The Prisoner (II)

Just imagine: what for you now is sky and wind,
air to breathe and light to see,
becomes stone right up to the little space
made by my heart and hands.

And what you now call tomorrow and
soon and next year and after that —
becomes an open wound, full of pus.
It festers and never drains.

And what has been
becomes a madness.
It rages and mocks within you,
twisting your mouth with crazed laughter.

And what had been God
becomes your jailer
and blocks with his filthy eye
your last escape.

And still you live.

— Rilke, New Poems

2 thoughts on “The Prisoner (II)

  1. Hey,
    I did not find another english version of Rilke’s prisoner (I did not go to the library though!)

    Here’s my translation of this poem and I hope it is a little closer to the meaning of it (but not necessarily a better translation overall)

    Greetings from Berlin,


    My hand has only one gesture left
    with which it chases off;
    aged stones are being dripped on
    from damp rocks.

    I only hear that tapping
    and my heart keeps pace
    with the drops going
    and fading with it.

    If they only dripped faster,
    if only an animal came along.
    somewhere it was brighter
    but what do we know


    Imagine, what is heaven now and wind,
    air to your mouth and brightness to your eye,
    would become stone all but around the small spot
    where your heart and your hands are.

    And what is now named morning(morrow) within you and then
    and: thereinafter and next year and onward –
    that would become sore in you and pus-filled
    and festering and would never dawn.

    And what was, that would be insane and
    rage inside you, the dear mouth
    that never laughed, foaming with laughter.

    And what was god, would only be your watchdog
    and would be cramming maliciously into the last hole
    a filthy eye. And you would still live.

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