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Archive for November, 2009

Gottfried Benn (1886-1956)

They Are Human After All

They are human after all, you think,
as the waiter steps up to a table
out of sight of you,
reserved, corner table—
they too are thin-skinned and pleasure-seeking,
with their own feelings and their own sufferings.

You’re not so all alone
in your mess, your restlessness, your shakes,
they too will be full of doubt, dither, shilly-shallying,
even if it’s all about making deals,
the universal-human
albeit in its commercial manifestations,
but present there too.

Truly, the grief of hearts is ubiquitous
and unending,
but whether they were ever in love
(outwith the awful wedded bed)
burning, athirst, desert-parched
for the nectar of a faraway
mouth,
sinking, drowning
in the impossibility of a union of souls—

you won’t know, nor can you
ask the waiter,
who’s just ringing up
another bock,
always avid for coupons
to quench a thirst of another nature,
though also deep.

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Frans Eemil Sillanpää (Finland, 1888-1964)

The following is from the book Christmas in Scandinavia, edited by Sven H. Rossel and Bo Elbrond-Bek and translated by David W. Colbert:

A Farm Owner’s Christmas Eve

Finnish novelist Frans Eemil Sillanpää received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1939. Sillanpää gained international recognition with the naturalistic novel from the bloody Finnish civil war of 1918, Hurskas Kurjuss (1919: Meek Heritage). His following novels are characterized by a more poetic mood. They are set in the countryside, and the narrative, often focusing on love and sexuality as the ruling forces of human life, is framed by sensitive descriptions of nature.

Visti-Mina, an elderly woman and mistress and owner of the freehold farm Visti, assessed at 0.003 of a holding, had been awakened by the cat’s mewing, and in letting it out she noticed that it was rather cold in the room; even without looking she could tell that the water was frozen in the water cask by the door. And how might the poor little girl be doing, then? But she was still sleeping soundly in the middle of the bed under half the quilt. It had been necessary to move her sleeping space farther down, away from the right side of the bedstead. If Mina had her lying right alongside her, then she would kick all night against Mina’s sensitive midriff. She is Ida’s daughter, Mina is the child’s maternal grandmother. God only knows where Ida herself is gadding about …

These dry sticks and twigs up in the chimney vault were really true treasures on a winter’s morning; they were almost like edible delicacies. When you put them on the hearth under the trivet, they caught fire at once, and with their help you could then also get the damp firewood smoldering. And the coffee simmered, its fragrance filling the room, which was warmed bit by bit. The windowpanes, which just now were coated with a thick crust of ice, were already beginning to thaw on their uppermost edges; while the coffee was settling Mina could peer through the thawed-out spots to the yard, where a reddish-yellow December morning had just dawned. From the farms the smoke was rising straight up to the sky, and she thought she heard the crunch of sleigh runners. Now look how long I’ve slept.—Well, and then it’s Christmas Even, too, by golly!—Up with you in a hurry lass!

From under the covers two little eyes were opened and aimed at the room and at Mina, whose familiar features quickly dispelled the memory of the tangled splendors of the child’s dreams. The blazing fire in the fireplace, the frozen windowpanes, and the confidently puttering old woman gave the child’s mind full compensation, auguring a long, clear day with thousands of adventures.
………………………………………

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Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) won the Pulitzer for his book: Conquistador

From Conquistador

Dedication

“O frati,” dissi, “che per cento milia
Perigli siete giunti all’ occidente.”

(“O brothers,” I said, “who through a hundred thousand/Perils have reached the West.” The speaker is Ulysses, encouraging his shipmates to continue with their last voyage of exploration from Ithaca westward, as reported by himself to Dante in hell. They ultimately discovered a new land in the west, but were wrecked before reaching it.)

The Divine Comedy
Inferno, canto XXVI, lines 112-113

Prologue

And the way goes on in the worn earth;
and we (others)—
What are the dead to us in our better fortune?
They have left us the roads made and the walls standing:
They have left us the chairs in the rooms:

What is there more of them—
Either their words in the stone or their graves in the land
Or the rusted tang in the turf-roof where they fought—
Has truth against us?
(And another man

Where the wild geese rise from the Michigan the water
Veering the clay bluff: in another wind. . . .)

