A Sketch Map to

Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus

 


An enormous amount has been written about this book, which is well worthy of the attention. Except for the Duino Elegies, also by Rilke, I can't think of anything from the last two centuries to match it.

 

This page only tries to supply minimal initial knowledge helpful for beginners to find their way through the book.  Other information is given by Herter Norton and by Barnstone.

 

I think that the important thing with the Orpheus myth is to take it as it is right here. There isn't really a lot more to know about Orpheus, and knowing it wouldn't be much help in reading Rilke. Orpheus provides Rilke with some vivid situations and events to use as a takeoff point.

 

The index is intended to help the reader notice common themes in the book, especially when they're not adjacent in the text. To me one of the most wonderful things about this book is the way the poems knit together into a unity.

 

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My very brief review of "Sonnette an Orpheus"

 

The Occasion:

 

The occasion of the poem was the death of a lovely young girl, a friend of Rilke's daughter and a talented dancer.

 

The Myth:

 

Orpheus, a poet and singer whose songs worked magic, fell in love with Eurydice. There were bad omens at their wedding, and after a short period of bliss Eurydice died of a snakebite.

 

Orpheus's laments were so powerful that when he went to the underworld to beg for his wife's return, his song melted the rocks and stones, and even the merciless Pluto finally relented.  Eurydice was returned to him, on condition that he not look back at her until he had returned to the land of the living. But just as they were about to pass through the gates of Tartarus, he glanced back at her, and she died again as he watched, this time lost forever.

 

Orpheus returned to the underworld a second time, but this time he was refused entrance. When he returned above, he mourned Eurydice ceaselessly, paying no attention to other women, who in the end, rejected and scorned, drowned out his magic voice with their shrieking and tore him to pieces. His story then tends to merge with that of Dionysus, whose dismembered and dispersed body was thought to come back to life each spring.

 

Like Dionysus, in the classical world Orpheus was the focus of mystery cults, and "Orphism" appears in many different guises.

 

 

Orpheus themes:


Death, the underworld, love, loss, magic, enchantment (even of wild beasts and rocks), transformation, music, poetry, mysteries and secret knowledge, envy, dismemberment, time, permanent/ fleeting, pervasive, heaviness/ lightness, unification/ division, overflow, passage, regeneration, fertility.

 

Son of Apollo (but avatar of Dionysus).

 

Sources:

 

http://www.mythology.com/orpheuseurydice.html

 

Goldsmith, Ulrich K and Maney, W. S., eds., Rainier Maria Rilke: A Verse Concordance to his Complete Lyric Poetry,  Leeds, 1980. (Sonnets to Orpheus is  indexed as # 770 -- # 824).

 

Rilke, Rainier Maria, Sämtliche Werke, Insel-Verlag, Vol. 1, 1955, pp. 731--771.

 

Rilke, Rainier Maria, Sonnets to Orpheus, tr. M.D. Herter-Norton, Norton ,1942 (the most useful translation for those with some German).

 

Rilke, Rainier Maria, Sonnets to Orpheus, tr. Willis Barnstone, Shambhala, 2004 (good notes, bad translation).

 

 

Index:

 

This is the alpha version. It's mostly from my notes, but I also checked it against the Concordance. There are still  some errors of various sorts, some of which I have marked "?". Compounded, derived and inflected forms and words of related meaning are sometimes included under the root and sometimes crossreferenced.

 

There are fifty-five poems in all; Part II begins with the twenty-seventh poem. Unfortunately, I have indexed according to the numbers in the Goldsmith concordance; by subtracting 769 you will get the poem's actual place in the sequence of fifty-five. Thus, #770 in Goldsmith is the first poem in the book, and #824 is the fifty-fifth and last. "Alt", appears in Goldsmith #818, or the forty-ninth poem in the sequence.

 

 

Word

Poem number in Goldsmith

Notes / Related words / Cross-references

Alt
 

818

Uralt 788 783

Apollo

772


 

Atem

773 814 824


 

Atmen

796 797


 

Baum

770 771 813 823


 

Beben
 

770 787

Zittert 773 Walzt 720 Zogern 803 Schwing 779

Bezug/ Zug

775 781 802 808 813


 

Blatt

783 796 797 800 801 803


 

Blühen

802? 809 813 816 829?


 

Blume

783 791 794 800 801 802 809


 

Bogen
 

803

Gebeugt 720

Born
 

786

Brunnen Quelle

Boten

776 793?


 

Brunnen

810


 

Doppel

778


 

Doppel

778 782


 

Eifer

783 812


 

Eile

797 817


 

Einigen
 

771 798?

Vollen 771

Entschwirten
 

779

to Beben

Erde / Irdischen

772 773 780 781 790 794 797 807 809 810 824


 

Erheben
 

787

Stieg

Erz

776 794


 

Eurydike

808


 

Fels
 

776 777

Stein

Ferne

771 781 788 794 807 815 824


 

Flug
 

784 792 794 817

Flucht Erfliegt 792

Freunde

779 785 793 824


 

Frucht

776 782 783 784 812 813


 

Fühlen

776 777 781 802 816 824


 

Ganz

813 785 797


 

Gehorchen
 

774 805

819 erhorchen

Geist

781 805 806 807


 

Gesicht
 

782 797 810 815 816 818

antlitz 823

Glänzen

771 773 783 794 797


 

Gluhen
 

784 797

verglöhn 797

Gott

19


 

Gott

771 772 776 788 793 795 804 811 814 819 821 822


 

Gräber

775 810


 

Hauch

772 777 806


 

Heiteren

??


