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On the Bridge

February 1, 2018

The blind man sitting on the edge of the bridge
might be a stone marking the border of the nation
where the empire ends—or the last edge
all of us are, the point a thousand stars
spin around, centering the constellations.

The city passes him, then passes him again.
The blind man sitting on the edge of the bridge
while the water flows under him, far away
might be the keeper of the single passageway
to the Kingdom of Light—ward of the unknown

while they pass him, off to work, going home,
the subways that fly by, quick and flickering,
offering the golden bough or the angels’ key
quietly to the city that never dreams to look for it.

–Rainer Maria Rilke, 1913

The original German title of this poem “Pont du Carrosel” refers to one of the great bridges in Paris over the Seine. The idea that every person, no matter how far beneath notice or “marginalized,” is the center of a universe, a empire which those who pass by have only the briefest, most grazing access to, is evoked in a note that teeters between condemnation (that superficial city) and regret.

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One Comment
  1. richibi permalink

    I was not at all happy with the translation of the poem, moonbeam, it seemed much too cluttered by half, so I looked it up and translated it myself, here it is, with the original German text following it

    The blind man standing at the bridge,
    grey as the monument to a nameless rich man,
    might be the entity, the very thing,
    around which from afar the stars mark the hours,
    and of all of it the still centre
    For around him everything wanders, flows, springs.

    He is the immovable core set
    at the centre of many confounding paths;
    the dark entrance to the nether world
    by way of fortuitous flesh.

    Der blinde Mann, der auf der Brücke steht,
    grau wie ein Markstein namenloser Reiche,
    er ist vielleicht das Ding, das immer gleiche,
    um das von fern die Sternenstunde geht,
    und der Gestirne stiller Mittelpunkt.
    Denn alles um ihn irrt und rinnt und prunkt.

    Er ist der unbewegliche Gerechte
    in viele wirre Wege hingestellt;
    der dunkle Eingang in die Unterwelt
    bei einem oberflächlichen Geschlechte.

    all the very best

    R ! chard

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