Monday, 15 April 2019

August Graf von Platen (1796-1835): 'O süßer Tod' in English translation


O süßer Tod, der alle Menschen schrecket,
Von mir empfingst du lauter Huldigungen:
Wie hab ich brünstig oft nach dir gerungen,
Nach deinem Schlummer, welchen nichts erwecket!

Ihr Schläfer ihr, von Erde zugedecket,
Von ew’gen Wiegenliedern eingesungen,
Habt ihr den Kelch des Lebens froh geschwungen,
Der mir allein vielleicht wie Galle schmecket?

Auch euch, befürcht ich, hat die Welt betöret,
Vereitelt wurden eure besten Taten,
Und eure liebsten Hoffnungen zerstöret.

Drum selig Alle, die den Tod erbaten,
Ihr Sehnen ward gestillt, ihr Flehn erhöret,
Denn jedes Herz zerhackt zuletzt ein Spaten.


Oh Death so sweet, that makes all mortals quake,
From me you will but get your homage due:
How oft and ardently I’ve sought for you,
As too your slumber from which nought can wake!

You sleepers, who the earth have as your pall,
By endless lullabies soothed into sleep
Have you the cup of life drained at one sweep
Which I perhaps can only taste as gall?

You too, I fear, the world has quite beguiled,
Your finest deeds have ended up interred
And all your fondest hopes dashed and defiled.

So blessèd are all who for Death once prayed,
Your longing was allayed, your pleading heard,
For every heart ends chopped up by a spade.

Walther von der Vogelweide: 'Owê war sint verswunden alliu mîniu jâr!' in English translation

Owê war sint verswunden alliu mîniu jâr!
ist mir mîn leben getroumet, oder ist ez wâr?
daz ich je wânde ez wære, was daz allez iht?
dar nâch hân ich geslâfen und enweiz es niht.
nû bin ich erwachet, und ist mir unbekant
daz mir hie vor was kündic als mîn ander hant.
liut unde lant, dârinne ich von kinde bin erzogen,
die sint mir worden frömde reht als ez sî gelogen.
die mîne gespilen wâren, die sint træge unt alt.
vereitet is daz velt, verhouwen ist der walt:
wan daz daz wazzer fliuzet als ez wîlent flôz,
für wâr mîn ungelücke wande ich wurde grôz.
mich grüezet maneger trâge, der mich bekande ê wol.
diu welt ist allenthalben ungenâden vol.
als ich gedenke an manegen wünneclîchen tac,
die mir sint enpfallen als in daz mer ein slac,
iemer mêre ouwê.

Owê wie jæmerlîche junge liute tuont,
den ê vil hovelîchen ir gemüete stuont!
die kunnen niuwan sorgen: wê wie tuont si sô?
swar ich zer werlte kêre, dâ ist nieman vrô:
der jugende tanzen, singen zergât mit sorgen gar:
nie kein kristenman gesach sô jæmerliche schar.
nû merkent wie den vrouwen ir gebende stât:
die stolzen ritter tragent an dörpellîche wât.
uns sint unsenfte brieve her von Rôme komen,
uns ist erloubet trûren und vreude gar benomen.
daz müet mich inneclîchen (wir lebeten ie vil wol)
daz ich nû für mîn lachen weinen kiesen sol.
die vogele in der wilde betrüebet unser klage:
waz wunders ist ob ich dâ von an vreuden gar verzage?
ôwê waz spriche ich tumber man durch mînen bœsen zorn?
swer dirre wünne volget, hât jene dort verlorn,
iemer mêre ouwê.

Owê wie uns mit süezen dingen ist vergeben!
ich sihe die bittern gallen in dem honege sweben:
diu werlt ist ûzen schœne, wîz grüene unde rôt,
und innân swarzer varwe, vinster sam der tôt.
swen si nû habe verleitet, der schouwe sînen trôst:
er wirt mit swacher buoze grôzer sünde erlôst.
dar an gedenkent, ritter: ez ist iuwer dinc,
ir traget die liehten helme und manegen herten rinc,
dar zuo die vesten schilte und diu gewîhten swert.
wolte got, wan wære ich der segenunge wert!
sô wolde ich nôtic armman verdienen rîchen solt.
joch meine ich niht die huoben noch der hêrren golt:
ich wolte sælden krône êweclîchen tragen:
die mohte ein soldenære mit sîme sper bejagen.
möht ich die lieben reise gevarn über sê,
sô wolte ich denne singen "wol" und niemêr mêre "ouwê",
niemer mêre ouwê.

