Song of the Beggar
by Rainer Maria Rilke
I am always going from door to door,
whether in rain or heat,
and sometimes I will lay my right ear in
the palm of my right hand.
And as I speak my voice seems strange as if
it were alien to me,
for I’m not certain whose voice is crying:
mine or someone else’s.
I cry for a pittance to sustain me.
The poets cry for more.
In the end I conceal my entire face
and cover both my eyes;
there it lies in my hands with all its weight
and looks as if at rest,
so no one may think I had no place
where- upon to lay my head.
For me, this poem captures something about the connection we have to each other as people. There really is no good reason why some of us are born into comfort while others are born into poverty — and this poem captures the helplessness I have felt in the handful of moments I have witnessed extreme poverty and suffering in others.
There is also something poignant in the last lines of this poem…that despite the suffering that people face in their lives, there is a human instinct of dignity – to try to hold one’s head up and not let others know that the suffering exists.