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Unread 12-12-2019, 10:07 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,465
Default Rilke, The King

The King
by Rainer Maria Rilke

The monarch’s age is just sixteen.
At sixteen years, already the state.
He looks past aged councilmen,
as if from ambush, at

anywhere, at the hall within,
and feels perhaps just this:
against his long, hard, narrow chin,
the cold chain of the Fleece.

The sentence of death remains unsigned
before him a long time.
And they think: he feels such agony.

They’d know, if they fully knew his mind,
he’s just counting slowly to seventy
before he signs his name.

Note: This poem may be about King Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who became king of Spain at age sixteen, had the narrow, jutting Hapsburg jaw, and was a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Der König

Der König ist sechzehn Jahre alt.
Sechzehn Jahre und schon der Staat.
Er schaut, wie aus einem Hinterhalt,
vorbei an den Greisen vom Rat

in den Saal hinein und irgendwohin
und fühlt vielleicht nur dies:
an dem schmalen langen harten Kinn
die kalte Kette vom Vlies.

Das Todesurteil vor ihm bleibt
lang ohne Namenszug.
Und sie denken: wie er sich quält.

Sie wüssten, kennten sie ihn genug,
dass er nur langsam bis siebzig zählt
eh er es unterschreibt.

Literal translation:
The King

The king is sixteen years old.
Sixteen years and already the state.
He looks, as if from an ambush,
past the old men of the council

into the hall inside and anywhere
and feels perhaps just this:
against the narrow, long, hard chin,
the cold chain of the Fleece.

The death sentence remains before him
for a long time without a signature.
And they think: how he tortures himself.

They would know, if they knew him well enough,
that he is just counting slowly to seventy
before he signs it.
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