Mudlark No. 57 (2015)


An dieses Flusses Walten wachend,
Nach des Eilands, nach des Schilfes nördlich Drang,
habe ich dein vergessen.
Vergaß dein Antlitz,
Deiner Züge Niederwehen
In die offenen harten armen Hände.
Vergessen hab’ ich deinen Abendschmerz in diesem Abend...
Niedrige Möwen schnellen über Wirbel hin.
Das Gras braust in die Nacht.
Weh, mein Gesicht ist Sünde.


Staying awake at this river’s force,
Resting across
Following the isle’s, following the reeds’ northward press,
I have forgotten yours.
I forgot your visage,
Your face blowing down
Into those open hard begging hands.
I have forgotten your evening of pain in this evening...
Gulls skim down low over swirls.
The grass rushes in the night.
Oh, my face is sin.

Note: line 2, Resting over (Hinüberruhend), a neologism unique to Werfel, that is both spatial and temporal, which provides “in one breath” the image of one passively crossing over in a boat and the cross shape looming in the poem, i.e., Passion alluded to in lines 6–7; line 3, isle’s (Eilands), i.e., a place of fun, drinking, diversion, and the like; line 6, Your face (Deiner Züge), the verb noun Niederwehen (blowing down) and Antlitz (visage) inform how to read Züge in two ways, rendered here to suggest labored breathing (e.g., a woman’s labor, a dying man’s) and the human features and status of Christ; line 11, Oh (Weh), or woe, however, the omitted exclamation point casts doubt on the meaning here, which is virtually self-imperative, meaning “to blow.”

James Reidel | An Eine Lerche > To a Skylark
Contents | Mudlark No. 57 (2015)