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                                                                                                Georg Trakl

 

Georg Trakl (1887 - 1914) - born in Salzburg, trained as a dispensing druggist,  was one of the most visionary and original of the 20th Century Austrian poets.  In 1912, he found a patron and publisher in Ludwig von Ficker, editor of Der Brenner, and devoted his time to producing the poems for which he owns his posthumous fame.  Two collections were accepted for publication in his lifetime.  Extreme melancholy and guilt pushed him to drugs and alcohol.  In August 1914, he was sent to Galicia with the medical corp.  After the Battle of Grodek, he was put in charge of about hundred seriously wounded soldiers, but could do little to help.  He suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent to a military hospital in Krakow for observation of his mental state.  Fearing court-martial, he died in November 1914 from an overdose of cocaine.

 

 

In an Old Family Album

Always you return, melancholy,
O the gentleness of the lonely soul.
A day glows golden until the end.
 
Humbly, the patient one bows before grief,
Resounding with harmony and tender madness.
See! Itís dusk already.
 
Again night descends and a mortal laments,
And suffers with another.
 
Shuddering under autumn stars,
The head sinks deeper every year.

 

 

Mankind

Mankind placed before the fiery gorges,
A drum roll, dark warriors' foreheads,
Steps through blood-fog; black iron resounds,
Despair, night in sad brains:
Here Eve's shadow, pursuit and red money.
Light breaking through clouds, the Last Supper.
A gentle silence lives in bread and wine
And those are gathered twelve in number.
At night they scream in their sleep under olive branches.
Saint Thomas dips the hand into the stigmata.

 

 

Toward Evening My Heart

At evening one hears the cry of bats.
Two black horses leap in the meadow.
The red maple rustles.
To the wanderer the small inn appears along the way.
Glorious taste the young wine and nuts.
Glorious: to stagger drunk in the dawning forest.
Through black branches grievous bells sound.
Dew drips upon the face
.

 

   

De profundis  

It is a stubble field in which a black rain falls.
It's a brown tree that stands alone there.
It's a hissing wind that circles empty huts.
How sad is this evening.

Past the hamlet
The gentle orphan still gathers sparse ears of corn.
Her eyes graze round and golden in the twilight
As her womb awaits the heavenly bridegroom.

On the way home
Shepherds found the sweet body
Putrefied in the thorn bush.

I am a shadow far from somber villages.
I drank God's silence
From a fountain in the grove.

Cold metal walks upon my brow.
Spiders seek my heart.
It is a light that dies in my mouth.

At night I found myself on a heath
Covered with rubbish and the dust of stars.
From the hazel bush
Crystal angels have sounded once more.
 

   

 

To the Boy Elis

Elis, the blackbird's call in the black woods,
This is your decline.
Your lips drink the coolness of the blue rock-spring.

Leave, when your brow bleeds softly
Ancient legends
And dark interpretations of the flight of birds.

Yet with tender steps you walk in the night
That hangs full of purple grapes
And you move the arms more beautifully in the blueness.

A thorn bush tinges
Where your moon-like eyes are.
O, how long, Elis, you've been dead.

Your body is a hyacinth
Into which a monk dips his waxy fingers.
Our silence is a black cavern

From which a gentle animal steps at times
And slowly lowers heavy eyelids.
On your forehead black dew drips,

The last gold of expired stars.

   

   

Elis

1.

Perfect is the stillness of this golden day.
Under ancient oaks
You appear, Elis, as one at rest with round eyes.

Their blue mirrors the slumber of lovers.
Against your mouth
Their rosy sighs fell silent.

In the evening the fisherman hauled in the heavy nets.
A good shepherd
Leads his flock along the forest's edge.
O! how righteous, Elis, are all your days.

Quietly
The olive tree's blue silence sinks along bare walls.
The dark song of an old man fades away.

A golden boat
Rocks your heart, Elis, in the lonely sky.


2.

A gentle chiming of bells sounds in Elis' breast
In the evening,
When his head sinks into the black pillow.

A blue animal
quietly bleeds in the thorn bushes.

A brown tree stands isolated there;
Its blue fruits have fallen away.

Signs and stars
Sink down quietly in the evening pond.

Behind the hill winter has come.

