Posts filed under ‘German’

Alle Tage / Every Day

Ingeborg Bachmann

Listen (to Bachmann read)

Der Krieg wird nicht mehr erklärt,
sondern fortgesetzt. Das Unerhörte
ist alltäglich geworden. Der Held
bleibt den Kämpfen fern. Der Schwache
ist in die Feuerzonen gerückt.
Die Uniform des Tages ist die Geduld,
die Auszeichnung der armselige Stern
der Hoffnung über dem Herzen.

Er wird verliehen,
wenn nichts mehr geschieht,
wenn das Trommelfeuer verstummt,
wenn der Feind unsichtbar geworden ist
und der Schatten ewiger Rüstung
den Himmel bedeckt.

Er wird verliehen
für die Flucht von den Fahnen,
für die Tapferkeit vor dem Freund,
für den Verrat unwürdiger Geheimnisse
und die Nichtachtung
jeglichen Befehls.

Translation (by Peter Filkins):

War is no longer declared,
but rather continued. The outrageous
has become the everyday. The hero
is absent from the battle. The weak
are moved into the firing zone.
The uniform of the day is patience,
the order of merit is the wretched star
of hope over the heart.

It is awarded
when nothing more happens,
when the bombardment is silenced,
when the enemy has become invisible
and the shadow of eternal armament
covers the sky.

It is awarded
for deserting the flag,
for bravery before a friend,
for the betrayal of shameful secrets,
and the disregard
of every command.

I’ve been reading a lot of Bachmann recently, having just got my hands on a 2006 edition of her Collected Poems translated by Peter Filkins and entitled Darkness Spoken.

What I love about this poem is the first stanza, which seems to me to encapsulate the essence of modern warfare, the way the horrors of violence are converted into just another television feature, how routine steadily numbs us to the brutality of the truth.

[falstaff]

P.S. Today’s recording comes to your courtesy of lyrikline, where you can also fine a whole bunch of other Bachmann recordings.

April 2, 2008 at 3:20 am 4 comments

Todesfuge

Paul Celan

Listen (in German [1])

Listen (in English)

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends
wir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts
wir trinken und trinken
wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
er schreibt es und tritt vor das Haus und es blitzen die Sterne er pfeift seine Rüden herbei
er pfeift seine Juden hervor läßt schaufeln ein Grab in der Erde
er befiehlt uns spielt auf nun zum Tanz

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich morgens und mittags wir trinken dich abends
wir trinken und trinken
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
Dein aschenes Haar Sulamith wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng

Er ruft stecht tiefer ins Erdreich ihr einen ihr andern singet und spielt
er greift nach dem Eisen im Gurt er schwingts seine Augen sind blau
stecht tiefer die Spaten ihr einen ihr andern spielt weiter zum Tanz auf

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich mittags und morgens wir trinken dich abends
wir trinken und trinken
ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith er spielt mit den Schlangen
Er ruft spielt süßer den Tod der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
er ruft streicht dunkler die Geigen dann steigt ihr als Rauch in die Luft
dann habt ihr ein Grab in den Wolken da liegt man nicht eng

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich mittags der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
wir trinken dich abends und morgens wir trinken und trinken
der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland sein Auge ist blau
er trifft dich mit bleierner Kugel er trifft dich genau
ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
er hetzt seine Rüden auf uns er schenkt uns ein Grab in der Luft
er spielt mit den Schlangen und träumet der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland

dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith

English Translation (by Michael Hamburger):

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink in the morning at noon we drink you at sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
Your ashen hair Shulamith we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined.

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his eyes are blue
jab deeper you lot with your spades you others play on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon in the morning we drink you at sundown
we drink and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with the serpents

He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then as smoke you will rise in the air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon Death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink and we drink you
Death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in the air
he plays with the serpents and daydreams death is a master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith

One of the greatest poems of the 20th Century. The repetition, the fragmentation, the authentic sense of being trapped in a nightmare that you must live through again and again and can never escape. The human voice cannot do justice to this poem. It needs the weeping of cellos and the clockwork of bombs.

[falstaff]

[1] Requires real audio. The German recording comes to your courtesy of Norton Poets Online, which includes a treasure trove of other Celan poems, including Count up the Almonds, a personal favorite. The voice butchering the poem in English is mine.

