RAINER MARIA RILKE was born in Prague in 1875 and died in Valmont, Montreux, in 1926. Throughout his life he travelled restlessly around Europe, meeting Tolstoy in Russia (1900), working as 'secretary' to Rodin in Paris (1905-6), enjoying some aristocratic hospitality (especially at Castle Duino, near Trieste, as guest of Marie von Thurn und Taxis, between 1910 and 1914), working as a clerk in Austria during the war, but finally settling at the Chateau de Muzot, Valais, after 1922.
The turning-points in his career are the Neue Gedichte ('New Poems') of 1907-8, together with the journal-novel of the same period, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); and Duineser Elegeien and Die Soneete an Orpheus of 1922. His final interest was Paul Valery whose poems, Charmes, he translated in 1925 and imitated in his own Poemes francais.
The German poet Rilke wrote his Book of Hours (Das Stundenbuch) between 1899, when he was 23 years old, and 1903. The poems, sacred and intimate and not intended for the public, "came to him" in a highly inspirational way‘he described it as "inner dictation"‘following a visit to a monastery in Russia, where he was deeply moved by the practice of praying several times daily following a "book of hours." Barrows and Macy, accomplished poets who were born into the Judeo-Christian tradition but who have also embraced Buddhism, have carefully translated 80 of the 135 poems in the original Stundenbuch, culling some poems they felt to be weaker or less relevant to a late 20th-century reader and artfully reducing other poems to their essentials. Thus, this treasurable collection is a collaboration among three poets (or perhaps four, if one counts Rilke's insistence on the contribution of the divine!). Here is just one of many stunning moments in the extensively annotated and thoroughly prefaced collection: "All becoming has needed me./ My looking ripens things/ and they come toward me, to meet and be met." And, striking a contemporary chord: "I am living just as the century ends./ A great leaf, that God and you and I/ have covered with writing/ turns now, overhead, in strange hands." Highly recommended.‘Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward