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.

The Three Kingdoms of Nature

We present this work in honor of the 240th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
German
1729 – 1781

 

I sought, while drinking, to unfold
Why Nature’s kingdoms are threefold.
Both man and beast, they drink and love,
As each is gifted from above;
The dolphin, eagle, dog and flea,
In that they love and drink, agree.
In all that drink and love then, we
The first of these three kingdoms see.

The plants the second kingdom are,
But lower in creation far;
They do not love, but yet they drink,
When dripping clouds upon them sink;
Thus drinks the clover, thus the pine,
The aloe tree and branching vine,
In all that drink, but love not, we
The second of these kingdoms see.

The stony kingdom is the last,
Here diamonds with sand are classed;
No stone feels thirst, or soft desires,
No love, no draught its bosom fires.
In all that drink not, love not, we
The last of these three kingdoms see.
For without love, or wine, now own!
What wouldst thou be, oh Man? – A stone.

If Love is Chaste

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 400th birthday.

Sibylla Schwarz
German
1621 – 1638

 

If love is chaste, what bears adultery?
If love is good, and does no evil own,
How can its fire so many flames propone?
If love is joy, why’s it called cruelty?

Who love adores, sails on a lustful sea,
And lets himself into death’s net be sewn,
Which does not tear; he lives for sin alone,
Is stripped of virtue, worships vanity.

For life eternal totally he dies,
And sees his grief but when his grave he spies.
Whoever has been found in loving’s fit,

Let him hate love and flee it in all haste.
Does love taste sweet? Let him despise its taste.
Is love his bread? Let him feed dogs with it.

Love

We present this work in honor of the 10th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Eva Stritmatter
German
1930 – 2011

 

How terrible was the flame
In which together we once burned
In the end an ember remains
And the usual happens, even to us.
That’s not ash, that last trace of fire
Shows our daily work. And how precious
this tiny bit of warmth, I learned
in this worst year
of all my years.
Should another winter like this come
and another such snow fall upon me
Only this warmth can save me
from death. What else
should hold me? What remains of our Love:
We had each other. No grass
will grow over us, no stone
so long as this ember glows.

So long as there’s an ember
there might be fire…

The Historian’s Complaint

We present this work in honor of the 25th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Heiner Müller
German
1921 – 1995

 

In the fourth book of the Annals Tacitus complains
About the duration of peacetime, seldom interrupted
By silly border wars with whose description he
Has to make do, filled with envy
Of the historians before him
Who had mammoth wars at their disposal
Conducted by emperors who thought Rome was not grand enough
Subjugated nations, captured kings
Uprisings and state crises: great stuff.
And Tacitus apologizes to his readers.
As for me two thousand years after him
I have no need to apologize and can not
Complain about the lack of great stuff.

Corruption on the Loose

We present this work in honor of the 280th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Sidonia Hedwig Zäunemann
German
1711 – 1740

 

If you’ve stained your matrimonial life, deceived your creditor,
gained by lies your neighbour’s pasture and field;
if you’ve hurt your fellow-being’s coat of innocence or good reputation,
and with guile rendered yours
the token of the oppressed, which you had taken as a pawn:
Then you must not turn despondent, even though how grave they’d sue you at the court.
Soon only endeavor after an attorney, after one
who bears his good conscience in the manner that
he wears his sleeves, as if a priest’s,
who feels amused as highly by disputes,
instances of taking advantage as by quarrels,
as may feel a man, who’s been out at war,
who’s come to find lots of things to plunder,
one whose heart is full of spitefulness,
whose head of trickery,
his soul full of deceit and daring malice,
who writes seven lines only on one page,
but always swells all his writings into twenty folders,
who produces as many expenditures, as what is desired in every cause of conflict,
as he tosses and turns the procedure
until the case will have gone on for many a good year.
Him you ought to fill his bent hands with golden treasures from Ophir,
then soon will he lash out and hit on the rights of the opposite party;
then even turn to the counterpart’s and win that attorney’s favor, too;
bestow him a gift of a stately piece to wear,
a staunch and fat pig,
a barrelful of grape wine, as well as other nice things,
thus you will make that one mild and
he’ll be favouring you, too.
Likewise go and see the judge, and fill his hand –
wild men at hand – with gold from the Hungarian land.
And should he refrain from taking your things; then give them to his wife,
damask, silk and velvet for her body,
ribbons, laces, linen, and furs for her petticoats,
Fill up their store-rooms and kitchen house;
thus you’ll gain for any pending case more time,
your attorney will put things off,
your judge procrastinate them;
although how hard your opponent might attempt to see the final verdict coming.
Should he complain, o dear, tired of all the payments,
asking for justice at long last,

then it will be pointed out:
‘you have no rights.
He who’s been sparing the money shall always be the winner.’

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.