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During the first sonnet of Orphic singing, the speech of the forest and the animals is "transformed" into a girl in the second sonnet: And almost a girl it was who emerged / from this joyful unity of song and lyre...

He had begun his Duino Elegies in 1912, and completed parts of it in 19 before being rendered silent by a psychological crisis caused by the events of World War I and his brief conscription into the Austro-Hungarian army.

Immediately after, he returned to work on the Sonnets and completed the following section of 29 sonnets in less than two weeks.

In letters to friends, Rilke referred to this three-week period as a "savage creative storm." Writing to his former lover, Lou Andreas-Salomé, on 11 February, he described this period as "...a boundless storm, a hurricane of the spirit, and whatever inside me is like thread and webbing, framework, it all cracked and bent.

There are 55 sonnets in the sequence, divided into two sections: the first of 26 and the second of 29.