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Old 11-17-2011, 04:40 PM   #1
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Bono and Rilke

Some of you may already know that Bono loves the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, he seems to be especially fond of the Duino Elegies that were written between 1912 and 1922. The first elegy was written in Duino castle, Italy, hence the name. Part of the elegies were written in Berlin.

Bono used parts of the first elegy for the lyrics in "Oh Berlin". I noticed immediately that these lines sound familiar to me, but it took me some time to find out what it was because Rilke was a German writer and I only read his poems in original German. Bono even mentions Rilke in the song.

I just came across the original tonight because I'm preparing an article about Rilke and angels.

Here's the original verse:

Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel
Ordnungen? und gesetzt selbst, es nähme
einer mich plötzlich ans Herz: ich verginge von seinem
stärkeren Dasein. Denn das Schöne ist nichts
als des Schrecklichen Anfang, den wir noch grade ertragen,
und wir bewundern es so, weil es gelassen verschmäht,
uns zu zerstören. Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich.
And here's the English translation, the lyrics Bono used for "Oh Berlin"

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders
And even if one to suddenly take me to its heart
I would vanish into its stronger existence
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
That we are still able to bear and we revere it so
Because it calmly disdains to destroy us
Every angel is terror
Bono seems to really like the elegies, remember he had part of them printed on the Edun scarf he wore a couple of year ago.

I love Rilke so much, I've read every single poem he has written.

Are there any other obvious quotes from poems that Bono used in songs? I know about some and many times he only hints at them instead of fully quoting, but I'm very interested in poetic/literary references in U2's lyrics, though I'm mostly familiar with German language writers.

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Old 10-30-2013, 04:18 PM   #2
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I don't have an answer for you. But thanks for enlightening me as to who Bono was talking about in Oh Berlin.
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