February 24, 2008 at 4:56 am 5 comments

Ottos Mops

Ernst Jandl

Listen (to Jandl read)

ottos mops trotzt
otto: fort mops fort
ottos mops hopst fort
otto: soso

otto holt koks
otto holt obst
otto horcht
otto: mops mops
otto hofft

ottos mops klopft
otto: komm mops komm
ottos mops kommt
ottos mops kotzt
otto: ogottogott

© Luchterhand

In the mood for some deutsch fun?

This is one poem that begs to be listened to. I am posting this poem without a translation, as the few translations that claim to capture the spirit of the poem came nowhere close to giving you a sense of the wordplay involved.

Jandl was heavily influenced by the Dada Movement, where art is anti-art and poetry is actually anti-poetry. He was among the early practitioners of concrete poetry. And his poetry are filled with clever tricks.

For instance, Ottos Mops ( meaning Otto’s Pug), that is among his most popular works, uses just one vowel ‘o’. This poem is often used in german language classes to teach the different qualities of the sound of the letter ‘o’. Play this to anyone who speaks german and watch them burst out laughing. :)

Another poem, schtzngrmm, is a play on the word “Schützengraben” ( a kind of WWI trench), is just a sequence of sounds that represent gunfire.

[blackmamba]

April 5, 2007 at 8:18 pm Leave a comment

Autumn Day

Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
Will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander on the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

(translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell)

On the theory that one great poem deserves another, here’s my other favourite end-of-summer poem, this one looking forward to the days to come rather than back to the season past.

We’ve posted a great deal of Rilke on this website in the past, so there’s little new I can say about him here, except that for me this has always been one of his finest poems. I love the abruptness, the certainty of that opening (“Herr: es ist Zeit”) and the terrible, terrible sadness of “Whoever has no house now, will never have one / Whoever is alone will stay alone”. If autumn is the season of resignation, of defeat, then this poem captures that spirit better than anything else.

Stanley Kunitz, in an essay on Rilke (over at the Poetry Foundation), writes: “One of Rilke’s primary ideas, elaborated in The Journal, is that of the proper death: the need of dying one’s own death, of carrying that death within one like the kernel of a fruit, of exhausting all the forces, accidents, and implications of one’s destiny”. ‘Autumn Day’ is a fine elaboration of that principle, of the slow ripening of the inevitable as a source of authentic sorrow.

[falstaff]

The original in German:

Herbsttag

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr gross.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Fruchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei sudlichere Tage,
drange sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Susse in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein is, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Breife schreiben
und wird in den Allen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blatter treiben.

Links:

Herbsttag is also one of Rilke’s most widely translated poems – Textetc.com has a round-up of the various translations around, with links to them at the bottom (in footnotes! yaay!), along with an attempt at a new translation.

September 4, 2006 at 9:04 pm 1 comment

All Who Seek You

Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen (to Pavi read)

All who seek you
test you.
And those who find you
bind you to image and gesture.

I would rather sense you
as the earth sense you.
In my ripening
ripens
what you are.

I need from you no tricks
to prove you exist.
Time, I know,
is other than you.

No miracles, please.
Just let your laws
become clearer
from generation to generation.

In German,

Alle, welche dich suchen, versuchen dich


Alle, welche dich suchen, versuchen dich.
Und die, so dich finden, binden dich
an Bild und Gebärde.
Ich aber will dich begreifen
wie dich die Erde begreift;
mit meinem Reifen
reift
dein Reich.
Ich will von dir keine Eitelkeit,
die dich beweist.
Ich weiß, dass die Zeit
anders heißt
als du.
Tu mir kein Wunder zulieb.
Gieb deinen Gesetzen recht,
die von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht
sichtbarer sind.

From the ‘Book of Hours’. We also ran ‘Too Alone‘ from the same collection.

[blackmamba]

June 13, 2006 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Spanish Dancer

Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen (to Hatshepsut read)

As on all its sides a kitchen-match darts white
flickering tongues before it bursts into flame:
with the audience around her, quickened, hot,
her dance begins to flicker in the dark room.

And all at once it is completely fire.

One upward glance and she ignites her hair
and, whirling faster and faster, fans her dress
into passionate flames, till it becomes a furnace
from which, like startled rattlesnakes, the long
naked arms uncoil, aroused and clicking.

And then: as if the fire were too tight
around her body, she takes and flings it out
haughtily, with an imperious gesture,
and watches: it lies raging on the floor,
still blazing up, and the flames refuse to die –
Till, moving with total confidence and a sweet
exultant smile, she looks up finally
and stamps it out with powerful small feet.

