Sunday, 27 January 2008

Georg Trakl's poetry

Rainer Mairia Rilke (below) found Georg Trakl's poetry to be a thing of sublime existence. Trakl was born in Salzburg in 1887 and studied pharmacy. From 1910 - 1911 he served in the Austrian Army Medical Service. In Vienna, as a chemist, he experimented with drugs. In 1914 he enlisted in the Medical Corps. He died in Cracow in November of that year.
Alexander Stillmark has translated some of Trakl's poetry. With the aid of a trio of Professor Stillmark's translations we may discover why Rilke was such a devoted Trakl fan.

The Ravens

Across the black nook the ravens hasten
At noonday with harsh cry.
Their shadow sweeps past the hind
And sometimes one sees them in sullen repose.

O how they disturb the brown silence
Wherein a tilled field is enrapt
Like a woman by heavy foreboding entranced,
And sometimes one can hear them bickering

Over some carrion scented out somewhere;
Of a sudden they direct their flight northwards
And dwindle away like a funeral procession
In airs which shudder with rapture.


Blind lament in the wind, moon-like winter days,
Childhood, the footsteps quietly die away by the black hedge,
Long tolling of evening bells.
The white night quietly draws on,

Transforms pain and plague into crimson dreams
Of stony life,
That the thorny sting never ceases to vex the decaying body.

Deep in sleep the fearful soul draws a sigh,

Deep the wind in broken trees,
And the sorrowing figure
Of mother sways through the lonely forest

Of this mute mourning; nights,
Filled with tears, fiery angels,
All silver a childlike skeleton shatters upon a bare wall.

*Föhn is an unseasonable warm wind that blows in Central Europe. People blame the Föhn for ill-health - everything from headaches to high blood pressure to raised heartbeats. P-i-R finds the Föhn to be a pleasant warmth and a welcome change from the cold.

In the East

A people's gloomy wrath is like
Wild organs of a winter storm,
The scarlet wave of battle,
Of leaf-stripped stars.

With shattered brows, silver arms,
Night beckons dying soldiers.
In the shade of autumn ash
The spirits of the vanquished sigh.

Thorny wilderness girds the city.
The moon hounds frightened women
From bleeding steps.
Wild wolves burst through the gate.

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