Wednesday 18 December 2013

A poem from the German Grotesque

Twilight: A Translation of "Die Dämmerung"
 Grotesque Gedicthe & Forgotten Poets 
Joseph LaBine

Here I offer my English translation of Alfred Lichtenstein's poem "Die Dämmerung" (1911). It's a beginner attempt at best but it is still good pre-reading for the original in German.. I am working from the Holzinger edition Alfred Lichtenstein: Gedichte und Prosa  (Berlin, 2013). I also notice that while many (if not all) of Lichtenstein's poems are translated into English and available via the Poem Hunter website,[1] these translations or transliterations are poor representations of the poetry and often sacrifice form & line break. The loss is the art of the piece.


A fat man plays with a pond.
The wind has caught itself in a tree.
The sky looks flushed and pale,
as if it ran out of make-up.

On long crooked crutches stooped down
and chattering, two cripples creep in the field.
A blonder poet[2] might seem mad.
A little horse stumbles over a lady.

On a window a fatter man sticks.
A lad wants to visit a soft woman.
A greyer clown puts on his boots.
A pram shrieks and dogs curse.

[1] Access the Poem Hunter entries via this link:
[2] Lichtenstein’s use of “blonder” here is similar to Nietzsche’s figurative representation of the Nordic race as the ‘blonde Bestie’ which appears in Zur Genealogie der Moral (1887).