Surely the will of God in the earth alters:
Time done is dark as are sleep’s thickets:
Dark is the past: none waking walk there:
Neither may live men of those waters drink:

And their speech they have left upon the coins to mock us:
And the weight of their skulls at our touch is a shuck’s weight:
And their rains are dry and the sound of their leaves fallen:

(We have still the sun and the green places)
And they care nothing for living men: and the honey of
Sun is slight in their teeth as a seed’s taste—

What are the dead to us in the world’s wonder?
Why (and again now) on their shadowy beaches
Pouring before them the slow painful blood

Do we return to force the truthful speech of them
Shrieking like snipe along their gusty sand
And stand: and as the dark ditch fills beseech them

(Reaching across the surf their fragile hands) to
Speak to us?
as by that other ocean
The elder shadows to the sea-borne man

Guarding the ram’s flesh and the bloody dole . . . .
Speak to me Conquerors!
But not as they!
bring not those others with you whose new-closed

(O Brothers! Bones now in the witless rain!)
And weeping eyes remember living men:
(Not Anticlea! Not Elpenor’s face!)

Bring not among you hither the new dead—
Lest they should wake and the unwilling lids
Open and know me—and the not-known end! . . . .

And Sándoval comes first and the Pálos wind
Stirs in the young hair: and the smoky candle
Shudders the sick face and the fevered skin:

And still the dead feet come: And Alvarádo
Clear in that shadow as a faggot kindled:
The brave one: stupid: and the face he had

Shining with good looks: his skin pink:
His legs warped at the knee like the excellent horseman;
And gentleman’s ways and the tail of the sword swinging:

And Olíd the good fighter: his face coarse;
His teeth clean as a dog’s: the lip wrinkled:
Oléa—so do the winds follow unfortune—

Oléa with the blade drawn and the clinging
Weeds about him and the broken hands:
And still they come: and from the shadow fixes

Eyes against me a mute armored man
Staring as wakened sleeper into embers:
This is Cortés that took the famous land:

The eye-holes narrow to the long night’s ebbing:
The grey skin crawls beneath the scanty beard:
Neither the eyes nor the sad mouth remember:

Other and nameless are these shadows here
Cold in the little light as winter crickets:
Torpid with old death: under sullen years

Numb as pale spiders in the blind leaves hidden:
These to the crying voices do not stir:
So still are trees the climbing stars relinquish:

And last and through the weak dead comes—the uncertain
Fingers before him on the sightless air—
An old man speaking: and the wind-blown words

Blur and the mouth moves and before the staring
Eyes go shadows of that ancient time:
So does a man speak from the dream that bears his

Sleeping body with it and the cry
Comes from a great way off as over water—
As the sea-bell’s that the veering wind divides:

(And the sound runs on the valleys of the water: )

And the light returns as in past time
as in evenings
Distant with yellow summer on the straw—
As the light in America comes: without leaves . . . .

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At work this week we were discussing Christmas movies. Many came to mind: Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck, The Bishop’s Wife with Loretta Young, White Christmas with Rosemary Clooney, The Bells of St. Mary’s with Ingrid Bergman, Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th St., It’s A Wonderful Life.

Something about the final scene in A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote captures memories I have about Memphis and the woman who helped raise me and places and people there I still feel connected to even though I will never see them again. She was just as kind and loving to me as the character of Geraldine Paige is in Capote’s story and just as much fun to be with.

When my family and I would decorate the Christmas tree each year, I’d pull out all our old Christmas albums. Songs by Barbara Streisand, Bing Crosby and Doris Day filled our living room as we scooted around boxes to wind strings of lights around the tree. My mother made cinnamon cake, while my father and I loaded the tree with ornaments and silver tinsel and made runs to and from the drugstore for replacement bulbs.

Years later after I left home and was divorced, I celebrated Christmas one year by placing an ornament on a tree by an open space trail I hiked on in Boulder. Over the next few weeks, more ornaments began to appear, all angels. The local paper wrote a story about The Angel Tree, and there were debates and editorials about whether the ornaments should be allowed and the defacement of public land and who started it. The controversy even made a blip on national news.

Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby in White Christmas

One night the ornaments were stolen. They were found later in a garbage can on the downtown mall. Since The Camera had been covering the story, the ornaments were left at the newspaper and people could retrieve them there if they wanted. My ornament was a porcelain silhouette of my own face my mother had made of me as a child, so I went down to the paper to claim it.

