Rainer Maria Rilke

(4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926 / Prague / Czech Republic)

The Voices

The rich and fortunate do well to keep silent,
for no one cares to know who and what they are.
But those in need must reveal themselves,
must say: I am blind,
or: I'm on the verge of going blind,
or: nothing goes well with me on earth,
or: I have a sickly child,
or: I have little to hold me together...

And chances are this is not nearly enough.

And because people try to ignore them as they
pass by them: these unfortunate ones have to sing!

And at times one hears some excellent singing!

Of course, people differ in their tastes: some would
prefer to listen to choirs of boy-castrati.

But God himself comes often and stays long,
when the castrati's singing disturbs Him.

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Eilonwe Shirotsume (8/2/2009 5:09:00 AM)


    Another moment to live through then.
    How the rope I fasten, again and again
    someone cuts.
    I'd got prepared so wonderfully,
    and already a little eternity
    was in my guts.

    They bring me now, as they have done before,
    this spoonful of life to sup.
    No, I won't, I won't have anymore,
    let me bring it up.

    Life's an excellent thing I know,
    through all the world outspread;
    I simply can't digest it though,
    it only goes to my head.

    It nourishes others, it makes me ill;
    one can dislike the thing.
    what for a thousand years I'll still
    require is dieting. (Report) Reply

  • Eilonwe Shirotsume (8/2/2009 4:59:00 AM)

    actually THE VOICES is Nine leaves with a title leaf, and the poem you have listed is the poem for the title leaf. You left out:
    AND THE LEPER'S SONG. (Report) Reply

  • Jagannath rao Adukuri (11/24/2008 5:08:00 PM)

    God prefers to listen to the song of the less fortunate and comes to stay long with them when the castrati's song disturbs him! Perhaps, Rilke means that the castrati themselves are less fortunate having lost their manhood for the soprano singing and their song is as disturbing as that of the less fortunate in the streets who sing begging for money. (Report) Reply

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