One of main reasons for having enrolled in German classes was just to be able to read Rilke in the original. That's how much I loved him. I still do. “Das Buch der Bilder” (The book of Images/O Livro das Imagens) was the book that showed me, back in the day, I still had a long road ahead me before I could say I was able to read Rilke in German. Since then I’ve read lots of translations and also the original many times over. The bilingual translation to which I keep coming back is the one I just re-read, Maria João Costa Pereira’s. This is the one that I always close at hand me (I’m not sure which translation I like best when it comes to English; Stephen Mitchell's translation, which for some reason unknown to me is the most famous Rilke translation is just so uninspired and dull). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. “Understanding” Rilke first-hand, so to speak, needs a strong command of German. There’s no way around it. Those who feel like they have their whole life ahead of them to reflect and ponder and wait for the questions to reveal their true meanings and for the fruit to ripen on the tree-- as opposed to the adult who feel like they have no time to ponder, have already wasted the years as it is, and would really, really like to just grab the fruit and run with it however green and sour it may be. A friend of mine rejects Rilke, saying he’s phony. I don't get that feeling at all. I believe, it’s today's generation of so-called modern poets that strike me as somehow faking it. I think Rilke's spirituality, especially as expressed in “The Book of Images”, “Das Stunden-Buch” (The Book of Hours) and “Geschichte vom lieben Gott” (Stories of God), is rather simple and heartfelt.
If you're into Poetry and Rilke in particular, read the rest of the review on my blog.