When I sat at the reporter’s desk, he asked me if I knew who started the tree, and I told him no and then he asked if I believed in angels. I hesitated at first. I was working as a journalist myself then at a local magazine and had a sense whatever I said was going to appear as a pullquote in the story the next morning. I finally told him I believed people were angels. There are people walking around who look human but are really angels in disguise, I said. I don’t remember what chapter and verse that comes from in the Bible anymore, but that was the pullquote that appeared in the story the next day.

Donna Reed, Jimmy Stewart and Karolyn Grimes in It's a wonderful Life

This year as Christmas approaches, I’d do anything to decorate a tree with my parents again and listen to a 1967 version of Streisand sing I Wonder As I Wander. When I watched Geraldine Paige in this final scene of A Christmas Memory last night talk about seeing the Lord, I realized something about Christmas I never have before. The holiday is more about the faces and occurrences in our everyday lives than it is about the silver tinsel and traditions of our childhoods.

I think that’s what struck a nerve in people about The Angel Tree. It was  such a simple gesture. I put that angel on the tree as a possibility of hope or love in my life during a time I felt very alone, separate from the living rooms and Christmas trees I saw through the windows I passed, full of colored lights and wonder and permanence.

When the other angel ornaments began to appear in their various shapes and sizes, they looked like fellow travelers, strays left at the bottom of the box who were also looking for a home. I imagined children hiking with their parents who wanted to place an ornament on the tree or people like me who lived alone and wanted to feel part of a larger community effort.

Christmas, I’m reminded again, is not the elaborate traditions we celebrate with our families each year either joyfully or reluctantly. It is something much more ordinary and plain. It is that person we find in life who knows us and listens to us and accepts us for who we are. That is the most enchanting thing in the world. So many people are searching for that. There’s something so pure and childlike in that need. It shines like a star in the tops of all our trees. It is the angel we are all looking for.

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Pearl S. Buck (USA, 1892-1973) The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off... They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating."

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) is the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize and the first woman to win both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. She won both awards for her book The Good Earth, published in 1931, which revolves around family life in a Chinese village before the 1949 Revolution.

Here are two quotes from the novel: “There was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning this earth of theirs over and over to the sun, this earth which formed their home and fed their bodies and made their gods…Some time, in some age, bodies of men and women had been buried there, houses had stood there, had fallen, and gone back into the earth. So would also their house, some time, return into the earth, their bodies also. Each had his turn at this earth. They worked on, moving together-together-producing the fruit of this earth.”

“As he had been healed of his sickness of heart when he came from the southern city and comforted by the bitterness he had endured there, so now again Wang Lung was healed of his sickness of love by the good dark earth of his fields and he felt the moist soil on his feet and he smelled the earthy fragrance rising up out of the furrows he turned for the wheat.”

Buck is also known for her humanitarian work: “In 1949, outraged that existing adoption services considered Asian and mixed-race children unadoptable, Pearl established Welcome House Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. In nearly five decades of work, Welcome House has placed over five thousand children. In 1964, to support children who were not eligible for adoption, Buck established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to ‘address poverty and discrimination faced by children in Asian countries.’ In 1965, she opened the Opportunity Center and Orphanage in South Korea, and later offices were opened in Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. When establishing Opportunity House, Buck said, “The purpose…is to publicize and eliminate injustices and prejudices suffered by children, who, because of their birth, are not permitted to enjoy the educational, social, economic and civil privileges normally accorded to children.” (source Wiki). The Pearl S. Buck International Web site can be found at www.psbi.org.

Here are the opening paragraphs from her biography, Pearl S. Buck, A Cultural Biography, written by Peter Conn and published in 1996: In April, 1899, six-year-old Pearl Sydenstricker wrote a letter from Chinkiang, China, to the editor of the Christian Observer, in Louisville, Kentucky. It was her first published writing, and it appeared under the headline “Our Real Home in Heaven”:

‘I am a little girl, six years old. I live in China. I have a big brother in college who is coming to China to help our father tell the Chinese about Jesus. I have two little brothers in heaven. Maudie went first, then Artie, then Edith, and on the tenth of last month my little brave brother, Clyde left us to go to our real home in heaven. Clyde said he was a Christian Soldier, and that heaven was his bestest home. Clyde was four years old, and we both love the little letters in the Observer. I wrote this all myself, and my hand is tired, so goodbye….’

