Saturday, 26 November 2011

Ludwig Hirsch (1946 - 2011) the Last Poet

It's not every day that the death of a writer is the main headline news on the front page of a national newspaper.

Death of the Last Poet is the headline here.

It appears that Ludwig Hirsch threw himself out of a second floor window of a Vienna hospital. He was being treated for lung cancer. Hirsch was a heavy smoker.

To Austrians he was famous for his 'dark gray songs'. It was with his 1978 album Dunkelgrau Lieder that he made his breakthrough.

He will be remembered for the song Komm großer schwarzer Vogel - Come great black bird - which he penned in 1979.

The words of the song proved to be somewhat premonitory. They will undoubtedly become Hirsch's epitaph. I shall attempt to translate some of them; to make a poetic translation that is. Ludwig Hirsch, may your splendid poetry await you!

Komm großer schwarzer Vogel, komm jetzt!

Schau, das Fenster ist weit offen,
schau, ich hab Zucker aufs Fensterbrett g'straht.
Spann' Deine weiten, sanften Flügel aus
und legs' auf meine Fieberaugen!
Bitte, hol mich weg von da!
Und dann fliegen wir rauf,
mit in Himmel rein . . .
Press' Deinen feuchten, kalten Schnabel
auf meine Wunde, auf meine heiße Stirn!
Jetzt wär's grad günstig!
Die anderen da im Zimmer schlafen fest
und wenn wir ganz leise sind,
hört uns die Schwester nicht!

Come great black bird, come now!

Look, the window is wide open,
Look, sugar is spread on the window-sill.
So spread your wide soft wings
and let them cover my fevered eyes!
Please, take me away from here!
And soon we both shall fly
into the clear sky . . .
Now press your cold damp beak
upon my wound and on my burning brow!
Ah, that was really good! The others
are sound asleep within this room
and if we are very quiet
the sister will not hear us!



  1. One of the interesting things, I think, about artistic creation is one never can tell where a creation will lead. Could Bach ever imagine people driving round in cars listening to his music coming out of machines? Could Hirsch have imagined when he wrote it that he would be writing about his own death?

    If it's any good, art -in a sense- turns out to be bigger than its creators.

  2. great couple of poems here Gwilym

  3. John, many thanks!

    Dominic, I think what you say is true. The creator of art is perhaps only a tool in hands of another. The imagination knows no bounds and there must be a universal reason for that. Great verses were written thousands of years ago, in the Old Testament for example, and the identity of the writer is unknown as in Ecclesiastes (the Teacher) but the creation, that is the verses, will live as long as man survives.


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