Alas what has become of all my years now past!
has my life been a dream, or real from first to last?
that formerly imagined, was it really so?
I have slept since then and I really do not know.
now I have awakened to find all that I knew
as closely as my own hand seems strange and untrue.
the folk and land to which since boyhood I’ve close ties
feel now so unfamiliar as were they but lies.
those who were my playmates are lethargic and old.
the fields destroyed by fire, the woods all felled and sold:
Had not the river flowed where long since it did before,
my misery indeed I believe had pained me sore.
I get but distant greeting from those who knew me well.
and everywhere the world is a thankless place to dwell.
and when I recollect many blissful days of yore,
they’ve vanished as in water the marks left by an oar,
ever more alas.

Alas young folk’s behaviour is wretched or worse,
with wit and keen refinement they once did converse,
but now are merely mournful: ah, why is that so?
Whichever way I turn, no happiness they show:
Where young folk danced and sang, all go with heads quite bowed,
no christian ever saw such a miserable crowd.
just notice how the ladies huge headdresses bear:
and proud knights put on clothes such as poor peasants wear.
from Rome disturbing missives arrive at our door,
that only grief afford us and joy permit no more.
this causes such distress (our spirits once were high)
that I instead of laughter would now choose to cry.
the birds at large in nature grow sad since we complain:
it scarcely is surprising that I from joy abstain.
alas what stupid words do I speak, by anger torn?
who here would seek delight has later joy forsworn,
ever more alas.

Alas things far too sweet us poison and enthrall!
in honey I see floating what is but bitter gall:
outside the world is beauteous, is white, green and red,
and inside black as death that fills us with such dread.
let anyone seduced here consolation find:
small penances absolve great sins if true in kind.
be mindful of this knights: remember without fail,
you wear your shining helmets and tightly meshed chain mail,
as too your sturdy shields and consecrated swords.
may god me some day later just victory afford!
then I, poor and needy, a great reward would reap.
I do not speak of land, rich men their gold may keep:
I yearn to wear that crown for all eternity
which mercenary soldiers with spear would gain for free.
and if I that longed-for sea-voyage should ever come to pass
then I would sing ‘how glorious’ and never more ‘alas’,
never more alas.

Sunday, 14 April 2019


Walther von der Vogelweide (c.1170-c.1230): 'Under der linden' in English translation

Under der linden
an der heide,
dâ unser zweier bette was,
dâ mugt ir vinden
schône beide
gebrochen bluomen unde gras.
vor dem walde in einem tal -
schöne sanc die nachtigal.

Ich kam gegangen
zuo der ouwe,
dô was mîn friedel komen ê.
da wart ich enpfangen
hêre frouwe,
daz ich bin sælic iemer mê.
kuster mich? wol tûsenstunt!
seht, wie rôt mir ist der munt.

Dô het er gemachet
also riche
von bluomen eine bettestat.
des wird noch gelachet
kumt iemen an daz selbe pfat.
bî den rôsen er wol mac -
merken, wâ mirz houbet lac.

Daz er bî mir læge,
wessez iemen,
– nu enwelle got – sô schamt ich mich.
wes er mit mir pflæge,
niemer niemen
bevinde daz wan er unt ich
und ein kleinez vogellîn!
daz mag wol getriuwe sîn.

Under the lime tree,
where such a blissful bed was ours,
you will in time see,
your eyes grounded,
much flattened grass as well as flowers.
near the wood and in a dale
sweetly sang the nightingale

I came out walking
now converging
on where my love was gone before.
received such sweet talking,
blessed virgin,
that I am joyful ever more.
did he kiss me? thousandfold!
see, my lips are red as gold.

To where he had crafted
out of flowers 
the finest bed on which to lie.
this is still laughed at 
at all hours,
should someone near this place pass by.
from the roses he can say –
just where my fair head once lay.

Should someone discover
with me he lay
- may God forbid – ashamed I’d be.
that done by my lover
must secret stay 
for everyone save him and me
and a tiny little bird!
trusted not to say a word.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Ole Sarvig: 'Regnmaaleren' in English translation


med den flade kumme
staar i juninattens bløde regn
paa sin søjle
og lar sig fylde af vand,
mens mørke popler suser
og bevæger deres grene.

Natten kan høres videnom.
Regnen gir genlyd i verden.
Der er tomt. Der er stille.
Alle skabninger sover.

Poplerne suser.

Inat er haven vaagen
og fuld af vellugt.

Ganske stille
som en flad kumme
i juniregnen
vil jeg løbe fuld
af vilje

The rain gauge

The rain gauge
with its shallow basin
stands in the June night’s gentle rain
on its column
letting itself be filled with water,
while dark poplars sigh
and move their branches.

The night can be heard far and wide.
The rain finds its echo in the world.
It is empty. It is still.
All of creation is asleep.

The poplars sigh.

Tonight the garden is awake
and full of fragrance.

