The Carousel (I)

Jardin du Luxembourg

Under its canopy, in the shade it casts,
turns a world with painted horses,
all from a land that lingers a while
before it disappears.
Some, it’s true, are harnessed to a wagon,
but all have valor in their eyes.
A fierce red lion leaps among them,
and here comes ’round a snow-white elephant.

Even a stag appears, straight from the forest,
except for the saddle he wears, and,
buckled on it, a small boy in blue.

And a boy in white rides the lion,
gripping it with small clenched hands,
while the lion flashes teeth and tongue.

And here comes ’round a snow-white elephant.

And riding past on charging horses come girls,
bright-eyed, almost too old now for this children’s play.
With the horses rising under them,
they are looking up and off to what awaits.

And here comes ’round a snow-white elephant.

— Rilke, New Poems

One thought on “The Carousel (I)

  1. I first read this poem (in German) over fifty years ago, and now that I have grandchildren, it resonates even more strongly for me. While living in the moment so fully himself, Rilke also conveys the uninhibited capacity of children to live in the moment – an innocence which, he implies, is lost in adulthood.

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