As an adult, she would completely reject the religion in which she was raised, but it was the source of everything she learned about values as a child. Living in a small Chinese city, she was separated from her own country and its culture almost from birth….In the end, Pearl was inevitably shaped by both her parents. She rejected her father’s religious beliefs and his narrow-mindedness, but she inherited his evangelical zeal, his sense of rectitude, his passion for learning. Though she stopped believing in Christian ideas of salvation, she became, in effect, a secular missionary, bringing the gospels of civil rights and cross-cultural understanding to people on two continents.

Here is a clip from the 1937 film:

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Pearl S. Buck (USA, 1892-1973) The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off... They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) is the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize and the first woman to win both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. She won both awards for her book The Good Earth, published in 1931, which revolves around family life in a Chinese village before the 1949 Revolution.

Here are two quotes from the novel: “There was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning this earth of theirs over and over to the sun, this earth which formed their home and fed their bodies and made their gods…Some time, in some age, bodies of men and women had been buried there, houses had stood there, had fallen, and gone back into the earth. So would also their house, some time, return into the earth, their bodies also. Each had his turn at this earth. They worked on, moving together-together-producing the fruit of this earth.”

“As he had been healed of his sickness of heart when he came from the southern city and comforted by the bitterness he had endured there, so now again Wang Lung was healed of his sickness of love by the good dark earth of his fields and he felt the moist soil on his feet and he smelled the earthy fragrance rising up out of the furrows he turned for the wheat.”

Buck is also known for her humanitarian work: “In 1949, outraged that existing adoption services considered Asian and mixed-race children unadoptable, Pearl established Welcome House Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. In nearly five decades of work, Welcome House has placed over five thousand children. In 1964, to support children who were not eligible for adoption, Buck established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to ‘address poverty and discrimination faced by children in Asian countries.’ In 1965, she opened the Opportunity Center and Orphanage in South Korea, and later offices were opened in Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. When establishing Opportunity House, Buck said, “The purpose…is to publicize and eliminate injustices and prejudices suffered by children, who, because of their birth, are not permitted to enjoy the educational, social, economic and civil privileges normally accorded to children.” (source Wiki). The Pearl S. Buck International Web site can be found at www.psbi.org.

Here are the opening paragraphs from her biography, Pearl S. Buck, A Cultural Biography, written by Peter Conn published in 1996: In April, 1899, six-year-old Pearl Sydenstricker wrote a letter from Chinkiang, China, to the editor of the Christian Observer, in Louisville, Kentucky. It was her first published writing, and it appeared under the headline “Our Real Home in Heaven”:

‘I am a little girl, six years old. I live in China. I have a big brother in college who is coming to China to help our father tell the Chinese about Jesus. I have two little brothers in heaven. Maudie went first, then Artie, then Edith, and on the tenth of last month my little brave brother, Clyde left us to go to our real home in heaven. Clyde said he was a Christian Soldier, and that heaven was his bestest home. Clyde was four years old, and we both love the little letters in the Observer. I wrote this all myself, and my hand is tired, so goodbye….’

As an adult, she would completely reject the religion in which she was raised, but it was the source of everything she learned about values as a child. Living in a small Chinese city, she was separated from her own country and its culture almost from birth….In the end, Pearl was inevitably shaped by both her parents. She rejected her father’s religious beliefs and his narrow-mindedness, but she inherited his evangelical zeal, his sense of rectitude, his passion for learning. Though she stopped believing in Christian ideas of salvation, she became, in effect, a secular missionary, bringing the gospels of civil rights and cross-cultural understanding to people on two continents.

Here is a clip from the 1937 film:

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George Dillon (1906-1968) won the Pulitzer for his book: The Flowering Stone. Here he is in Paris, 1944, after he broadcast news of the liberation of the Eiffel Tower.

One Beauty

I

One beauty still is faultless; not
Deflowered in the bed of thought:
It is a sound of sunken seas.
It is an avid wish for ease.
It is the earth, it is the sky
When passion is a lute put by
And life a dancer out of breath.
It is the lovely face of death,
Adored and guessed at—never once
Beheld in chrysoprase or bronze;
Not in the temple or the grove,
Not in a hundred nights of love.

