Poem – Elegy of Fortinbras

To C. M.
Now that we’re alone we can talk prince man to man

though you lie on the stairs and see more than a dead ant

nothing but black sun with broken rays

I could never think of your hands without smiling

and now that they lie on the stone like fallen nests

they are as defenceless as before The end is exactly this

The hands lie apart The sword lies apart The head apart

and the knight’s feet in soft slippers
You will have a soldier’s funeral without having been a soldier

they only ritual I am acquainted with a little

There will be no candles no singing only cannon-fuses and bursts

crepe dragged on the pavement helmets boots artillery horses drums

drums I know nothing exquisite

those will be my manoeuvres before I start to rule

one has to take the city by the neck and shake it a bit
Anyhow you had to perish Hamlet you were not for life

you believed in crystal notions not in human clay

always twitching as if asleep you hunted chimeras

wolfishly you crunched the air only to vomit

you knew no human thing you did not know even how to breathe
Now you have peace Hamlet you accomplished what you had to

and you have peace The rest is not silence but belongs to me

you chose the easier part an elegant thrust

but what is heroic death compared with eternal watching

with a cold apple in one’s hand on a narrow chair

with a view on the ant-ill and clock’ dial
Adieu prince I have tasks a sewer project

and a decree on prostitutes and beggars

I must also elaborate a better system of prisons

since as you justly said Denmark is a prison

I go to my affairs This night is born

a star named Hamlet We shall never meet

what I shall leave will not be worth a tragedy
It is not for us to greet each other or bid farewell we live on archipelagos

and that water these words what can they do what can they do prince 

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