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Alfred Corn reads his translation of Rilke’s First Elegy from the Duino Elegies


A few years ago, the news that Alfred Corn was working on a translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies made me very happy. When I was in my early twenties, Rilke was one of the poets who showed me what a poet was in a seminal knowing way. For those who hear the poet tell them that they have to change the lives they are living, there is no turning back.

So, I looked forward to Rilke again, and I was not disappointed. In what I think is a tour de force of expertise and will, Alfred Corn has translated the epiphanies of Rilke into our English; it must have been a lot of work, and it’s a gift. Because mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut, I really appreciate it.

When I asked if I could record him reading some of his translation for my blog, he suggested we do it on February the 11th, a hundred years to the day that Rilke finished The Duino Elegies, begun a decade earlier, following a long depression, after he heard a cry—perhaps an angel’s—in the wind.

In the Vimeo below, Alfred Corn reads “The First Elegy,” and in the spirit of the centennial absolutely hits the nail on its ecstatic head. Enjoy. 



The Duino Elegies translated by Alfred Corn is published by Norton. You can check it out here:




at Rilke’s grave


Rainer Maria Rilke


In the YouTube below, “The First Elegy” in German. Enjoy.

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