The Beggars : Rainer Maria Rilke : Translation

I was recently reminded that I was nearly finished with a translation of Rilke’s The Beggars. After much searching I’ve found it and have only tweaked in marginally.  My first is found here: Autumn Day and my second is found here: Abishag.

The Beggars

You didn’t know of what that heap
enclosed. The stranger found
beggars there. They hock
the hollows of their hands.

They show that tourist
their mouths, filled with rot,
to see (he can pay the price)
how disease will eat.

In their cruel eyes
his foreign face is marred
and they laugh when he acts
and spit when he tries to speak.

by Rainer Maria Rilke
tr. by Remy Wilkins

[Click below for two other translations]

1. The Beggars translated by Michael Hofman

2. the following is translated by Stephen Cohn:

The Beggars

What are these –contained in this cluster?
Beggars, the visitor sees.
Thin arms reach out and they offer
hands cupped in the shape of a pleaa.

Finger to mouth they will show you
the ordure on which they must feast–
this privileged stranger should know
how greedily leprosy eats.

His foreignness melts, decomposes
just as their eyes decompose.
They see he is lost and this pleases:
they spit at his speech, at his clothes.


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