Duino Elegies

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The Duino Elegies (German Duineser Elegien) are a set of ten elegies written in German by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke from 1912 to 1922. Rilke had been visiting Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis in the Duino castle near Trieste in January 1912 and, according to his own recounting, had taken a stroll near the castle, atop the steep cliffs that dropped down to the beach.

Rilke said later he had heard a voice calling to him as he walked near the cliffs, and he had used its words as the opening of the first Elegy: "Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen?" (Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders?).

A cycle of major poems had been in Rilke's mind already before this moment of inspiration, and within days he produced the first two elegies and some fragments which would find their way into the others, including the opening section of the tenth. After this, inspiration for the cycle stopped abruptly and could not be recaptured, although he continued with other poetic drafts.

The completion of the elegies was delayed by Rilke's battle with depression, and also by the First World War which shook the foundations of his beliefs and his way of life; the German-speaking aristocracy among which he had moved and his native country, the Austrian Empire, were among the prime casualties of the war. The cycle was completed only in February 1922, when Rilke was staying at the Muzot castle in Veyras, Rhone Valley, Switzerland. ...
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