A Doge by Rainer Maria Rilke

translated by Len Krisak (March 2014)


Ambassadors could see the stingy way

they treated him and all he did.

While they were spurring him to greatness, they

hid spies about his golden throne, and bid


them, more and more, check his authority

(they were afraid the power with which they fed

him—cautiously—might fall upon some head

of theirs, a lion’s feast). But he,


behind his senses’ half-mask (never dropped),

grew great, all unaware, and never stopped.

And though the Seignory had thought he’d bow


to them, he conquered in himself instead,

his inmost being. In his greying head,

he beat them. And his face showed how.



Len Krisak has published in The London Magazine, The Oxonian Review, PN Review, Standpoint, Agni, The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson ReviewThe Dark Horse, Agenda, The Hopkins ReviewCommonweal, Literary Imagination, The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology, and others. His latest book is Virgil’s Eclogues, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Forthcoming: The Carmina of Catullus, Carcanet Press, 2015, Afterimage, Measure Press, 2014, Rilke: New Poems, Boydell & Brewer, 2015 and Ovid: The Amores and The Ars Amatoria, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.


Portrait of Doge Leonardo Lorendan by Giovanni Bellini.


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