Here is a wonderful, transcendental poem by the German Annette von Droste-Hulshoff (1797-1848), Im Grase.
Poem in the original German and my translation (I couldn’t stand the provided translation…) follows.
Susse Ruh, susser Taumel im Gras,
von des Krautes Arom umhaucht,
tiefe Flut, tief tief trunkne Flut,
wenn die Wolk’ am Azure verraucht,
wenn aufs mude, schwimmende Haupt
susses Lachen gaukelt herab,
liebe Stimme sauselt und trauft
wie die Lindenblut auf ein Grab.
Wenn im Busen die Toten dann,
jede Leiche sich streckt und regt,
leise, leise den Odem zieht,
die geschlossne Wimper bewegt,
tote Lieb’, tote Lust, tote, Zeit,
all die Schatze, im Schutt verwuhlt,
sich beruhren mit schuchternem Klang
gleich den Glockchen, vom Winde umspielt.
Stunden, fluchtger ihr als der Kuss
eines Strahls, auf den trauernden See,
als des ziehenden Vogels Lied,
das mir niederperlt aus der Hoh’,
als des schillernden Kafers Blitz,
wenn den Sonnenpfand er durcheilt,
als der heisse Druck einer Hand,
die zum letzten Male verweilt.
Dennoch, Himmel, immer mir nur
Dieses eine: nur fur das Lied
jedes freien Vogels im Blau
eine Seele, die mit ihm ziet,
nur fur jeden karglichen Strahl
meinen farbifschillernden Saum,
jeder warmen Hand meinen Druck,
und fur jedes Gluck einen Traum.
Sweet peace, sweeter peace in grass,
The breath of nature’s scents surround you,
A deep stream, deep, deep, ecstatic stream,
As clouds vanish into an azure sky,
As sweet laughter dances down
On your weary swimming head.
A dear voice murmurs and
Drifts like a lime-blossom on to a grave.
Then with the dead in your breast,
Every corpse stretches and stirs,
Gently, gently draws breath,
Flutters closed eyelashes,
Dead love, dead pleasure, dead time,
All these treasures buried deep in rubble,
Touch one another with a hesitant note,
Like little bells in the playful wind.
Hours, more fleeting you are,
Than the kiss of a sunbeam on the morning lake;
Than the migrating bird’s call
Which comes down to me like pearls from the sky,
Than the brilliant flash of the beetle
When he hurries across the sunlit path,
Than the warm pressure of a hand
That lingers for the last time.
Even though, Heaven grant me always
Just this one thing for myself:
For the song of every free bird in the blue
A soul to travel with it;
Only for every single ray of light,
My hem of shining color;
For every warm hand the pressure of my hand,
And for every happiness, a dream.
OK. You can breath again. Wow. Comment welcome. I’ll go first.
Clearly, we are in a dream-state – but a dream rich in life, living right now, lying in the grass, surrounded by nature’s aroma – then the dead, in your breast…
The next stanza “Hours, more fleeting you are ...” This stanza is beyond beautiful! When I read this I feel like my heart is being ripped out through the top of my skull. I just can’t get over it.
Followed by “Even though, Heaven grant me always”
This is what I call the “slide backwards” aesthetic – here used powerfully with the penultimate line ” For every warm hand the pressure of my hand, alliterating to the previous line “Than the warm pressure of a hand, That lingers for the last time.”
We will talk more about the “slide backwards” aesthetic but here’s a musical hint: George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun“. It is actually more common in literature, especially poetry; musicians need to get hip.
From “The Penguin Book of German Verse”
Introduced and Edited by Leonard Forster
Here is a similarly structured poem, Arthur Rimbaud, 1870…..do you think he got the idea from Droste-Hulshoff???
It is a green hollow where a stream gurgles,
Crazily catching silver rags of itself on the grasses;
Where the sun shines from the proud mountain:
It is a little valley bubbling over with light.
A young soldier, open-mouthed, bare-headed,
With the nape of his neck bathed in cool blue cresses,
Sleeps; he is stretched out on the grass, under the sky,
Pale on his green bed where the light falls like rain.
His feet in the yellow flags, he lies sleeping. Smiling as
A sick child might smile, he is having a nap:
Cradle him warmly, Nature: he is cold.
No odour makes his nostrils quiver;
He sleeps in the sun, his hand on his breast
At peace. There are two red holes in his right side.
Interesting that in this case the poem ends with a corpse…
Oh, and a great example of the “slide backwards” aesthetic or technique.
Dudes, it’s all about graves and death and corpses and life– beautiful and inside out. “At the still point, there the dance is…
Thanks for stopping by!
I ain’t one for poetry, ain’t one for prose….
A certain ex-SFAM metalhead.
Hi John, thanks for stopping by.
Reply to Primus: Are you self-identifying as a “metalhead” in the sense of what I sometimes call a “motorhead” – someone specifically interested in machinery – specifically fast cars and motorcycles and someone interested in building them? If so, then hang on, I got some cool machine blogs on the back burner. I started with a poetry blog because I was just setting this thing up and needed to check out how the word editor worked, get pages set up; you know all that stuff!
But if you mean “metalhead” in the sense of heavy metal music, then that’s another story! Metal music, IMHO has some of the best post-modern poetry ever. I love that stuff! And since we have a couple of examples of mildly spooky poems (corpses, weird chick with a corpse at her breasts, a dead soldier 19th century style – “poor Bastard!” Isn’t that what the British always used to say; in the movies maybe…). So. Here’s a Metal Band Poem, actually the words to “Hardening of the Arteries” by Slayer:
Fear runs wild in the veins of the world
The hate turns the skies jet black
Death is assured in future plans
Why live if there’s nothing there
Spectors of doom await the moment
The mallet is sure and precise
Cover the crypts of all mankind
With cloven hoove begone
Delay the death
Of twisted life
The crippled youth try in dismay
To sabotage the carcass Earth
All new life must perish below
Existence now is futile
Decrepit breath, vile in its stench
A world in decay
Transgressor is as one
Courtesy of: http://www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/slayer/hellawaits.html#5