Light of Light, O Sun of Heaven

Martin Opitz
German
1597 – 1639

 

Light of light, O Sun of heaven,
O Thou bright and morning Star,
To mankind in mercy given,
Send Thy radiance from afar,
Bringing light to all the earth,
Health and strength, and joy and mirth;
Darkness past, the dawn is breaking,
All creation is awaking.

Still my soul is thickly shrouded
In the chilling mist of sin,
And my conscience is beclouded
By the ignorance within.
Lead me by the hand, I pray,
Lest in error’s path I stray;
Make Thy light my sole attraction,
Guiding every thought and action.

Spirit of the heavenly morning,
Shine into my darkened heart,
That, the way of life discerning,
I may choose the better part.
Make my erring walk secure,
Every thought and action pure;
Whereso’er my feet be turning,
Keep Thy zeal within me burning.

Deign Thy feeble flock to strengthen
By the bonds of sacred love,
And Thy lines of empire lengthen
By Thy power from above.
Help us govern in Thy sight,
That our laws be just and right;
That we suffer no oppression,
Make our land Thine own possession.

Let our lamp of faith be burning
On that awful judgment day.
While in sin’s domain sojourning,
Guide us in the heavenward way:
Then their praise and thanks to Thee,
Lord, in all eternity
Shall Thy happy children render,
For Thy mercies, kind and tender.

The Fair Agnete

We present this work in honor of German Unity Day.

Agnes Miegel
German
1879 – 1964

 

When Sir Ulrich’s widow in church knelt to pray,
From the church yard toward her floated a lay.
The organ on high did cease to sound,
The priests and the boys all stood spellbound;
The congregation hearkened, old man, child and bride
To singing like a nightingale’s so fair, outside:
“Dear mother, in the church where the sexton’s bell rings,
Dear mother, hark outside how your daughter sings!
For I cannot come to you in the church—ah, nay,
Before the shrine of Mary I cannot kneel to pray,
For I have lost salvation in everlasting time,
For I wedded the waterman with all his black, black slime.
My children—they play in the lake with fishes fleet,
They have fins on their hands and fins on their feet,
Their little pearly frocks no sunlight ever dries,
Not death nor yet a dream can close my children’s eyes.—
Dear mother, oh, I beg of thee,
Lovingly, longingly:
Wilt thou and all thy servants pray
For my green-haired water-sprites alway,
Will ye pray to the saints and to our Lady kind,
By every church and every cross that on the fields ye find!
Dearest mother, I beseech thee so—
Every seven years I may hither go—
Unto the good priest tell,
The church door he shall open well—
That I may see the candle-light
And see the golden monstrance bright,
That my little children may be told
How the gleam of the Cup is like sunlight gold!”

The organ pealed when the voice sang no more,
And then they opened wide the door—
And while they all inside high mass were keeping,
A wave all white, so white, outside was leaping.

Immortality

In honor of Oktoberfest, we present this work by one of the great German-American poets.

Liesel Mueller
German
1924 – 2020

 

In Sleeping Beauty’s castle
the clock strikes one hundred years
and the girl in the tower returns to the world.
So do the servants in the kitchen,
who don’t even rub their eyes.
The cook’s right hand, lifted
an exact century ago,
completes its downward arc
to the kitchen boy’s left ear;
the boy’s tensed vocal cords
finally let go
the trapped, enduring whimper,
and the fly, arrested mid-plunge
above the strawberry pie
fulfills its abiding mission
and dives into the sweet, red glaze.

As a child I had a book
with a picture of that scene.
I was too young to notice
how fear persists, and how
the anger that causes fear persists,
that its trajectory can’t be changed
or broken, only interrupted.
My attention was on the fly:
that this slight body
with its transparent wings
and life-span of one human day
still craved its particular share
of sweetness, a century later.

from Die Goldenen Schmiede

Konrad von Würzburg
German
1225 – 1287

 

He who would braid and decorate
Your noble chaplet with flowers
Must bear within his breast
The blooming May branch of the arts
In order to adorn it
With rose-read phrases
And decorate it all around
With words like violets
To purify it utterly
Of everything false,
And most beautifully interweave
The herbs of exotic rhymes
Beneath, around, between
The blossoms of sweet speech.

Without You

Hermann Hesse
German
1877 – 1962

 

My Pillow gazes upon me at night
Empty as a gravestone;
I never thought it would be so bitter
To be alone,
Not to lie down asleep in your hair.

I lie alone in a silent house,
The hanging lamp darkened,
And gently stretch out my hands
To gather in yours,
And softly press my warm mouth
Toward you, and kiss myself, exhausted and weak-
Then suddenly I’m awake
And all around me the cold night grows still.
The star in the window shines clearly-
Where is your blond hair,
Where your sweet mouth?

Now I drink pain in every delight
And poison in every wine;
I never knew it would be so bitter
To be alone,
Alone, without you.

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.