Georg Trakl, Three Poems

Edvard Munch, The Cry

Georg Trakl: 1887-1914; Austrian, pharmacist, drug addict, conscripted, suicide attempt after experiences in military wards on eastern front, died at 27 in a Polish psychiatric ward through cocaine overdose; shortly before his death he noted: ‘[Your] feelings at moments of deathlike existence: all human beings are worthy of love. Awakening, you feel the bitterness of the world: in that you know all your un-absolved guilt; your poems an imperfect penance.’ Probably had incestuous relationship with his sister.

My translations of three of his poems:

De Profundis

A stubble field in which black rain falls.
A brown tree standing alone.
A lisping wind circling empty huts –
How sad this evening.

Past the pond
The gentle orphan still gathers scarce sheaves.
Her eyes graze round and golden in the twilight
And her loins await the heavenly groom.

On returning home
Shepherds found the sweet body
Putrefied in a thorn bush.

I am a shadow far from dark villages.
God’s silence
I drank from the grove’s well.

Cold metal treads my brow.
Spiders seek my heart.
A light goes out in my mouth.

Night found me on a heath,
Stiff with rubbish and star dust.
In the hazel bushes again
Crystal angels sounded.

On the Moor

Wanderer in the black wind; quietly the thin reeds whisper
In the stillness of the moor. In the grey sky
A phalanx of wild birds follows
Across over dark waters.

Riot. In a decayed hut
Mould flutters black wings;
Crippled birches sigh in the wind.

Evening in an empty inn. The gentle melancholy
Of grazing herds flanks the way home,
Night apparition: toads surface from silver waters.


To Karl Borromäus Heinrich

Over the white pond
The wild birds have travelled on.
Evenings from our stars there blows an icy wind.

Over our graves
Bends the broken brow of night.
Beneath oaks we sway in a silver boat.

Always the tinkling of the town’s white walls.
Beneath thorn arches
O my brother we blind minute hands climb towards midnight.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on October 22, 2010.

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