Georg Trakl

At evening the cuckoo’s lament
Goes silent in the wood
The grain nods deeper,
The red poppy.

A dark storm threatens
Over the hill.
The old song of the cricket
Dies out in the field.

The leaves of the chestnut
No longer move.
Your dress rustles
On the winding stair.

A candle shines softly
In the dark room;
A silver hand
Puts it out;

Windless, starless night.


Am Abend schweigt die Klage
des Kuckucks im Wald.
Tiefer neigt sich das Korn,
der rote Mohn.

Schwarzes Gewitter droht
über dem Hügel.
Das alte Lied der Grille
erstirbt im Feld.

Nimmer regt sich das Laub
der Kastanie.
Auf der Wendeltreppe
rauscht dein Kleid.

Stille leuchtet die Kerze
im dunklen Zimmer;
eine silberne Hand
löschte sie aus;

windstille, sternlose Nacht.

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4 Responses to summer

  1. acantholimon says:

    AAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Makes me want to learn more German. It captures the atmosphere of tonight exactly.

    • paridevita says:

      Yeah. This might be my favorite poem. Trakl was one of Germany’s greatest lyric poets. There’s another one posted for Sept. 29 of last year, “Landscape”.
      I think literal (or near literal) translations are the best.
      The translations of Rilke on this blog are literal or nearly so; the ones done elsewhere aren’t, which strikes me as being the wrong approach, since any attempt to capture Rilke in another language is ultimately hopeless, so why not just provide a literal translation?

  2. Vivian Swift says:

    Thank you! You’re the one translator who credits the reader with the enough intelligence to come to her own conclusions — I’m thinking of those horrible 18th century translations of Horace that made his poems rhyme. Yes, translation is hopeless…I’ve never been able to convey the depth of meaning of the French word “recherché” (damn auto correct — there is no acute accent on this damn word), or even “remerci” in every day French. I thank you for the side-by-side German/English. That last line is beautiful and I don’t even know a lick of Deutsch.

    • paridevita says:

      Sure. I failed to do that on one occasion,, because reproducing the peculiar (but cool) orthography seemed to be beyond the abilities of the word processor. Same one which thinks you’re writing an adjective.
      I know of one terrific translation. Not literal, but it captures the spirit. Unfortunately, it isn’t mine, and I don’t remember who did the translation…..I haven’t seen the poem for over forty years. (Meaning I haven’t seen the page on which the poem was printed ….)

      (Jacques Prévert)

      Démons et merveilles
      Vents et marées
      Au loin déjà la mer s’est retirée
      Et toi
      Comme une algue doucement caressée par le vent
      Dans les sables du lit tu remues en rêvant
      Démons et merveilles
      Vents et marées
      Au loin déjà la mer s’est retirée
      Mais dans tes yeux entrouverts
      Deux petites vagues sont restées
      Démons et merveilles
      Vents et marées
      Deux petites vagues pour me noyer


      Demons and wonders
      Winds and tides
      The sea already backward rides
      And you
      Like seaweed in the wind’s soft loving
      In the sand of the sheet are dreaming and moving
      Demons and wonders
      Winds and tides
      The sea already backward rides
      But in your half-opened eyes
      Two small waves remain to keep
      Demons and wonders
      Winds and tides
      Two small waves to drown me deep.

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