The Knight

The knight rides forth in coal-black steel
into the teeming world.

Outside his armor everything is there: sunlight and valley,
friend and foe and feast,
May, maiden, forest and grail,
and God himself in a thousand forms
to be found along every road.

But inside the armor darkly enclosing him
crouches death. And the thought comes
and comes again:
When will the blade
pierce this iron sheath,
the undeserved and liberating blade
that will fetch me from my hiding place
where I’ve been so long compressed —

so that, at last, I may stretch my limbs
and hear my full voice.

— Rilke, Book of Images

One thought on “The Knight

  1. an alternate translation:

    (Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans. A Harvest of German Verse. 1916.)

    The Knight
    By Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926)

    THE KNIGHT rides forth in blackest mail,
    The rustling world to meet.
    Out there he finds all: the day and the dale
    And the friend and the foe and the castle’s pale,
    And fair May and fair maid and the woods and the grail, 5
    And God Himself doth never fail
    To stand upon the street.
    But within the knightly armour yonder,
    Behind that gloomy wringing,
    Cowers death and has to ponder, ponder: 10
    When will the blade come springing
    Over the iron wall,
    The stranger, freedom bringing,
    That from my hiding-place shall call
    Me forth, where I for many a day 15
    Am waiting, crouched and clinging,
    That I may stretch out, once for all,
    With play
    And singing?

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