Study Guide

Childhood

by Maria Rainer Rilke

Childhood eText - eText

Text of the Poem

Time in school drags along with so much worry,
and waiting, things so dumb and stupid.
Oh loneliness, oh heavy lumpish time . . .
Free at last: lights and colors and noises;
water leaps out of fountains into the air,     5
and the world is so huge in the woody places.
And moving through it in your short clothes,
and you don’t walk the way the others do—
Such marvelous time, such time passing on,
such loneliness.     10

How strange to see into it all from far away:
men and women, there’s a man, one more woman;
children’s bright colors make them stand out;
and here a house and now and then a dog
and terror all at once replaced by total trust—     15
What crazy mourning, what dream, what heaviness,
what deepness without end.

And playing: a hoop, and a bat, and a ball,
in some green place as the light fades away.
And not noticing, you brush against a grownup,     20
rushing blindly around in tag, half-crazed,
but when the light fades you go with small
puppety steps home, your hand firmly held—
Such oceanic vision that is fading,
such a constant worry, such weight.     25

Sometimes also kneeling for hours on end
with a tiny sailboat at a grayish pond,
all forgotten because sails more beautiful
than yours go on crossing the circles;
and one had to think always about the pale,     30
narrow face looking up as it sank down—
Oh, childhood, what was us going away,
going where? Where?