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Rainer Maria Rilke "The Book of Hours" by Robert Saxton

(Published by The High Window Press)


Here for the first time Rainer Maria Rilke’s "The Book of Hours", which he wrote between 1899 and 1902, is rendered into fluent and satisfying poetry in English in a version that follows the rhyme patterns of the original German. An illuminating introduction covers the sources of Rilke’s inspiration, as well as the principles Robert Saxton has followed in his approach to the work.

Rilke’s earliest masterpiece is vivid, compelling, outspoken, impassioned, strange and wholly alive. Repeatedly it catches the reader off-guard with surprises and frissons of all kinds. Wonderfully varied and restless, it presents a kaleidoscopic picture of the poet’s complex and shifting relationship with God – imagined variously as a ship, a shore, a forager in the woods, a presence in solid rock, a convent, even a (scared) fledgling bird. Key themes in the book include doubt, desire, art, nature, time, nothingness, pilgrimage, the city, poverty and death.

At times the relationship with God feels like a love affair, intimate and insecure – but set within a vibrant world we can savour, peopled by memorable characters, including a young monk resisting the temptations of the flesh, Michelangelo, Botticelli, the Virgin Mary, St Francis, various farmers, shepherds, nobles and monks, and a sinister nightwatchman.


Saxton’s version of Rilke’s "The Book of Hours" offers a well-judged balance of imaginative interpretation and conscientious fidelity, with the aim of bringing Rilke to a new kind of life for a new readership. This is a book for everyone who believes that poetry can be the ideal medium for capturing profound and timeless insights around the interplay of mind, body and spirit in our inner lives.