Spring 1946

We present this work in honor of the 70th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Elisabeth Langgässer
German
1899 – 1950

 

(for Cordelia)

So you return
My sweet Anemone –
All brilliant stamen, calyx, crown –
Making it worth the devastation,
Like Nausicaa?

Windblown and bowing –
Wave and spray and light –
What whirling joy at last
Has lifted up this weight
From shoulders bent with dust?

Now I arise
Out of the toad’s domain –
Pluto’s reddish glare still under my eyelids –
And the hideous pipe of the guide to the dead
Still in my ears.

I have seen the iron gleam
In the Gorgon’s eye.
I have heard the hiss, the whisper,
The rumor that she would kill me:
It was a lie.

Anemone, my daughter,
Let me kiss your face: it is
Unmirrored by the waters
Of Lethe or the Styx.
And innocent of no or not.

And see, you are alive
And here – there’s no deception –
And quiet in the way you touch my heart
Yet do not rake its fires –
My child, my Nausicaa!

‘Twas Summer

Walther von der Vogelweide
German
1170 – 1230

 

‘Twas summer,— through the opening grass
The joyous flowers upsprang,
The birds in all their different tribes
Loud in the woodlands sang:
Then forth I went, and wandered far
The wide green meadow o’er;
Where cool and clear the fountain play’d,
There strayed I in that hour.

Roaming on, the nightingale
Sang sweetly in my ear;
And, by the greenwood’s shady side,
A dream came to me there;
Fast by the fountain, where bright flowers
Of sparkling hue we see,
Close sheltered from the summer heat,
That vision came to me.

All care was banished, and repose
Came o’er my wearied breast;
And kingdoms seemed to wait on me,
For I was with the blest.

Yet, while it seemed as if away
My spirit soared on high,
And in the boundless joys of heaven
Was wrapt in ecstacy,
E’en then, my body revelled still
In earth’s festivity;
And surely never was a dream
So sweet as this to me.

Thus I dream’d on, and might have dwelt
Still on that rapturous dream,
When, hark! a raven’s luckless note
(Sooth, ‘twas a direful scream,)
Broke up the vision of delight,
Instant my joy was past:
O, had a stone but met my hand,
That hour had been his last…

On the Tower

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff
German
1797 – 1848

 

I stand aloft on the balcony,
The starlings around me crying,
And let like maenad my hair stream free
To the storm o’er the ramparts flying.
Oh headlong wind, on this narrow ledge
I would I could try thy muscle
And, breast to breast, two steps from the edge,
Fight it out in a deadly tussle.

Beneath me I see, like hounds at play,
How billow on billow dashes;
Yea, tossing aloft the glittering spray,
The fierce throng hisses and clashes.
Oh, might I leap into the raging flood
And urge on the pack to harry

The hidden glades of the coral wood,
For the walrus, a worthy quarry!
From yonder mast a flag streams out
As bold as a royal pennant;
I can watch the good ship lunge about
From this tower of which I am tenant;
But oh, might I be in the battling ship,
Might I seize the rudder and steer her,
How gay o’er the foaming reef we’d slip
Like the sea-gulls circling near her!

Were I a hunter wandering free,
Or a soldier in some sort of fashion,
Or if I at least a man might be,
The heav’ns would grant me my passion.

But now I must sit as fine and still
As a child in its best of dresses,
And only in secret may have my will
And give to the wind my tresses.

Two Doors

Hilde Domin
German
1909 – 2006

 

Only two doors
are bolted.
All the others invite you in
and open with the softest
pressure of your curiosity.

Only these doors are
so hard to open
that your strength runs out.
No joiner comes and
planes them down and oils
the stubborn bolts.

The door which closed
behind you and you
outside.
The door which locked
before you and you
inside.

If Only I Knew

We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Nelly Sachs
German
1891 – 1970

 

If only I knew,
what your last look rested on.
Was it a stone that had already drunk
many last looks, until they fell in blindness
on the blind?

Or was it dirt,
earth enough to fill a shoe,
and already turned black
from so many good-byes
and from causing so much death?

