Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Georg Heym's two poems

Umbra Vitae

The people on the streets draw up and stare,
While overhead huge portents cross the sky;
Round fanglike towers threatening comets flare,
Death-bearing, fiery-snouted where they fly.

On every roof astrologers abound,
enormous tubes thrust heavenward; there are
Magicians springing up from underground,
Aslant in darkness, conjuring to a star.

Through night great hordes of suicides are hurled,
Men seeking on their way the selves they've lost;
Crook-backed they haunt all corners of the world,
And with their arms for brooms they sweep the dust.

They are as dust, keep but a little while;
And as they move their hair drops out. They run,
To hasten their slow dying. Then they fall,
And in the open fields lie prone,

But twitch a little still. Beasts of the field
Stand blindly around them, prod with horns
Their sprawling bodies till at last they yield,
Lie buried by the sage-bush, by the thorns.

But all the seas are stopped. Among the waves
The shops hang rotting, scattered, beyond hope.
No current through the water moves,
And all the courts of heaven are locked up.

Trees do not change, the seasons do not change.
Enclosed in dead finality each stands,
And over broken roads lets frigid range
Its palmless thousand-fingered hands.

They dying man sits up, as if to stand,
Just once more word a moment since he cries,
All at once he's gone. Can life so end?
And crushed to fragments are his glassy eyes.

The secret shadows thicken, darkness breaks;
Behind the speechless doors dreams watch and creep.
Burdened by light of dawn the man that wakes
Must rub from grayish eyelids leaden sleep.

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(1912)



Judas

Torment's curl leaps above his brow,
In which winds and many voices whispering
Swim by like waters flowing.

Yet he runs by his side just like a dog.
And in the mire he picks up everything saying said.
And he weighs it heavily. And it is dead.

Ah gently in the swaying eventide
The Lord walked down over the white fields.
It was him the corn-ears glorified.
His feet were small as flies
In the shrill gleam of golden skies.


—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(1912)

____
English language copyright (c) 1962 by Christopher Middleton

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