Grodek

At evening the autumn woodlands ring
With deadly weapons. Over the golden plains
And lakes of blue, the sun
More darkly rolls. The night surrounds
Warriors dying and the wild lament
Of their fragmented mouths.
Yet silently there gather in the willow combe
Red clouds inhabited by an angry god,
Shed blood, and the chill of the moon.
All roads lead to black decay.
Under golden branching of the night and stars
A sister's shadow sways through the still grove
To greet the heroes' spirits, the bloodied heads.
And softly in the reeds Autumn's dark flutes resound.
O prouder mourning! - You brazen altars,
The spirit's hot flame is fed now by a tremendous pain:
The grandsons, unborn.

by Georg Trakl

Comments (3)

........an amazing poem....the ugliness of war is captured and preserved for future generations to remember....and hopefully they do not make the same mistake....
In the line referencing the sister's shadow ('Es schwankt der Schwester Schatten durch den schweigenden Hain') , it is noteworthy that the word schweigenden (translated 'still') is a present participle for the verb 'to silence.' Thus, the sister's shadow is swaying through a 'silenting' grove or a grove that is being quiet. Also, notice how the line reads in the original German with 5 'sh' sounds (schwankt, Schwester, Schatten, durch, schweigenden') . The alliteration creates a sound of someone moving through brush. Also, the 'sh' sound universally means 'be quiet.' Finally, 'mondne Kühle, ' the chill of the moon (or lunar coolness) creates a cold feeling in contrast to 'vergoßne Blut, ' warm, freshly spilled blood. Finally, note the fact that the last line references 'Die ungeborenen Enkel, ' the unborn grandchildren, not children, possibly in reference to the biblical quote 'For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me' (Exodus 20: 5) .
'An Anthology of German Poetry from Holderln to Rilke in English Translation' edited by Angel Flores, Anchor Books, NY,1960, provides a variant translation by Kate Flores. She captures the German sense by correctly using the definite article for 'sister, ' the reference being to 'der Schwester, ' the sister's shadow, the moon. Kate Flores translation of the last two lines struck my heart as a descriptive commentary on young men fighting old men's battle plans: 'The searing flame of the spirit is fed by a mighty sorrow today, The grandchildren not to be born.' I have some skill in German that has rusted a little in the years.