Georg Trakl: The Solitary’s Autumn


German Woodcut on Paper. Early 20th Century.

Here is my translation of a poem by the Austrian Georg Trakl. The original was first published in 1915, shortly after the author’s death, by Kurt Wolff Verlag, Leipzig. It is the eighth and last poem in the cycle entitled ‘Sebastian im Traum’.  Readers of the German text will note the various examples of rhythmic versus broken cadence, feminine rhyme, alliteration and assonance. I hope my English translation conveys something of the gradually darkening mood from beginning to end, the use of color, temperature, sound and feeling, and the further realities, both dark and light, to which the more distant edges of the poem seem to point. As a matter of trivial interest, the German text of this poem was used in the 2009 album ‘Der Herbst des Einsamen’ as recorded by the dark metal band ‘Eden Weint im Grab’ (‘Eden Weeps in the Grave’). The first letters of the band’s name spell the German word for ‘eternal’, but I find myself at a total loss as to what Trakl himself might have thought of any of this. 

The Solitary’s Autumn

Dark autumn comes with fruit and fullness,
Yellow glow of fine summer days.
Chaste blue from mouldering husks emerges;
The flight of birds sounds tales of old.
Pressed is the wine, the mild quiet
Filled with sombre questions’ soft replies.

And here and there a cross on desolate hill;
A herd dissolved into reddish woods;
A cloud adrift on a mirror-like pond;
The farmer’s peaceful mien is still.
So softly the evening’s blue wings graze
The roof of dry straw, the blackened earth.

Stars soon nest in the weary one’s brow;
A still content invades the chill rooms
And angels step softly from the blue
Eyes of lovers, whose suffering is sweet.
The reeds rustle; bone-dry dread descends,
When black from naked willows drips the dew.

Der Herbst des Einsamen

Der dunkle Herbst kehrt ein voll Frucht und Fülle,
Vergilbter Glanz von schönen Sommertagen.
Ein reines Blau tritt aus verfallener Hülle;
Der Flug der Vögel tönt von alten Sagen.
Gekeltert ist der Wein, die milde Stille
Erfüllt von leiser Antwort dunkler Fragen.

Und hier und dort ein Kreuz auf ödem Hügel;
Im roten Wald verliert sich eine Herde.
Die Wolke wandert übern Weiherspiegel;
Es ruht des Landmanns ruhige Gebärde.
Sehr leise rührt des Abends blauer Flügel
Ein Dach von dürrem Stroh, die schwarze Erde.

Bald nisten Sterne in des Müde Brauen;
In kühle Stuben kehrt ein still Bescheiden
Und Engel treten leise aus den blauen
Augen der Liebenden, die sanfter leiden.
Es rauscht das Rohr; anfällt ein knöchern Grauen,
Wenn schwarz der Tau tropft von den kahlen Weiden.