Something miraculous burns in music;
as you watch, its edges crystallize.
Only music speaks to me
when others turn away their eyes.
When fearful friends abandoned me
music stayed, even at my grave,
and sang like earth’s first shower of rain
or flowers suddenly everywhere alive.
(New York Review Books Classics)
Translated by Paul Schmidt.
First, plain speech in the mother tongue.
Hearing it you should be able to see,
As if in a flash of summer lightning,
Apple trees, a river, the bend of a road.
And it should contain more than images.
Singsong lured it into being,
Melody, a daydream. Defenseless,
It was bypassed by the dry, sharp world.
You often ask yourself why you feel shame
Whenever you look through a book of poems.
As if the author, for reasons unclear to you,
Addressed the worst side of your nature,
Pushing thought aside, cheating thought.
Poetry, seasoned with satire, clowning,
Jokes, still knows how to please.
Then its excellence is much admired.
But serious combat, where life is at stake,
Is fought in prose. It was not always so.
And our regret has remained unconfessed.
Novels and essays serve but will not last.
One clear stanza can take more weight
Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.