Song of the Dwarf

By Rainer Maria Rilke 1875–1926

Translated from the German by Lucia Perillo Read the translator's notes

Maybe my soul is straight and good,
but she’s got to lug my heart, my blood,
which all hurts because it’s crooked;
its weight sends her staggering.
She has no bed, she has no home,
she merely hangs on my sharp bones,
flapping her terrible wings.

And my hands are completely shot,
shriveled, worn: here, take a look
at how they clammily, clumsily hop
like rain-crazed toads.
As for all the other stuff,
it’s all used up and sad and old—
why doesn’t God haul me out to the muck
and let me drop.

Is it because of my mug
with its frowning mouth?
So often I would itch
to be luminous and free of fog
but nothing would approach
except big dogs.
And the dogs got zilch.

Source: Poetry (June 2011).

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2011
 Rainer Maria Rilke

Biography

Widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets, Rainer Maria Rilke was unique in his efforts to expand the realm of poetry through new uses of syntax and imagery and in the philosophy that his poems explored. With regard to the former, W. H. Auden declared in New Republic, "Rilke's most immediate and obvious influence has been upon diction and imagery." Rilke expressed ideas with "physical rather . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, The Body

POET’S REGION Germany

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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