The Blindman's Song

Rilke, Rainer Maria

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Jun-08-1997


The poem, written in German, appears in both German and English in this and other versions. Those who understand German may feel that something has been lost in translation, inevitable for rhyming poetry. Nevertheless the "endless outcry" of isolation and bitterness is well expressed. This blind man is totally unresigned to his condition; "every day I despair." He feels himself uniquely cursed. He mocks those who are sighted for believing that THEY might be special and he is contemptuous of any kindness shown him: no one can understand how he feels.


This piece is a potent reminder that people may respond with great bitterness, rage, and self-pity to disability or disease. They may not behave gracefully or be grateful to those who are caring for them. "The Blindman’s Song" is one of a group of Rilke poems written in the voices of sociomedical outcasts ["idiot", orphan, suicide, leper, dwarf (see The Song the Dwarf Sings, annotated in this database)].

It is worth noting that the translation in the alternate source listed here is more literal and the difference highlights some interesting ambiguities about poetic language: "every day I despair" becomes "something heavy every day"; "die Frau" is translated as "woman" instead of "wife", both meanings being literally correct, but having quite different significance in the context of the poem.


Translated by Stephen Mitchell. From The Book of Pictures (1902; 1906).

Primary Source

The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke


Random House: Vintage

Place Published

New York


1989 (paperback)


Stephen Mitchell