The Duino Elegies are a collection of ten elegies written by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The poems, 859 lines long in total, were dedicated to the Princess upon their publication in 1923. The poem collection was published in 1923 and is considered one of the most important works of German-language poetry of the 20th century.
About Duino Elegies in brief
The Duino Elegies are a collection of ten elegies written by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The poems, 859 lines long in total, were dedicated to the Princess upon their publication in 1923. During this ten-year period, the elegies languished incomplete for long stretches of time as Rilkes suffered frequently from severe depression. After their publication, the DuinoElegies were quickly recognized by critics and scholars as his most important work. In popular culture, his work is frequently quoted on the subject of love or of angels and referenced in television programs, motion pictures, music and other artistic works, in New Age philosophy and theology, and in self-help books. In 1910, Rilske had completed writing the loosely autobiographical novel, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge. In 1912, he was invited to Duino Castle by Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis, whom he had met a few years before. After the Princess left to join her husband at their Lautschin estate, he spent the next few weeks at the castle preparing to focus on work. Within days, he produced two elegies in the first series and drafted passages and fragments that would later be incorporated into later elegies. The third and fourth elegies were finished in 1913 in Paris, the fourth in early 1915 in Munich, and the fifth in February 1922 in Veyras, in Switzerland’s Rhone Valley. After completing the work, he experienced a severe psychological crisis that lasted for two years.
The effects of the war rendered him unable to write for several years, particularly because of his traumatic experiences being conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army. In 1926, he died of a heart attack at the age of 48, leaving behind a wife and two children. He is buried in the town of Duino, near Trieste, in the Adriatic Sea, near the town where he had lived for most of his adult life, and a daughter who he had married in 1883. He was buried next to his wife, who he married in 1890, in a plot of land that is now the site of the town’s famous Duino Park. The poem collection was published in 1923 and is considered one of the most important works of German-language poetry of the 20th century. It is described as a metamorphosis of the poet’s “ontological torment” and an “impassioned monologue about coming to terms with human existence” discussing themes of man’s loneliness, the perfection of the angels, life and death, love and lovers, and “the task of the poets” The poems employ a rich symbolism of Angels and salvation but not in keeping with typical Christian interpretations. The first elegy begins in an invocation of philosophical despair, asking: “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the hierarchies of angels?” and later declares that every angel is terrifying.