The Stylite

 The Stylite by Rilke
  
 In one great crowd, they pulsed above him — those
 he either damned or blessed, condemned or chose.
 Surmising he was lost, he looked aloft.
 Escaping from the peoples’ stench, he rose
 with clawing hands: he climbed a pillar's shaft
 that seemed to rise forever, till it soared
 no more. He started, all alone up there,
 to match his sins, which were without compare,
 against the shining glories of the Lord,
 which had no end. He matched, but he could see:
 the Other only grew, inducing awe.
 And shepherd, farmer, rafter — each man — saw
 him dwindling down, except when he
 was wholly rapt in discourse with the skies
 (which sometimes filled with rain, sometimes were fair).
 And all the time, his howls, like wailing cries
 that filled all faces, poured down from the air.
 And still he did not see them there
 for years, as all that crowd coursed down below
 and ceaslessly replenished, and the bright
 gear of the nobles never reached that height
 to which its gleaming couldn't go.
 But up there, when he felt close to damnation —
 flesh torn to shreds by all their stubborn wars —
 forlorn, and with a desperate, last-ditch yell,
 he shook those daily demons off, and down
 they thudded on the foremost ranks. They fell
 in ponderous clumsiness from festering sores.
 Gross maggots fell on every open crown,
 and crawled in velvet propagation.
  
 (Tr. Len Krisak)
 
Yaroslav Gerzhedovich ‘Escape into Life’

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