Rainer Maria Rilke

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

Abishag


I
She lay, and serving-men her lithe arms took,
And bound them round the withering old man,
And on him through the long sweet hours she lay,
And little fearful of his many years.

And many times she turned amidst his beard
Her face, as often as the night-owl screeched,
And all that was the night around them reached
Its feelers manifold of longing fears.

As they had been the sisters of the child
The stars trembled, and fragrance searched the room,
The curtain stirring sounded with a sign
Which drew her gentle glances after it.

But she clung close upon the dim old man,
And, by the night of nights not over-taken,
Upon the cooling of the King she lay
Maidenly, and lightly as a soul.

II
The King sate thinking out the empty day
Of deeds accomplished and untasted joys,
And of his favorite bitch that he had bredC
But with the evening Abishag was arched
Above him. His disheveled life lay bare,
Abandoned as diffamed coasts, beneath
The quiet constellation of her breasts.

But many times, as one in women skilled,
he through his eyebrows recognized the mouth
Unmoved, unkissed; and saw: the comet green
Of her desired reached not to where he lay.
He shivered. And he listened like a hound,
And sought himself in his remaining blood.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (Abishag by Rainer Maria Rilke )

  • Rookie Mark J. Mitchell (12/27/2009 6:28:00 PM)

    This is a lovely poem, but a terrible translation. Please look at Edward Snow's version in NewPoems 1907. It also helps to know that this is a biblical poem, drawn from I Kings, I think. Abishag the Shunemite was maiden chosen to warm King David's bed in his old age. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sunshine Daydream (8/24/2009 12:12:00 PM)

    im in love this poem it gives me a happy and satisfying sensation.....I reccomend this to every sad and unsatisfied man or woman girl or boy..... (Report) Reply

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