Quite still
like a shallow basin
in June rain
I shall fill to the brim
with will

Der von Kürenberg: 'Ich zôch mir einen valken' (Middle High German) in English translation

Ich zôch mir einen valken mêre danne ein jâr.
dô ich in gezamete als ich in wolte hân
und ich im sîn gevidere mit golde wol bewant,
er huop sich ûf vil hôhe und floug in anderiu lant.

Sît sach ich den valken schône fliegen:
er fuorte an sînem fuoze sîdîne riemen,
und was im sîn gevidere alrôt guldîn.
got sende si zesamene die gerne geliep wellen sîn!

I chose to train a falcon longer than a year.
When I’d fully tamed him to act as I made clear 
and with gold thread his plumage adorned with my own hands,
he rose into the heavens and flew to far-off lands.

Since when I’ve seen the falcon swoop and soar:
silk jesses round his ankle I saw he still wore,
And there was red gold still in his plumage up above
God bring together those who so yearn to know of love!

Friday, 12 April 2019

Anon. German poem: 'Es ist ein schne gefallen' in English translation

Es ist ein schne gefallen
und ist es doch nit zeit,
man wirft mich mit den pallen,
der weg ist mir verschneit.

Mein haus hat keinen gibel,
es ist mir worden alt,
zerbrochen sind die rigel,
mein stüblein ist mir kalt.

Ach lieb, laß dichs erparmen
daß ich so elend pin,
und schleuß mich in dein arme!
so vert der winter hin.

An early snow’s been falling
although the time’s not right,
I’m prone to much snowballing,
my path is decked with white.

My house has lost its gable
and seems to me so old,
no locks work in this stable,
my room to me feels cold.

Ah love, take pity on me
that all this grieves me sore,
and fold your arms around me!
then winter is no more.

Ole Sarvig: 'Bjørneklo' in English translation


Den staar nede ved havnen,
høj som to mænd,
trives i raadden tang og fisk.

Se dens skærme,
hvor højt den nu er vokset
i denne sommer,
da krigens spil løber over bordet
i de blaa og de graa dage!

Se den,
dens navn er egensind,
og i skærmene har den frygt
og Ahrimans had og fortvivlelse!

En grænseløs elendig,
smudsig og fattig sommer
blomstrer nu med sine kæmpevækster
nede ved havnen.
Og fluerne bestøver dem.

Giant hogweed

The giant hogweed.
It stands down by the harbour,
tall as two men,
thrives in rotten wrack and fish.

Look at its cartwheels,
how tall it now has grown
during the summer,
when the war game sweeps the board
in the blue and grey days!

Look at it,
its name is wilfulness,
and in its cartwheels it has fear
and Ahriman’s hatred and despair!

A boundlessly wretched,
dirty and impoverished summer
now flowers with its giant growths
down by the harbour.
And the flies pollinate it.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Petrarch Sonnet 132 in English translation

S’amor non è, che dunque è quel ch’io sento?
Ma s’egli è amor, perdio, che cosa et quale?
Se bona, onde l’effecto aspro mortale?
Se ria, onde sí dolce ogni tormento?

S’a mia voglia ardo, onde ’l pianto e lamento?
S’a mal mio grado, il lamentar che vale?
O viva morte, o dilectoso male,
come puoi tanto in me, s’io no ’l consento?

Et s’io ’l consento, a gran torto mi doglio.
Fra sí contrari vènti in frale barca
mi trovo in alto mar senza governo,

sí lieve di saver, d’error sí carca
ch’i’ medesmo non so quel ch’io mi voglio,
et tremo a mezza state, ardendo il verno.

Were this not love, what is it I am feeling?
If love it be, dear God, what is its essence?
If good, whence comes its bitter, deadly presence?
If ill, why is each torment so appealing?

If I would burn, why tears and such lamenting?
If I am evil, is then grief capricious?
O living death, O evil so delicious,
How come you fill me without my consenting?

Should I consent, mistaken is my wailing.
On high seas in my frail bark quite ungoverned
Conflicting winds cause me to slide and slither,

So light in knowledge, so with error burdened,
Not knowing what I wish my constant failing –
I burn in winter and in summer shiver.

To see the translation by Geoffrey Chaucer, go to here.

Harald Bergstedt: 'Jeg ved en lærkerede' in English translation

The lark’s nest

A lark’s nest I’ve discovered,
My lips are sealed quite tight.
On moorland it’s well-covered
Completely out of sight.

Inside it chicks are sleeping
wrapped in a bed of down.
They wake and all start cheeping,
the nest is soft and warm.

The parent larks stay flying
close to the fledglings’ nest.
I’m sure they sense I’m trying
to do what suits them best.

Hid by a sloe I’m straining
To where I am most near.
On tip-toe I stand craning,
I hold my breath and peer.

For boys will gather berries,
And foxes always bite.
But where the lark is serried
I’ll keep well out of sight.

To see the original poem, go to here