The Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke
AuthorRainer Maria Rilke
Original titleDie Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke
TranslatorM. D. Herter Norton
GenreProse poem
PublisherInsel Verlag
Publication date

The Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke is a prose poem written by Rainer Maria Rilke in 1899, revised in 1906, and published in 1912. Rilke wrote the poem after finding a document in his uncle Jaroslav's papers concerning Christopher Rilke, a man who Rainer's family erroneously[1] believed to be an ancestor and who "died as a cornet in the baron of Pirovano's company of the Imperial Austrian Heyster Regiment of Horse." [2] The poem recounts the adventures of Christopher Rilke, who travels with a company of soldiers and then, after a night in a castle with a lover, fights and dies in a war in Turkey and is mourned by an old woman.

Cornet was a tremendous success for Rilke, selling 5,000 copies in three weeks and leading to another print run of 20,000.[3] The success of Cornet surprised Rilke.[1] He came to believe that it was an inferior work, but it stayed in publication throughout his lifetime.[1] While Rilke and others have questioned its quality, Judith Ryan calls it a "key text for understanding Rilke's professional development.".[1]


In March 1919, Kurt Weill performed a symphonic version of the poem in Berlin.[4]

The 1955 West German film The Cornet is based on the work.

The work was set to music by the Swiss composer Frank Martin in 1943.


  1. ^ a b c d Judith Ryan (25 November 1999). Rilke, Modernism and Poetic Tradition. Cambridge University Press. pp. 33–. ISBN 978-1-139-42666-4.
  2. ^ Rilke, Rainer Marie trans. M.D. Herter Norton (1932). The Tale of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke (1st ed.). WW Norton. p. 9.
  3. ^ Wydenbruck, Nora (1950). Rilke: Man and Poet. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. p. 16.
  4. ^ Jurgen Schebera (1997). Kurt Weill: An Illustrated Life. Yale University Press. pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-0-300-07284-6.