Poetry Friday: The King

poetry friday

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Iphigene here.

Our poem for today’s Poetry Friday is from the poet Rainer Marie Rilke. Finding a poem that would fit our current bimonthly theme required a little bit more searching than usual. I am lucky that I have enough poetry books at home to find something. Today’s poem is aptly called The King. It is neither romantic or dreamlike. While I am not aware of the story behind this poem, I could only say it is quite critical of “The King” the poet was referring to and what seems to be his penchant for signing death warrants.

Thanks to Tara @ A Teaching Life for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Christian_II_signs_Torben_Oxe_death_warrant

The King

By Rainer Marie Rilke

From The Rose Window and other verse from New Poems

The age of the King is sixteen years.

Sixteen, and already the state.

As though from an ambuscade he peers

Past where his grey councilors wait

Into the hall and some point therein,

And only feels, maybe,

Against his narrow, long, hard chin

The Fleece press chillingly.

Before him the death-warrant they submit

For long remains unsigned.

And they’re thinking: It plagues him sore.

They’d know, if they knew enough of his mind,

He’s but slowly counting to seventy before

Setting his hand to it.

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11 Comments on Poetry Friday: The King

  1. Don’t you wonder, what thoughts did wander in the young minds. They had only their elders to tell them about life, and probably remained quite ignorant. Thanks Iphigene, interesting poem.

    • Hi Linda,
      I think those young kings were often educated the wrong way but i suppose for those elders that manipulate them it was all to their advantage.

  2. Very thought provoking poem, Iphigene. Thanks for sharing it today. What struck me were the lines: “The age of the King is sixteen years.
    Sixteen, and already the state.”
    Can you imagine?

    • Hi Bridget,
      It definitely is something thought provoking. The teen years are so volatile and those are years wherein we were still discovering who we were and what we stood for. So, to be 16 and the state is a huge burden.

  3. Great poem! I like the idea of a kid being king at 16! :) King Tut was king at 12 (I think), but I don’t want to die at 19. :(

  4. “They’d know, if they knew enough of his mind,
    He’s but slowly counting to seventy before
    Setting his hand to it.” — yipes!

    It reminds me of “Epitaph on Charles II” by Earl of Rochester (1647–1680)

    HERE lies our Sovereign Lord the King,
    Whose word no man relies on,
    Who never said a foolish thing,
    Nor ever did a wise one.

  5. I hate to say it, but this reminds me a bit of the current political situation in N. Korea. Scary stuff… but a great poem, of course!

    • I have to agree, that fake delay to give someone a death sentence. I think that’s the sinister part of the poem, how at 16 he actually enjoys this.

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