Rilke, who is "widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets",  began writing the elegies in while a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis — at Duino Castle , near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. The poems, lines long in total,  were dedicated to the Princess upon their publication in During this ten-year period, the elegies languished incomplete for long stretches of time as Rilke suffered frequently from severe depression —some of which was caused by the events of World War I and being conscripted into military service. Aside from brief episodes of writing in and , Rilke did not return to the work until a few years after the war ended.
Reading in the Dark
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For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we can still barely endure, and while we stand in wonder it coolly disdains to destroy us. Every Angel is terrifying. And so I grip myself and choke down that call note of dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we turn to in our need? Not Angels, not humans, and the sly animals see at once how little at home we are in the interpreted world. It is easier on lovers? Ah, they only use each other to mask their fates. Fling the emptiness in your arms out into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds will feel the increase of air with more passionate flight.
Share this poem:. Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies? For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure and are awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us. Each single angel is terrifying. And so I force myself, swallow and hold back the surging call of my dark sobbing. Oh, to whom can we turn for help? Not angels, not humans; and even the knowing animals are aware that we feel little secure and at home in our interpreted world. There remains perhaps some tree on a hillside daily for us to see; yesterday's street remains for us stayed, moved in with us and showed no signs of leaving. Oh, and the night, the night, when the wind full of cosmic space invades our frightened faces. Whom would it not remain for -that longed-after, gently disenchanting night, painfully there for the solitary heart to achieve?