This was the morning sun, the wild
Daybreak of anguish in the child.
This is the sun at noon no less,
Deep in the dome of nothingness.
Wherefore, impoverished heart, be proud
To wear the purple of the shroud.
If you are friendless, take for friend
The noble wave, the affluent wind.
If you are homeless, do not care:
Inhabit the bright house of air.

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Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

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Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) Sketch by Leonid Pasternak (Moscow c. 1900)

O trees of life, when is your winter?
Our nature’s not the same. We don’t have the instinct
of migrant birds. Late and out of season,
we suddenly throw ourselves to the wind
and fall into indifferent ponds. We
understand flowering and fading at once.
And somewhere lions still roam: so magnificent
they can’t understand weakness.

Even when fully intent on one thing,
we feel another’s costly tug. Hostility
is second nature to us. Having promised
one another distance, hunting, and home,
don’t lovers always cross each other’s boundaries?
Then for the sketchwork of an eye-wink,
a contrasting background’s painfully prepared
to make us see it. Because it’s very clear
we don’t know the contours of our feeling,
but only what shapes it from without.
Who hasn’t sat anxious in front of his heart’s
curtain? It would go up; another parting scene.
Easy to understand. The familiar garden
swaying slightly; then came the dancer.
Not him. Enough! However graceful he may be,
he’s disguised, turns into a suburbanite,
and walks into his house through the kitchen.
I don’t want these half-filled masks.
I’d rather have a doll. That’s whole.
I’ll put up with the empty body, the wire, and
the face that’s only surface. Here. I’m waiting.
Even if the lights go out; even if
I’m told, “That’s all”; even if emptiness
drifts toward me in gray drafts from the stage;
even if none of my silent ancestors
will sit next to me anymore, not a woman,
not even the boy with the squinting brown eyes —
I’ll stay here. One can always watch.

Aren’t I right? Father, you who found
life so bitter after tasting mine,
the first opaque infusion of my must,
as I kept growing, you kept on tasting
and, fascinated by the aftertaste
of such a strange future, tried my clouded gaze —
you, my father, who in my deepest hope
so often since your death have been afraid for me
and, serene, surrendered the kingdoms of serenity
the dead own, just for my bit of fate —
aren’t I right? And aren’t I right,
you who loved me for the first small impulse
of love for you I always turned from,
because the space in your faces, even while
I loved it, changed into outer space
where you no longer were . . . when I’m in the mood
to wait in front of the puppet stage — No,
to stare into it so intensely that finally
an angel must appear, an actor to counteract
my stare and pull up the empty skins.
Angel and doll: a real play at last.
Then what we continually divide
by our being here unites there.
Then the cycle of all change can finally
rise out of our seasons. Then the angel
plays over and above us. Look at the dying,
surely they suspect how everything we do
is full of sham, here where nothing
is really itself. O hours of childhood,
when more than the mere past was behind
each shape and the future wasn’t stretched out
before us. We were growing; sometimes we hurried
to grow up too soon, half for the sake of those
who had nothing more than being grown-up.
Yet when we were alone, we still amused
ourselves with the everlasting and stood there
in that gap between world and toy,
in a place which, from the very start,
had been established for a pure event.

Who will depict a child just as it stands? – place it
within its constellation, give it the measure of distance
into its hand? who make the death of children
out of grey bread, which hardens like a stone,
or place it in the cherry mouth as it were the core
of a shiny apple? Murderers are
easy to fathom. Only this: to take on death
completely, before even life begins,
contain it lightly and without complaining,
bereaves description.

Die vierte Elegie

O Bäume Lebens, o wann winterlich?
Wir sind nicht einig. Sind nicht wie die Zug-
vögel verständigt. Überholt und spät,
so drängen wir uns plötzlich Winden auf
und fallen ein auf teilnahmslosen Teich.
Blühn und verdorrn ist uns zugleich bewußt.
Und irgendwo gehn Löwen noch und wissen,
solang sie herrlich sind, von keiner Ohnmacht.