Or was it your last road,
That brought you the farewell from all roads
You had walked on?

A puddle, a piece of mirroring metal,
the belt buckle of your enemy, perhaps,
or any other small fortune-teller
of heaven?

Or did this Earth, that doesn’t allow
anyone to depart from here unloved
send a bird-sign through the air,
reminding your soul so that it flinched
in its body burned with anguish?

nightsong

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

May Ayim
German
1960 – 1996

 

i no longer wait
for the better times
midnight blue sky above us
silver stars upon it
hand in hand with you
along the river
trees right and left
desire in their branches
hope in my heart

i straighten up my room
i light a candle
i paint a poem

i no longer kiss my way
down your body
through your navel
into your dreams
my love in your mouth
your fire in my lap
pearls of sweat on my skin

i dress myself warmly
i paint my lips red
i talk to the flowers

i no longer listen
for a sign from you
take out your letters
look at your pictures
conversation with you
till midnight
visions between us
children smiling at us

i open the window wide
i tie my shoes tight
i get my hat

I no longer dream
in lonely hours
your face into time
your shadow is only
a cold figure
i pack the memories up
i blow the candle out
i open the door

i no longer wait
for the better times

i go out into the street
scent of flowers on my skin
umbrella in my hand
along the river
midnight blue sky above me
silver stars upon it
trees
left and right
desire in their branches
hope in my heart

i love you
i wait no longer

Tel Aviv 1935

We present this work in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Leah Goldberg
German
1911 – 1970

 

Back then the masts on the houses were
like the masts of Columbus’ ships,
and every raven that stood on their tips,
heralded a different continent.

The knapsacks of travelers walked the streets
and the language of a foreign country
pierced the heatwave
like the blade of a cold knife.

How can the air of this small city
lift up so many
childhood memories, cast off loves,
rooms emptied out somewhere?

Like pictures blackening inside a camera
they turned—pure winter nights,
rainy summer nights across the sea,
and the grey mornings of the cities.

But footsteps beat behind your back,
the marching tune of a foreign army.
And it seems—if you just turn your head, in the sea
your city’s church is sailing.

Early Evening

Ilse Blumenthal-Weiss
German
1899 – 1987

 

In the awake forests
of the day
Your laugh pushes through
The darkness.

Voices slip out of control
Luscious in their song,
Far and wide,
Sprayed with fog,

They swim like a fever
Glowing in the blood.
Longer still, lovely
Rhythm and flood;

Again, still again
A blooming weight:
Bend down lower
Intoxicated guest.
Light circling light
Going into silence.
Poet and poet
Into one another

Their hands curve,
Indulging / Feasting Awake.
Day is coming to an end;
It is almost night.

Bread and Wine

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 250th birthday.

Friedrich Hölderlin
German
1770 – 1843

 

Round about the city rests. The illuminated streets grow
Quiet, and coaches rush along, adorned with torches.
Men go home to rest, filled with the day’s pleasures;
Busy minds weigh up profit and loss contentedly
At home. The busy marketplace comes to rest,
Vacant now of flowers and grapes and crafts.
But the music of strings sounds in distant gardens:
Perhaps lovers play there, or a lonely man thinks
About distant friends, and about his own youth.
Rushing fountains flow by fragrant flower beds,
Bells ring softly in the twilight air, and a watchman
Calls out the hour, mindful of the time.
Now a breeze rises and touches the crest of the grove —
Look how the moon, like the shadow of our earth,
Also rises stealthily! Phantastical night comes,
Full of stars, unconcerned probably about us —
Astonishing night shines, a stranger among humans,
Sadly over the mountain tops, in splendor.

Moon-Snow Lies on the Meadows

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

Eva Strittmatter
German
1930 – 2011

 

Moon-snow lies on the meadows
as from you I go.
We’ve loved one another long now
not just since the last snow.
Yet every time, I come to you,
it’s so:
I don’t know, who I am, or where,
I’m sad and I’m madly happy.
(Part heathen and part saint.)