“The Boy” by Rainer Maria Rilke

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Editor’s note: The following is extracted from Poems [by] Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Jessie Lemont (published 1918).

I wish I might become like one of these
Who, in the night on horses wild astride,
With torches flaming out like loosened hair
On to the chase through the great swift wind ride.
I wish to stand as on a boat and dare
The sweeping storm, mighty, like flag unrolled
In darkness but with helmet made of gold
That shimmers restlessly. And in a row,
Behind me in the dark, ten men that glow
With helmets that are restless, too, like mine,
Now old and dull, now clear as glass they shine.
One stands by me and blows a blast apace
On his great flashing trumpet and the sound
Shrieks through the vast black solitude around
Through which, as through a wild mad dream we race.
The houses fall behind us on their knees,
Before us bend the streets and then we gain,
The great squares yield to us and then we seize—
And on our steeds rush like the roar of rain.

Raised in a home filled with books on Western civilization, P.G. Mantel became a lover of history at an early age. An amateur writer of verse, he makes himself useful as an editor for Men of the West.

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