Uns aber, wo wir Eines meinen, ganz,
ist schon des andern Aufwand fühlbar. Feindschaft
ist uns das Nächste. Treten Liebende
nicht immerfort an Ränder, eins im andern,
die sich versprachen Weite, Jagd und Heimat.
Da wird für eines Augenblickes Zeichnung
ein Grund von Gegenteil bereitet, mühsam,
daß wir sie sähen; denn man ist sehr deutlich
mit uns. Wir kennen den Kontur
des Fühlens nicht: nur, was ihn formt von außen.
Wer saß nicht bang vor seines Herzens Vorhang?
Der schlug sich auf: die Szenerie war Abschied.
Leicht zu verstehen. Der bekannte Garten,
und schwankte leise: dann erst kam der Tänzer.
Nicht der. Genug! Und wenn er auch so leicht tut,
er ist verkleidet und er wird ein Bürger
und geht durch seine Küche in die Wohnung.
Ich will nicht diese halbgefüllten Masken,
lieber die Puppe. Die ist voll. Ich will
den Balg aushalten und den Draht und ihr
Gesicht aus Aussehn. Hier. Ich bin davor.
Wenn auch die Lampen ausgehn, wenn mir auch
gesagt wird: Nichts mehr – , wenn auch von der Bühne
das Leere herkommt mit dem grauen Luftzug,
wenn auch von meinen stillen Vorfahrn keiner
mehr mit mir dasitzt, keine Frau, sogar
der Knabe nicht mehr mit dem braunen Schielaug:
Ich hleibe dennoch. Es giebt immer Zuschaun.

Hab ich nicht recht? Du, der um mich so bitter
das Leben schmeckte, meines kostend, Vater,
den ersten trüben Aufguß meines Müssens,
da ich heranwuchs, immer wieder kostend
und, mit dem Nachgeschmack so fremder Zukunft
heschäftigt, prüftest mein beschlagnes Aufschaun, –
der du, mein Vater, seit du tot bist, oft
in meiner Hoffnung, innen in mir, Angst hast,
und Gleichmut, wie ihn Tote haben, Reiche
von Gleichmut, aufgiebst für mein bißchen Schicksal,
hab ich nicht recht? Und ihr, hab ich nicht recht,
die ihr mich liebtet für den kleinen Anfang
Liebe zu euch, von dem ich immer abkam,
weil mir der Raum in eurem Angesicht,
da ich ihn liebte, überging in Weltraum,
in dem ihr nicht mehr wart …..: wenn mir zumut ist,
zu warten vor der Puppenbühne, nein,
so völlig hinzuschaun, daß, um mein Schauen
am Ende aufzuwiegen, dort als Spieler
ein Engel hinmuß, der die Bälge hochreißt.
Engel und Puppe: dann ist endlich Schauspiel.
Dann kommt zusammen, was wir immerfort
entzwein, indem wir da sind. Dann entsteht
aus unsern Jahreszeiten erst der Umkreis
des ganzen Wandelns. Über uns hinüber
spielt dann der Engel. Sieh, die Sterbenden,
sollten sie nicht vermuten, wie voll Vorwand
das alles ist, was wir hier leisten. Alles
ist nicht es selbst. O Stunden in der Kindheit,
da hinter den Figuren mehr als nur
Vergangnes war und vor uns nicht die Zukunft.
Wir wuchsen freilich und wir drängten manchmal,
bald groß zu werden, denen halb zulieb,
die andres nicht mehr hatten, als das Großsein.
Und waren doch, in unserem Alleingehn,
mit Dauerndem vergnügt und standen da
im Zwischenraume zwischen Welt und Spielzeug,
an einer Stelle, die seit Anbeginn
gegründet war für einen reinen Vorgang.

Wer zeigt ein Kind, so wie es steht? Wer stellt
es ins Gestirn und giebt das Maß des Abstands
ihm in die Hand? Wer macht den Kindertod
aus grauem Brot, das hart wird, – oder läßt
ihn drin im runden Mund, so wie den Gröps
von einem schönen Apfel? …… Mörder sind
leicht einzusehen. Aber dies: den Tod,
den ganzen Tod, noch vor dem Leben so
sanft zu enthalten und nicht bös zu sein,
ist unbeschreiblich.
………………………
Translated by A. Poulin Jr.

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Robert Frost (1874-1963) won the Pulitzer for his book of Collected Poems

The Gift Outright

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

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