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This poem is taken from PN Review 66, Volume 15 Number 4, March - April 1989.

Translations from Rilke Stephen Cohn

Abishag

I


She lay above him. Endless, tender hours.
Attendants had arranged her childish arms
around the withered king. She felt afraid
before the awesome mountain of his years.

Sometimes a shrieking owl would startle her:
she hid against the reassuring beard
when the whole night came crowding, pressing in,
heavy with anxious longings and with fears.

She seemed to tremble with the trembling stars.
A scent came seeking, drifting, through the room.
The curtain moved. It was some kind of sign.
She watched it move. She followed with her gaze.

But still untried and uninitiate
she held herself against his princely coldness
and kept her youth against his darkening age,
...


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