Georg Trakl: Birth

Image

Hugo Noske (1886-1960). Nocturne. Woodcut on paper. 

Here is my translation of a poem by Georg Trakl (1887-1914). It is part of his 1915 collection entitled ‘Sebastian im Traum’ (‘Sebastian in the Dream’). Trakl’s German original follows.

Birth

Mountains: blackness, silence and snow.
Red from the forest the chase descends:
O, the mossy glances of the prey.

Stillness of the mother; beneath the black firs
The sleeping hands open,
When decayed the cold moon appears.

O, the birth of man. Nightly blue water
Roars in the rock abyss;
The fallen angel glimpses its image with a sigh,

A pale shape awakes in the musty room.
Two moons 
Light the eyes of the stone crone.

Woe, the birthing cry. With black wing
Night grazes the temples of the boy,
Snow that softly sinks from the purple cloud.

Geburt

Gebirge: Schwärze, Schweigen und Schnee.
Rot vom Wald niedersteigt die Jagd;
O, die moosigen Blicke des Wilds.

Stille der Mutter; unter schwarzen Tannen
Öffnen sich die schlafenden Hände,
Wenn verfallen der kalte Mond erscheint.

O, die Geburt des Menschen. Nächtlich rauscht
Blaues Wasser im Felsengrund;
Seufzend erblickt sein Bild der gefallene Engel,

Erwacht ein Bleiches in dumpfer Stube.
Zwei Monde
Erglänzen die Augen der steinernen Greisin.

Weh, der Gebärenden Schrei. Mit schwarzem Flügel
Rührt die Knabenschläfe die Nacht,
Schnee, der leise aus purpurner Wolke sinkt.

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One comment on “Georg Trakl: Birth

  1. Thanks for this translation. Trakl’s poems are replete with a dark trauma. It’s so distinctive that at a a translation workshop recently, I was able to identify him as the author of a poem even before they told us who it was – and although I haven’t read that much of his work.

    It’s quite something that a poem ostensibly about birth seems to be so full of deathly images.

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