NB Martyn’s major new selected poems of Rilke is forthcoming from Pushkin Press in 2024.
Duino Elegies – published by Enitharmon Books in 2006: for more information click here.
Perhaps no cycle of poems in any European language has made so profound and lasting an impact on an English-speaking readership as Rilke’s Duino Elegies. These luminous new translations by Martyn Crucefix make it marvellously clear how the poem is committed to the real world observed with acute and visionary intensity.x
Martyn introduces and reads his translation of the opening 45 lines of the 10th Duino Elegy:
“Unlikely to be bettered for many years . . . Crucefix has brought greater poetic resources to bear than any previous translator . . . [he] has put his talents at Rilke’s service and produced a translation of the Elegies which makes all previous ones clumsy and partial. With the German text in parallel and a useful commentary on each elegy, it deserves to become the standard English edition worldwide” Hannah Salt, Magma – here.
“Translators extend the life of the living word, and that is what Martyn Crucefix has done here, with Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Readers who have any German will glance to and fro and admire him for his struggle and his happy solutions. And all readers will be glad of this new metamorphosis of a poem that has for many years been almost a resident in English literature” – David Constantine
“Great poems require constant retranslating, ever fresher encounters. Crucefix’s version is substantial, powerful and necessary work. Readers may well fall in love with parts of it and regard the Crucefix Rilke as their life partner” George Szirtes Poetry London
There are some masterful transformations of difficult German syntax into a natural and contemporary English . . . Not only are the translations highly readable in their own right . . Crucefix also provides a helpful commentary on each Elegy, explaining potentially unfamiliar references and offering a paraphrase in prose to help orient the reader. Helen Bridge Translation and Literature
Charlie Louth (Modern Poetry in Translation) reviews Duino Elegies: here.
Rilke’s fourth Duino Elegy: available on the web here.
From this collection:
from The First Elegy
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the ranks
of the angels? Even if one of them clasped me
suddenly to his heart, I’d wither in the face of
his more fierce existence. For their beauty
is really nothing but the first stirrings of terror
we are just able to endure and are astonished
at the way they elect, with utter disdain,
to let us go on living. Every angel is terrifying.
So I hold back – I swallow back the bird-cry
of black grief that would burst from me.
Ah, who is it we can turn to for help? Not angels.
Not other people. Even the knowing creatures
already dumbly see we do not feel at home
in our interpretations of the world, though there is,
perhaps, a specific tree on a hillside we settle on
over and over. Or yesterday’s stroll remains,
through the usual streets – the comforting loyalty
of a habit that took a liking to us,
that moved in and now will not leave us alone.