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Ahead of All Parting

The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke
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Hardcover Book
Random House
August, 1995
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The reputation of Rainer Maria Rilke has grown steadily since his death in 1926; today he is widely considered to be the greatest poet of the 20th century. His rich formal music and depth of thought speak agelessly to the soul. Ahead of All Parting is an abundant selection of Rilke’s lifework, handsomely bound and at a fair price, all in Stephen Mitchell’s acclaimed translations facing the original German. It contains representative poems from his early collections The Book of Hours and The Book of Pictures; many selections from the revolutionary New Poems, which drew praise from Rodin and Cezanne; the hitherto little-known “Requiem for a Friend”; and a generous selection of the late uncollected poems, which constitute some of his finest work. Included too are passages from Rilke’s influential novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, and nine of his brilliant uncollected prose pieces. Finally, the book presents the poet’s two greatest masterpieces in their entirety: the Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus.

Flower-muscle that slowly opens back

the anemone to another meadow-dawn,

until her womb can feel the polyphonic

light of the sonorous heavens pouring down;


muscle of an infinite acceptance,

stretched within the silent blossom-star,

at time so overpowered with abundance

that sunset’s signal for repose is bare-


ly able to return your too far hurled-

back petals for the darkness to revive:

you, strength and purpose of how many worlds!


We violent ones remain a little longer.

ah but when, in which of all our lives,

shall we at last be open and receivers?

“Rilke’s voice, with its extraordinary combination of formality, power, speed and lightness, can be heard in Mr. Mitchell’s versions more clearly than in any others.” —W. S. Merwin

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