Above the white pond
Wild birds have flown away.
In the evening an icy wind blows from our stars.

Above our graves
Night leans down with its shattered forehead.
Under the oaks, we rock in a silver skiff.

The town's white walls keep ringing.
Beneath the arches of thorns,
O my brother, we are the blind hands climbing toward midnight.

--Georg Trakl, trans. Daniel Simko

Note: Prior to the First World War, Trakl was given an anonymous stipend in support of his poetry by Ludwig Wittgenstein. So this is about political science in many ways.


At 11/11/2005 12:15 PM, Blogger Priya said...

Ok but why does the wind blow from the stars? Can that happen? I'm confused. Aren't stars in places where there is no air/wind?

Also, if night's forehead is shattered, would pieces of it be falling on our graves? Btw, "our graves" is very "Western-oriented" since "we" folk back in Nepal either get pecked upon by vultures (those uncivilised Buddhists) or burnt to cinder at death. Not buried.

Can silver skiffs rock? Would silver not sink? Or is the skiff silver coloured? (in which case it may rock)

The last part is just plain delusional. Last weekend, when I was seeing spots, this would probably have made a lot more sense.

E, noting the time of the post, I'm rather worried about your early morning reading :-)

At 11/11/2005 12:23 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Seriously? You're not kidding?

It's Armistice Day. What else would I be reading?

And since the poem is about the War, it's perfectly appropriate to use the phrase "our graves," as y'all were still a backward colonial outpost at the time, and therefore not entitled to consideration by the civilized peoples of Europe.

Who were far too busy blowing each other to tiny bits to care whether they were being inclusive.

At 11/11/2005 12:41 PM, Blogger Priya said...

Okay, early morning poetry-reading is clearer now. Context, E, context!

November 11 being Armistice/Remembrance day had totally passed me by. Today being November 11 had passed me by. Even if I'd thought of today being November 11, without the poem, I probably wouldn't have made the connection.

But, why Trakl? Because he nearly died when he had to leave the more protected world of the military and enter everyday life (doesn't bode well for us if we ever have to leave academia)? Because he alternated between drugs and depression (a dire warning to us)? Because he kept on seeking employment without success (ditto)? Or, because when he got his grant from Witty, he wasn't able to use it at all since he died soon afterwards (so, no point in applying for fellowships, really)? Or, because he'd injected himself with cocaine (a fatal dose) just before Witty came to meet him (don't make plans to meet famous philosophers if you've also planned to die since both might not arrive in the proper order)?

I'm curious. And (as should be obvious since, unlike E, I'm not an Encylopedia in human form :-)), have been utilising Google.

At 11/11/2005 3:26 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Seemed a better choice than most. And now that you've run down the biography, I can skip it, right?

At 11/11/2005 10:37 PM, Blogger Priya said...

Totally. More fun when you know what Georg was up to in between writing his (pretty awful, I have to admit) poems :-)

At 11/12/2005 1:40 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

I don't think they're awful. I think the translation is bad.

And I concede that he died in 1914. But it was November, so it's not as if he offed himself immediately. Just when he heard that he was going to be confronted by Wittgenstein.

I can sympathize with that.

At 11/12/2005 1:42 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Double posting to point out that his life in the military was anything but sheltered, and the inability to help dying soldiers at the front contributed to his death. Not so much a wimp as a poor, sensitive soul.

Mind you, he packed it in during his mid-twenties. Surely things would have turned around eventually?


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