A ballad to mother
All sorrow is drowned in the solace of wine,
and the thirst of small flowers is quenched in dew,
but I hide the grief of my burning heart
in a dark, heavy ballad from view.
And I hope to God not a single lie
to my ballad so bleak will belong,
it is painful but fine to speak the truth
and at night sing my mother a song.
The clear skies the child saw are hidden from view
and the hand is now hard that was soft,
and strangely contorted are clouds that pass
ere the storm’s on the rampage aloft.
Vain things of the world have lost their scent
and my hope is for sweet smells from high above –
I still sense, Oh mother, the tears in your eyes
when you gaze on your son with great love.
Your life while still young without doubt was hard
from darkness you groped your way here,
an illiterate woman, scrawny and weak
from children and toil worn and drear.
And lonely torment and pain and need
and the godlike love to the child you bore
were bitterly mixed with salt in your bread
during waiting that wearied you sore.
Though you did not know just how bad I was,
and how close to the death of my soul,
that the smothered light of the stack can take
and extinguish the eye’s gleaming coal,
your heart despite this stayed so close to me,
no matter how far I did stray,
that my anguish you felt like a shadow round you
when you prayed at the end of the day.
Oh woman, you know what my harsh words mean
for in labour and love you gave birth:
I’ll rejoice, mother dear, when you’ve quietly died
and can rest your poor heart in the earth!
For only down there in the silent soil
does rewarding peace finally dwell,
the best – an underground silent space –
should suit such a fond mother well.
So do not live long – your wayward son
for your soul is unable to grieve,
Ask the Spirit Almighty from up on high
his body to grant no reprieve,
and let us both rest for a thousand years
let silence throughout hold sway –
it may happen, who knows, that a bell of doom tolls
for a timeless and painless day.
The flowers, look, are fading – and trees on the slant
in the setting sun make not a sound,
and far off, dear mother, towards the west
the ocean turns angrily round.
He pulls on his chain, as I do on mine,
liberation! his voice whispers low.
But, mother, I sleep now, my hand in yours:
a burnt-out spring in a fall laced with snow!