The Three Holy Kings
Once long ago when at the desert’s edge
the Lord’s hand spread open —
as if a fruit should deep in summer
proclaim its seed —
there was a miracle: across
vast distances a constellation formed
out of three kings and a star.
Three kings from On-the-Way
and the star Everywhere,
who all pushed on (just think!)
to the right a Rex and the left a Rex
toward a silent stall.
What was there that they didn’t bring
to that stall of Bethlehem?
Each step clanked out ahead of them,
as the one who rode the sable horse
sat plush and velvet-snug.
And the one who walked upon his right
was like some man of gold,
and the one who sauntered on his left
with sling and swing
and jang and jing
from a round silver thing
that hung swaying inside rings,
began to smoke deep blue.
Then the star Everywhere laughed
so strangely over them,
and ran ahead and found the stall
and said to Mary:
I am bringing here an errantry
made up of many strangers.
Three kings with ancient might
heavy with gold and topaz
and dark, dim, and heathenish, —
but don’t you be afraid.
They have all three at home
twelve daughters, not one son,
so they’ll ask for use of yours
as sunshine for their heaven’s blue
and comfort for their throne.
Yet don’t straightaway believe: merely
some sparkle-prince and heathen-shiek
is to be your young son’s lot.
Consider: the road is long.
They’ve wandered far, like herdsmen,
and meanwhile their ripe empire falls
into the lap of Lord knows whom.
And while here, warmly like westwind,
the ox snorts into their ear,
they are perhaps already destitute
and headless, for all they know.
So with your smile cast light
on that confusion which they are,
and turn your countenance
toward dawning with your child:
there in blue lines lies
what each one left for you:
Emeralda and Rubinien
and the Valley of Turquoise.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926)
Trans. Edward Snow (born c. 1942)
I like this poem more every time I read it.