“The Beggars” by Rainer Maria Rilke is a phenomenal literary piece that speaks about the horrific life of beggars. It begins when the speaker addresses an unknown person and asks him about a specific pile. A stranger discovers that there are baggers in that particular pile. To his surprise, they are selling the content of their hands. They welcome the visitors to glance into their dirty mouths full of dirt and garbage. Their misery shines in the second and third stanzas, where the speaker explains how they prefer eating their flesh. The description shows that they delight in their possessions and feel no harm in displaying them to the audience. However, when the visitors try to approach them or dialogue with them, they make them afraid. Instead of responding accurately, they vomit or spew.
Major Themes in “The Baggers”
The poem displays various significant themes such as; miserable life of the baggers, amazement, and the quality of life. Rilke has beautifully presented us with the quality of life the baggers enjoy in the heap of garbage. He sheds light on their sorrowful life that seems awkward to the people passing by them. He says they sell their dirty hands and invite people to see their mouths full of dirt and spew when someone wants to talk to them.
Apparently, the poem is a simple composition of their tragic life. On a deeper level, it shows our acceptance in life. The condition of the baggers and their delight shows that they have accepted this horrible phase of life and are not going to come out of it. Their strange behavior with the visitors indicates that they do not want others to change their lives. They look at the world while using their twisted vision and never allow anyone to make them think out of the box.
Analysis of Poetic and Literary Elements Used in the Poem
Although this simple and straightforward poem conveys the intended meanings, the writer has inserted some poetic and literary elements to enhance its underlying meanings. The poem begins with a rhetorical question that emphasizes the writer’s point. Then, the writer has used powerful diction and impressive imagery to highlight the baggers’ pathetic living standards. Images like “mouths full of filth” and “when he speaks they spew” involve readers in the subject matter. It also helps them visualize the unfortunate situation in the baggers the speaker finds in a heap.
Moreover, Rilke has used an extended metaphor of an unfortunate situation to show the uncertainties of life. No one knows anything about the baggers; all we know is that they live in a heap of garbage and consume the same filth. The consumption of dirt is highly symbolic; it shows that one can consume the material he possesses. Rilke has used this symbolism to make people think about their life choices. He makes us realize that sometimes life throws insurmountable challenges to our way.