Hatshepsut writes,

'So I took this Flamenco class with this crazy Spanish lady from Juilliard for six months of my life last year. She was an incredible dancer and if I can execute a dramatic and flawless Sevillanas, it’s thanks to her sound, fury and insistence on form. This poem is her. The fire metaphor is just perfect. It’s poems like this one that make me wish I knew German. Come to think of it, I wish I knew Rilke. But I would be settle for just being able to pronounce his name (Honestly, the way it’s written is nothing like the sounds my German friends make when pronouncing his name).'

And the original in german,

Wie in der Hand ein Schwefelzundholz, weiss,
eh es zur Flamme komt, nach allen Seiten
zuckende Zungen streckt -: beginnt im Kreis
naher Beschauer hastig, hell und heiss
ihr runder Tanz sich zuckend auszubreiten.

Und plotzlich ist er Flamme, ganz und gar.

Mit einem Blick entzundet sie ihr Haar
und dreht auf einmal mit gewagter Kunst
ihr ganzes Kleid in diese Feuersbrunst,
aus welcher sich, wie Schlangen die erschrecken,
die nackten Arme wach und klappernd strecken.

Und dann: als wurde ihr das Feuer knapp,
nimmt sie es ganz zusamm und wirft es ab
sehr herrisch, mit hochmutiger Gebarde
und schaut: da liegt es rasend auf der Erde
und flammt noch immer und ergiebt sich nicht –
Doch sieghaft, sicher und mit einem sussen
grussenden Lacheln hebt sie ihr Gesicht

[blackmamba]

May 27, 2006 at 6:07 pm Leave a comment

Too Alone

Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen (to Pavi read)

I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing—
just as it is.

(this, the poem that fell out when I opened the book after getting
home. an unconscious echo of this evening’s thoughts- spoken and un.
this moment is holy. we see things not as they but we are- even, and
maybe especially- ourselves. rilke’s self-reflexive twist) [1]

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones—
or alone.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

I would describe myself like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtimes;

like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

– From Rilke’s Book Of Hours translated by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy

The german original,

Ich bin auf der Welt zu allein und doch nicht allein genug

Ich bin auf der Welt zu allein und doch nicht allein genug,
um jede Stunde zu weihn.
Ich bin auf der Welt zu gering und doch nicht klein genug,
um vor dir zu sein wie ein Ding,
dunkel und klug.

Ich will dich immer spiegeln in ganzer Gestalt,
und will niemals blind sein oder zu alt,
um dein schweres, schwankendes Bild zu halten.
Ich will mich entfalten.

Nirgends will ich gebogen bleiben;
denn dort bin ich gelogen, wo ich gebogen bin.
Und ich will meinen Sinn wahr vor dir …

This comes from a deeply spiritual collection of poems by Rilke. The “Book of Hours: Love Poems to God” (– his version of love mysticism perhaps?) [2].

Rilke’s choice of subjects and his precision in expressing them make themes that are often neglected in poetry (and prose) outshine more dramatic subjects and ornate writing.

“… as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don’t write love poems; … rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. … – And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not.” [3]

Welcome Pavi! [4]

Notes:

[1] Anaïs Nin puts it as, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

[2] As in Sufi poetry – God becomes the beloved. And there is no Without – God cannot exist without you and you cannot without God . A snippet from another poem in the collection,

What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your pitcher (when I shatter?)
I am your drink (when I go bitter?)
I, your garment; I, your craft.
Without me what reason have you?

…What will you do, God? I am afraid.

[3] Letter 1, from Letters To A Young Poet

[4] One more added to the list of people who will kill for poetry – this month has been good – Hatshepsut, Pavi … : ) Look forward to their contributions (and their own insightful commentary) in the future…

Pavi, my fellow Rilke-lover – in our very first conversation she enlightened me on the importance of precision in poetry. On the difficulty in choosing the right words/expressions in poetry. Many words can express the same physical object, but each of them can trigger a distinct emotion(al memory). And a poem works or fails based on its ability to awaken that precise emotion. What better way to introduce her, than with a Rilke recording :)

Dear Contributors, do keep sending in your lovely selection of recordings, we love being challenged, surprised and tickled by your contributions.

[5] The other Rilke we ran – You Who Never Arrived

[blackmamba]

May 18, 2006 at 4:00 pm 6 comments


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