Leaves in the Wind

We present this work in honor of the 115th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Princess Mathilde of Bavaria
German
1877 – 1906

The withered leaves of Autumn, in golden whirlpools light,
Were dancing in the sunshine of Summer’s dying day,
And yet their dancing seemed to me their agonizing flight
From darkness and oblivion, and mouldering decay.

The hag that sweeps the pavement, with ruthless broom unkind,
Swept up the joyful dancers, and, muttering at their play,
She caught the helpless beings, as many as she could find,
And, mingled with the dust and filth, she swept them all away.

The Burning of the Law

07-15 Meir
Meir of Rothenburg
German
c. 1215 – 1293

 

Ask, is it well, O thou consumed of fire,

With those that mourn for thee,
That yearn to tread thy courts, that sore desire
Thy sanctuary;

That, panting for thy land’s sweet dust, are grieved,

And sorrow in their souls,
And by the flames of wasting fire bereaved,
Mourn for thy scrolls;

That grope in shadow of unbroken night,

Waiting the day to see
Which o’er them yet shall cast a radiance bright,

And over thee?

Ask of the welfare of the man of woe,
With breaking heart, in vain

Lamenting ever for thine overthrow,
And for thy pain;

Of him that crieth as the jackals cry,
As owls their moaning make,

Proclaiming bitter wailing far and nigh;
Yea, for thy sake.

And thou revealed amid a heavenly fire,

By earthly fire consumed,
Say how the foe unscorched escaped the pyre

Thy flames illumed!

How long shalt thou that art at ease abide

In peace, unknown to woe,
While o’er my flowers, humbled from their pride,

Thy nettles grow?

Thou sittest high exalted, lofty foe!

To judge the sons of God;
And with thy judgments stern dost bring them low

Beneath thy rod.

Yea, more, to burn the Law thou durst decree
God’s word to banish hence:

Then blest be he who shall award to thee
Thy recompense!

Was it for this, thou Law, my Rock of old
Gave thee with flames begirt,

That in thine after-days should fire seize hold
Upon thy skirt?

O Sinai! was it then for this God chose
Thy mount of modest height,

Rejecting statelier, while on thee arose
His glorious light?

Wast thou an omen that from noble state

The Law should lowly be?
And lo! a parable will I relate

Befitting thee.

Tis of a king I tell, who sat before

The banquet of his son

And wept: for ‘mid the mirth he death foresaw;

So thou hast done.

Cast off thy robe; in sackcloth folds of night,

O Sinai! cover thee;
Don widow’s garb, discard thy raiment bright

Of royalty.

Lo, I will weep for thee until my tears

Swell as a stream and flow
Unto the graves where thy two princely seers

Sleep calm below:

Moses; and Aaron in the Mountain Hor;

I will of them inquire:
Is there another to replace this Law

Devoured of fire?

O thou third month most sacred! woe is me

For treason of the fourth,

Which dimmed the sacred light that shone from thee

And kindled wrath;

And brake the tablets, yea, and still did rage:

And lo! the Law is burnt!
Ye sinful! is not this the twofold wage

Which ye have earnt?

Dismay hath seized upon my soul; how, then,

Can food be sweet to me,
When, O thou Law, I have beheld base men

Destroying thee?

They cast thee out as one despised, and burn

The wealth of God Most High;
They whom from thine assembly thou wouldst spurn

From drawing nigh.

I cannot pass along the highway more,
Nor seek thy ways forlorn;

How do thy paths their loneliness deplore!
Lo! how they mourn!

The mingled cup shall taste as honey sweet
Where tears o’erbrim the wine;

Yea, and thy chains upon my shackled feet
Are joy divine.

Sweet would it be unto mine eyes alway

A rain of tears to pour,
To sob and drench thy sacred robes, till they

Could hold no more.

But lo! my tears are dried, when, fast out-poured.

They down my cheeks are shed;
Scorched by the fire within: because thy Lord
Hath turned and fled.

Taking His holy treasure, He hath made

His journey far away;
And with Him hath not thy protecting shade

Vanished for aye?

And I am desolate and sore bereft,

Lo! a forsaken one:
Like a sole beacon on a mountain left,

A tower alone.

I hear the voice of singers now no more,
Silence their song hath bound;

The strings are broken which on harps of yore
Breathed forth sweet sound.

In sackcloth I will clothe and sable band,

For well-beloved by me

Were they whose lives were many as the sand

The slain of thee.

I am astonied that the day’s fair light

Yet shineth brilliantly
On all things: it is ever dark as night

To me and thee.

Send with a bitter cry to God above
Thine anguish, nor withhold:

Ah! that He would remember yet His love,
His troth of old!

Gird on the sackcloth of thy misery

For that devouring fire,
Which burst forth ravenous on thine and thee

With wasting dire.