Blue doves
Drink at night the icy sweat
That runs down Elis' crystal forehead.

Always
God's lonely wind sounds along black walls.


   

   

Helian

In the lonely hours of the spirit
It is beautiful to walk in the sun
Along the yellow walls of summer.
Quietly the steps sound in the grass; but always
The son of Pan sleeps in the gray marble.

In the evening, on the terrace, we got drunk with brown wine.
The peach glows reddish in the leaves;
Gentle sonata, cheerful laughter.

Beautiful is the stillness of the night.
On a dark plain
We meet ourselves with shepherds and white stars.

When autumn has come
A sober clarity appears in the grove.
Calmed, we stroll along red walls
And the round eyes follow the flight of birds.
In the evening the white water sinks into funeral urns.

In bare branches the sky celebrates.
In pure hands the countryman carries bread and wine
And peacefully the fruits ripen in a sunny chamber.

O how serious is the countenance of the beloved dead.
But righteous viewing delights the soul.



The silence of the ravaged garden is immense,
When the young novice wreaths his forehead with brown leaves,
His breath drinks icy gold.

His hands touch the age of bluish waters
Or in a cold night the white cheeks of the sisters.

Quiet and harmonious is a walk past friendly rooms,
Where solitude is, and the rustling of the maple,
Where perhaps the thrush still sings.

Man is beautiful and appearing in darkness,
When marveling he moves his arms and legs,
And his eyes roll silently in purple sockets.

At vespers the stranger looses himself in November's black destruction,
Under rotten branches, along walls full of leprosy,
Where before the holy brother had walked
Rapt in the soft string music of his mania.

O how lonely the evening wind ends.
Dying away the head bends down in the darkness of the olive tree.



Devastating is the decline of the lineage.
At this hour the eyes of the beholder are filled
With the gold of his stars.

In the evening, bells that no longer ring sink down,
The black walls in the square fall into ruins,
The dead soldier calls for prayer.

A pale angel,
the son steps into the empty house of his fathers.

The sisters have gone far away to white old men.
At night the sleeper found them under columns in the hallway,
Returned from sad pilgrimages.

O how their hair stiffens with excrement and worms
When he stands in it with silver feet,
And those deceased step from bare rooms.

O you psalms in fiery midnight rains,
When servants smite the mild eyes with nettles
The childlike fruits of the elderberry
Bend astonished over an empty grave.

Quietly yellowed moons roll
Over the youth's fevered linen
Before the silence of winter follows.



An exalted destiny meditates down the Kidron
Where the cedar, a gentle creature,
Unfolds under the blue brows of the father,
A shepherd leads his flock over the meadow at night.
Or there are screams in sleep
When a brazen angel approaches man in the grove
And the saint's flesh melts on the glowing grate.

Around the clay huts purple vines climb,
Resounding sheaves of yellowed grain,
The humming of bees, the flight of the crane.
In the evening the resurrected meet on rocky paths.

Lepers are reflected in black waters;
Or they open their excrement-tainted robes
Weeping to the balmy wind that blows from the rosy hill.


Slender maids grope through the alleys of the night,
That they might find the loving shepherd.
On Saturdays a soft singing is heard in the huts.

Let the song also commemorate the boy,
His madness, and white brows, and his passing away,
The decayed one who bluishly opens the eyes.
O how sad this reunion.



The stages of madness in black rooms,
The shadows of the aged under the open door,
When Helian's soul looks at itself in the rosy mirror
And snow and leprosy sink from his forehead.

On the walls the stars are expired,
And the white figures of the light.

Skeletons from the graves rise out of the carpet,
The silence of decayed crosses on the hill,
The sweetness of incense in the purple night wind.

O you shattered eyes in black mouths,
When the grandson in gentle madness
Ponders alone the darker ending,
The silent God lowers blue eyelids over him.

 

 

In Spring

Gently snow sank from dark steps,
In the trees' shadow
Lovers raise their rosy eyelids.

Always, star and night
Follow the mariners' dark calls;
And the oars beat quietly in time.

Soon by the crumbling wall
Violets bloom,
So silently the temple of the lonely one turns green.

 

 

Kaspar Hauser Song
    To Bessie Loos

He truly loved the sun, which descended crimson behind the hill,
The paths of the forest, the singing blackbird,
And the joy of green.

