by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)
Translation © by Knut W. Barde

Errichtet keinen Denkstein. Laßt die...
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): ENG FRE
Errichtet keinen Denkstein. Laßt die Rose
nur jedes Jahr zu seinen Gunsten blühn.
Denn Orpheus ists. Seine Metamorphose
in dem und dem. Wir sollen uns nicht mühn

um andre Namen. Ein für alle Male
ists Orpheus, wenn es singt. Er kommt und geht.
Ists nicht schon viel, wenn er die Rosenschale
um ein Paar Tage manchmal übersteht?

O wie er schwinden muß, daß ihrs begrifft!
Und wenn ihm selbst auch bangte, daß er schwände.
Indem sein Wort das Hiersein übertrifft,

ist er schon dort, wohin ihrs nicht begleitet.
Der Leier Gitter zwingt ihm nicht die Hände.
Und er gehorcht, indem er überschreitet.

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Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

Other available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Knut W. Barde) , "Sonnet to Orpheus", copyright ©, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 14
Word count: 102

Sonnet to Orpheus
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
Don't erect a memorial.  Just let the roses
bloom for his benefit every year.
It's Orpheus, after all.  He metamorphoses
into this and this.  No worry here

to find other names-once and for all
it's Orpheus when there's singing.  He leaves and stays.
Isn't it already great, after all,
when he survives the rosebloom by some days?

Oh, that he must disappear for you to see it clear!
Even when he too is afraid that he might vanish.
As his word surpasses what's merely present here,

he already dwells where you do not accompany it.
The lyre's grate does not his hands admonish.
And his obedience is by his excess constituted.


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © by Knut W. Barde, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on


This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 14
Word count: 111