E’en as thy Rock hath sore afflicted thee,

He will assuage thy woe,
Will turn again the tribes’ captivity,

And raise the low.

Yet shalt thou wear thy scarlet raiment choice,
And sound the timbrels high,

And yet amid the dancers shalt rejoice
With gladdened cry.

My neart shall be uplifted on the day
Thy Rock shall be thy light,

When He shall make thy gloom to pass away,
Thy darkness bright.

The Rose Garland

06-09 Klopstock
Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock
German
1724 – 1803

 

In the shade of spring I found her
then with garlands of roses bound her;
she did not feel it and slumbered on.

I looked at her: my life hung
upon her life with this glance;
I truly felt it, and knew it not.

But speechlessly I whispered to her
and rustled with the rose garlands;
then she woke from slumber.

She looked at me; her life hung
upon my life with this one glance
and around us rose Elysium.

from Anim Z’mirot

Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg
German
1150 – 1217

 

Melodies I weave, songs I sweetly sing;
longing for Your Presence, to You I yearn to cling.

In Your shelter would my soul delight to dwell,
to grasp Your mystery, captured by Your spell.

Whenever I speak of Your glory so resplendent,
my heart yearns deeply for Your love transcendent.

Thus I glorify You in speech as in song,
declaring with my love: to You do I belong.

Without having seen You I declare Your praise;
without having known You I laud You and Your ways.

To Your assembled servants and in Your prophets’ speech,
You alluded to Your glory which is beyond our reach.

The scope of your greatness and he marvel of Your strength
are reflected in Your actions all described at length.

They have imagined You, but never as You are;
they tell of Your deeds, to portray You from afar.

They speak of You with parables in countless varied visions,
while You remain as One throughout all of their renditions.

They try to portray You as one now young, now old,
with hair now dark, now gray, as if it could be told.

Youth and force in battle, old age on judgment day;
like a seasoned warrior, with strength He clears the way.

He wears triumph as a helmet on His head,
His power and holiness have stood Him in good stead.

His head is covered with dawn-dew bathed in light,
His locks of hair are covered with dewdrops of the night.

He takes pride in me, the source of His delight;
and He will be my splendor whose praise I will recite.

His head is envisioned as pure and beaten gold,
bearing His holy name in letters large and bold.

With kindness and dignity, with splendor that they share,
His people Israel crown Him with their prayer.

Adorned is His head with the curly locks of youth,
black as a raven. He is splendid as the truth.

Nothing is more precious among all His good pleasures
than Zion, seat of splendor, chief among His treasures.

His cherished people adorn Him as a crown,
a royal diadem of beauty and renown.

He beautifies the people He has carried since their birth.
For Him they are precious; He pays honor to their worth.

In mutual devotion, in each other we glorify;
I know that He is near when unto Him I cry.

Radiant and ruddy, His garments red as wine,
He compresses sinning nations as grapes on a vine.

The knot of His tefilin He showed to Moses, humble, wise;
the Lord’s vision and His ways revealed only to his eyes.

Exalting the humble, enthroned upon their praise,
He takes pleasure in His people, exalted through heir ways.

Your word is based on truth from the start of all Creation;
since we always seek You, seek the welfare of our nation.

Cherish my plentitude of song as Your own;
may my verses be permitted to approach Your throne.

My praise I humbly offer as a crown upon Your head;
we no longer offer incense, accept my prayer instead.

May the words of this my song be precious as the Psalter
once offered in the Temple with sacrifice upon the altar.

May my prayer rise to the Creator of the miracle of birth,
Master of beginnings whose might and justice fill the earth.

And when I chant my prayer, may You greet it with assent;
the spirit of ancient offerings to You is my intent.

May You find sweet and pleasing my prayer and my songs;
my soul goes out in yearning, for You alone it longs.

Someone is Silent

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 95th birthday.

Elisabeth Borchers
German
1926 – 2013

 

Someone is silent
and you think he is speaking
and you answer
and speak well
and reveal yourself
layer by layer that you cannot
give you who is speaking
and it gets cold and colder

someone is silent
and you wait
for the silence
to all ends
and further
and the word does not carry
and you do not know
where the light is
the light and dark

someone is walking
and you think
he is walking well
and you follow him
and keep up with him
and do not go mad

someone is walking
and you think he is walking softly
on soft soles
and you pluck the softness
and leave the hard
and the ice crunches
and you say I can’t hear it

Autumn Eyes

We present this work in honor of the 15th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Hilde Domin
German
1909 – 2006

 

Press yourself close
to the ground.

The earth
still smells of summer
and your body
still smells of love.

But the grass
is already yellowed above you.
The wind is cold
and full of thistledown.

And the dream which waylays you
shadow-footed
your dream
has autumn eyes.