Serious was his dwelling in the shade of the tree
And his countenance pure.
God spoke a gentle flame to his heart:
O, man!

Silently his footsteps found the city at evening;
The dark lament of his mouth:
I want to become a horseman.

But bush and animal followed him,
House and the dusking garden of pale men
And his murderer searched for him.

Spring and summer and the beautiful autumn
Of the righteous one, his quiet step
Past the dark rooms of dreamers.
At night he remained alone with his star;

Saw snow fall into bare branches
And in the dusking hallway the shadow of the murderer.

Silver sank the head of the unborn.

 

 

A Winter Evening

When the snow falls against the window,
The evening bell rings long,
The table is prepared for many,
And the house well cultivated.

Some in their wanderings
Come to the gate on dark paths.
The tree of grace blooms golden
From the cool sap of the earth.

Wanderer, step quietly inside;
Pain has petrified the threshold.
There in pure radiance
Bread and wine glow on the table.

 

 

In Venice

Silence in the nocturnal room.
Silverly the candlestick flickers
Before the singing breath
Of the lonely one;
Enchanted clouds of roses.

A blackish swarm of flies
Darken the stony room
And the head of the homeless one
Stares from the agony
Of the golden day.

Motionless the sea fills with night.
Star and black travel
Vanished by the canal.
Child, your sickly smile
Followed me softly in sleep.

 

 

Surrender at Night

Monkess! keep me in your darkness,
You mountains cool and blue!
Dark dew bleeds down;
A cross towers steeply in the glitter of stars.

Mouth and lies broke crimsonly
In the cool, decayed chamber;
Laughter still shines, golden play,
A bell's final knells.

Cloud of moon! By night
Wild fruits fall blackish from the tree
And the room becomes a grave,
And this wandering on earth a dream.

 

 

Passion

When Orpheus silverly stirs the lyre
Lamenting a dead one in the evening garden,
Who are you resting under high trees?
The lament rustles the autumnal reeds,
The blue pond,
Dying away under greening trees
Following the shadow of the sister;
Dark love
Of a wild race
From which the day rushes away on golden wheels.
Silent night.

Under sinister firs
Two wolves mixed their blood
In stony embrace; a goldenness,
The cloud lost itself over the footbridge,
Patience and silence of childhood.
Again the tender corpse is encountered
By the Triton pond
Slumbering in its hyacinthine hair.
That the cool head would finally burst!

Because always under dusking trees
A blue deer follows, eyeing,
The gentle madness
Of these darker paths,
Waking and moved by nocturnal harmonies:
Or the string play sounded
Full of dark ecstasy
To the cool feet of the penitent woman
In the stony city.

 

 

In the East

The people's dark rage resembles
The wild organing of winter storms,
The crimson wave of battle,
Of stars bared of leaves.

With broken brows, silver arms
The night beckons to dying soldiers.
In the shadows of autumn ash trees,
The spirits of the slain moan.

Thorny wilderness girds the city.
The moon chases terrified women
Away from bleeding steps.
Wild wolves broke through the gate.

 

 

Lament

Sleep and death, the sinister eagles,
Swoop around this head all night long:
The icy wave of eternity
Would engulf the golden image
Of man. On horrible reefs,
The crimson body is shattered
And the dark voice laments
Over the sea.
Sister of stormy gloom,
Look, a frightened boat sinks
Under stars,
The silent countenance of night.

 

 

Grodek

At evening the autumn woods resound
With deadly weapons, the sun
Reels darkly over golden plains
And blue lakes; night embraces
Dying warriors, the wild lament
Of their shattered mouths.
Yet silently in the meadow
A red cloud, in which an angry god lives,
Gathers spilled blood, the coolness of moon.
All roads end in black decay.
Under the golden branches of night and stars,
The sister's shadow sways through the silent grove
To greet the ghosts of heroes, the bleeding heads;
And softly dark autumn flutes resound in the reeds.
O prouder grief! You altars of bronze,
Today the hot flame of the spirit is fed a violent pain ó
The unborn grandchildren.

 

— Translated from the German by Jim Doss and Werner Schmitt

 

                                                                                                © James B. Doss and Werner Schmitt

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Loch Raven Review Fall 2005 — Vol. I, No. 1
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