The Rilke of Ruth Speirs: New Poems, Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, & Others
by Ruth Speirs
Summary from Goodreads:
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is universally recognized as among the most important twentieth-century German-language poets. Here, for the first time, are all the surviving translations of his poetry made by Ruth Speirs (1916-2000), a Latvian exile who joined the British literary community in Cairo during World War Two, becoming a close friend of Lawrence Durrell and Bernard Spencer.
Though described as ‘excellent’ and ‘the best’ by J. M. Cohen on the basis of magazine and anthology appearances, copyright restrictions meant that during her lifetime, with the exception of a Cairo-published Selected Poems (1942), Speirs was never to see her work gathered between covers and in print.
This volume, edited by John Pilling and Peter Robinson, brings Speirs’ translations the belated recognition they deserve. Her much-revised and considered versions are a key document in the history of Rilke’s Anglophone dissemination. Rhythmically alive and carefully faithful, they give a uniquely mid-century English accent to the poet’s extraordinary German, and continue to bear comparison with current efforts to render his tenderly taxing voice.
Rilke has always had a very special place in my heart. When I first read him, I immediately fell in love with his words. Throughout the years, I have read and re-read his poems -mostly the Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus because they are my favorite. Every time I read Rilke I encounter different meanings in his poems and his words evoke unique feelings in me. Somehow, to my astonishment, he still finds new ways to cast a spell over me.
When I came across this book, I knew it was perfect for me. The translations I own are all by Stephen Mitchell, so I was curious to read someone else’s translation. (It’s like trying a new topping on your favorite ice cream, I figured I couldn’t go wrong). I don’t know any German, so I can’t attest to the accuracy of the translation but as familiar as I am with Rilke’s words, I can say that I found it refreshing to read Ruth Speirs’s translation. Even though I did notice different words here and there and small variations, it was still as enjoyable as ever to spend time with the angel of the elegies and get lost in Rilke’s beautiful words.
I definitely recommend this book to all fans of Rilke and to all poetry lovers out there.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
5 out of 5 stars