Rainer Maria Rilke: The Ashantee

22 November 2018

No vision of exotic southern countries,
No dancing women, supple, brown and tall
Whirling from out their falling draperies
To melodies that beat a fierce mad call;

No sound of songs that from the hot blood rise,
No langorous, stretching, dusky, velvet maids
Flashing like gleaming weapon their bright eyes,
No swift, wild thrill the quickening blood pervades.

Only mouths widening with a still broad smile
Of comprehension, a strange knowing leer
At white men, at their vanity and guile,
An understanding that fills one with fear.

The beasts in cages much more loyal are,
Restlessly pacing, pacing to and fro,
Dreaming of countries beckoning from afar,
Lands where they roamed in days of long ago.

They burn with an unquenched and smothered fire
Consumed by longings over which they brood,
Oblivious of time, without desire,
Alone and lost in their great solitude.

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