 

Herr, Herrlichen

783 785 787 789 803 805 817


 

Herz

770 773 776 785 794 795 797 804 808 816 822


 

Hiesig

775 782 815


 

Himmel

777 780 800


 

Hören
 

770 787 795 805 811 812 814 822 823

812 gehören belong 818 unaufhörlich

Innig, innern

804 808 809 816


 

Kind

782 790 804 807 815 819 823


 

Klar

770 771 775 777 782 798 799 816


 

Kraft

783 787 793 800 824


 

Kreis

789


 

Krug

775 802 810 813 819


 

Lacheln

773 797 821


 

Lärmen?

811?


 

Laut

797


 

Lauten

786?? 800??


 

Leben

781 782 800 816


 

Leicht

799 809 816 823


 

Leier

771 772 774 778 786 795 821 823


 

Leise

770 782 804 806


 

Licht

792 797799 800 806 817


 

Lieb

772 788 792 799 807


 

Lied

771 779 788


 

Luft

773 784 796 801 816 817 820


 

Mädchen

771 777 784 797 802 815


 

Metamorphose

774


 

Mild

775 778 804


 

Mund

772 779 782 795 810


 

Musik

781 784 794 805


 

Nacht

776 789 800 814 817 824


 

Namenlos / Name

780 782; 774 784 794 801


 

Neige
 

804 816

Steig Stieg

Ohr

770 771 789 810


 

Orpheus

770 774 823


 

Ort

796 814 815


 

Preise

790 797 808 816 818


 

Quelle
 

777 789 807 811

Brunnen 810

Rand

800 801 806 809 821


 

Raum

777 793 796 799 805 807 821 824


 

Reich

775 778 808


 

Reife

784 812 813 816 818


 

Rein

770 781 784 796 804 805 808 811 823


 

Rinde
 

796

Schale

Rose

774 780? 787? 801


 

Ruhen

800 822 806 813 822


 

Rühmen

775 776 801 804 814 816


 

Schale
 

774 776 784 812

810 Gefass 815 Schussel

Schatten

776 778 794 812


 

Schau
 

775 806 814

Geschaut 797

Schein
 

775 801 810 814 815 820

Erschein 815 775

Schicksal

809 814 815 817 819 822


 

Schlafen

771 783 809 810 814


 

Schleier

771 788


 

Schliess

795 802 807 813 814 815 817


 

Schluss see Schliess
 

813 817

Entschluss 800 805 816

Schmecken
 

782 784

Geschmack

Schön

793 794 795 798 805 823


 

Schritt

781 791 823


 

Schweigen
 

776 779 803 804 811 814 819

Verschweig 770

Schwer
 

773 783 785 809

790?

Schwinden

774 798 808


 

Schwingen

808 813


 

Sein
 

772 732 780 792 796

Sussein 784 Hiersein 774 Dasein 772 805

Selige

773 812 816


 

Sommer

781 812 813


 

Spannen?
 

781 815

Spannung

Spiegel
 

797 798

Spieglung778

Sprachen

783 803 815


 

Spur

795 817


 

Stahl
 

793

Erz 776 794

Staunen

771 807 814


 

Steig
 

792 783 786

Uberstieg 770 Gesteig 804? Neige

Stein
 

774 776 795

Denkstein 774 Fels

Stelle

796 805 811 823


 

Stern

772 777 780 800 823


 

Stille
 

770 777 779 800 804 805 809 811 813 820 822 824

Himmelstillen 792

Stimmen

772 776 777 778


 

Stunde

779 801 818 820


 

Süss

782 784 801 818


 

Tanz

823 784 794 813


 

Teil
 

773 783 785

Verteilt 811 Maschinteil 787

Tempel

770 772 817


 

Tod

771 782 788 802 819 806 808


 

Treib

780 787 791 821 822


 

Über-

770 774 792 793 795


 

Unendlichen

778


 

Verbinden
 

780 781

Einigen 771 Vereint 773 Zweispalt 772

Verborgen

786 812


 

Vereint

773


 

Vergangliche

776


 

Vollen 771


 


 

Wachen
 

771 779 782 806 814 821

Erwachen

Wandel

770 779 788 794 799 807 824


 

Warten

784 802


 

Wasser

779 802 810 816 819 824


 

Weh ? Wehn
 

772 776 789 807 821

Geweiht 811

Wehren

784


 

Weigernden
 

784

Beben

Wein

776 783 824


 

Weite

775 776 780 782 788 789 793 798 810 815


 

Welk

809 812


 

Welt

771 785 788 796 800 811 821


 

Wenden

772 780 807 813


 

Werbung

772 776


 

Wiese

789 800 809 812


 

Winde

772 792 796 804 807 809 821


 

Wink
 

770 811

Ruhewink 800

Wurzel

762 775 783 790 822


 

Zärtlich

773 812


 

Zauber
 

775 785 824

779

Zeichen

806 813 820


 

Zeigen

794


 

Zeit

791 798 804 806 819 822


 

Zweig

775 786 816


 

Zweispalt

772


 

Zwisch

713


 

Zwischen

783 798 802 815 816 821


 

I am emersonj at gmail dot com.

Original materials copyright John J Emerson

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