Poem introduction

In 1828, a youth of about sixteen was found wandering in the streets of Nuremberg in southern Germany. He appeared to be speechless. He bore a note which said: ‘I want to be a horseman like my father.’ Before long, the local pastor taught him to speak a little, and it emerged that he had been kept in a dark room – possibly a stable – for as long as he could remember and had never encountered human society before. He had no idea who had been feeding him. In 1833 he died a violent death and it is assumed that he was murdered, though he may have committed suicide.

Kaspar Hauser

Who wanted to be a horseman
Who wanted to be what his father had been before him

Who had no father, who had no mother
Who could not ride
Who sprang fully-formed from nowhere

Who knew the floor of a stable
better than he knew the world or knew himself
Who could not tell who had fed him or sustained him

Who lacked speech
Who could not put into words
where he had come from or what was to be his end
Who could not describe the world
Who could not define it

On whom the sins of the fathers were visited
Who was innocent, who was fallen
Who now was to eat bread in the sweat of his face

Who was sub-normal, moronic, mentally disabled,
an inspired visionary, a wolf-boy, a child of God

Who had quickened in his mother’s womb
to be flung wailing into the world
Who had fallen from nowhere and found himself nowhere

Who could not say who had killed him
or why he had had to die


from New and Collected Poems (Carcanet, 2012), © Clive Wimer 2012, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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