Two Translated Georg Trakl Poems

1 May 2017

Georg Trakl (1887—1914) was born in Salzburg and is considered one of the most important Austrian expressionists. A poet and pharmacist, he first gained attention through the Innsbruck based avant-garde journal Der Brenner. Thanks to anonymous financial support from Ludwig Wittgenstein, he was able to write three volumes of poetry that would heavily influence German expressionism. Trakl suffered bouts of severe depression, which intensified after a traumatic period as a medical officer in World War I. He died of an overdose of cocaine, probably deliberate, at the age of twenty-seven. The two poems translated here appeared in his first volume Gedichte in 1913.


To the Boy, Elis

Elis, when the blackbird calls in the dark forest,
this is your downfall.
Your lips drink the cool of the blue
rock spring.

Invoke, when your brow lightly bleeds,
ancient legends
and dark interpretations of bird flight.

You, though, go with soft paces in the night
that hangs full of purple grapes
and you wave arms more beautifully in blue.

A thornbush chimes
where your mooning eyes are.
O, how long Elis, are you dead?

Your body is a hyacinth
a monk dips his wax finger into.
A black cave is our silence.

Sometimes a soft beast treads out of it
and slowly sinks its heavy lids.
Black dew beads on your temples.

The last gold of fallen stars.


An Den Knaben Elis

Elis, wenn die Amsel im schwarzen Wald ruft,
Dieses ist dein Untergang.
Deine Lippen trinken die Kühle des blauen Felsenquells.

Laß, wenn deine Stirne leise blutet,
Uralte Legenden
Und dunkle Deutung des Vogelflugs.

Du aber gehst mit weichen Schritten in die Nacht,
Die voll purpurner Trauben hängt,
Und du regst die Arme schöner im Blau.

Ein Dornenbusch tönt,
Wo deine mondenen Augen sind.
O, wie lange bist, Elis, du verstorben.

Dein Leib ist eine Hyazinthe,
In die ein Mönch die wächsernen Finger taucht.
Eine schwarze Höhle ist unser Schweigen,

Daraus bisweilen ein sanftes Tier tritt
Und langsam die schweren Lider senkt.
Auf deine Schläfen tropft schwarzer Tau,

Das letzte Gold verfallener Sterne.

 


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