minstrels of New Germany, Johw W. Luce and Company, 1911.
  • Prater, Donald, A Ringing Glass: The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke, Clarendon Press, 1986.
  • Rilke, Rainer Maria, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke: 1910-1926, Volume 2, Norton, 1948.
  • Rilke, Rainer Maria, The Book of Hours: Comprising the Three Books, Of the Monastic Life, Of Pilgrimage, Of Poverty and Death, Hogarth Press, 1961.
  • Rilke, Rainer Maria, Nine Plays, Ungar, 1979.
  • Rilke, Rainer Maria, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Vintage Books, 1985.
  • Rose, William, and G. Craig Houston, editors, Rainer Maria Rilke: Aspects of His Mind and His Poetry, Gordian, 1970.
  • Sword, Helen, Engendering Inspiration: Visionary Strategies in Rilke, Lawrence, and H. D., University of Michigan Press, 1995.
  • Tavis, Anna A., Rilke's Russia: A Cultural Encounter, Northwestern University Press, 1994.
  • Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 1, 1978, Volume 6, 1982, Volume 19, 1986.
  • Van Heerikhuizen, F. W., Rainer Maria Rilke: His Life and Work, translated by Fernand G. Renier and Anne Cliff, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951.
  • Willard, Nancy, Testimony of the Invisible Man, University of Missouri Press, 1970.
  • Wilson, Colin, Religion and the Rebel, Houghton Mifflin, 1957.
  • Wood, Frank,Rainer Maria Rilke: The Ring of Forms, University of Minnesota Press, 1958.
  • Ziolkowski, Theodore, Dimensions of the Modern Novel: German Texts and European Contexts, Princeton University Press, 1969.


  • Booklist, April 15, 1994, p. 1516.
  • Boston Review, summer 2000, pp. 58-59.
  • Choice, November, 1989, p. 490.
  • Commonweal, March 9, 1990, pp. 153-154.
  • Comparative Literature, summer, 1983, pp. 215-246.
  • Hound and Horn, April-June, 1931.
  • Library Journal, June 15, 1991, p. 81; April 1, 1994, p. 136.
  • Listener, December 18, 1975.
  • Modern Austrian Literature, Volume 15, nos. 3 and 4, 1982, pp. 71-90; Volume 15, nos. 3 and 4, 1982, pp. 291-316.
  • Modern Language Notes, January, 1991, p. 255.
  • Modern Language Review, April, 1979.
  • Nation, December 17, 1930; September 26, 1987, pp. 316-318; April 1, 1996, p. 27.
  • New Criterion, January 2000, p. 17.
  • New Republic, September 6, 1939; January 3, 1994, p. 31; July 1, 1996, p. 32; May 8, 2000, p. 38.
  • New Yorker, September 9, 1991, pp. 96-97.
  • New York Herald Tribune Books, December 14, 1930.
  • New York Times Book Review, January 17, 1988, p. 15; April 28, 1996, p. 16.
  • PMLA, October, 1974.
  • Publishers Weekly, February 28, 1994, p. 73; January 10, 2000, p. 60.
  • Small Press, February, 1990, p. 51.
  • Times Literary Supplement, December 12, 1975; July 27-28, 1988, p. 795; May 29, 1992, p. 23.
  • University of Dayton Review, spring, 1981.
  • Washington Post Book World, March 31, 1996, p. 5.
  • World Literature Today, winter, 1988, p. 122.*

Rainer Maria Rilke

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