Song of the Departed: Selected Poems of Georg Trakl

Georg Trakl, Robert Firmage, trans.

In Song of the Departed, George Trakl confronts the conflicts of pursuing truth in a difficult and declining world at the edge of war. Robert Firmage brilliantly translates Trakl’s work in this bilingual collection of writings about the unspeakable that lies beyond language, creating poetry that is intensely personal, haunting, dark, and eerily beautiful. Although Trakl is best known for his drug use, madness, and self-inflicted death, Firmage’s commentary and translations illustrate that Trakl was more than a poete maudit: he was instead one of the most significant poets of the German language, supported during his lifetime by Ludwig Wittgenstein and later an influence on Ranier Maria Rilke, Paul Celan, James Wright, and poets across generations and languages. Out of print for two decades, this revised edition includes over a dozen newly translated poems along with fresh commentary from their translator.

ISBN: 9781556593734

Format: Paperback


Dark stillness of childhood. Beneath greening ashtrees
The meekness of a bluish gaze is feeding; golden calm.
The fragrance of violets enchants something dark; swaying
                   heads of grain
At evening, seeds and the golden shadows of dolor.
The carpenter hews rafters; in a dusky hollow
Grinds the mill; a red mouth arcs above the hazel leaves,
Masculinity bowed crimson over silent waters.
Soft is the autumn, the spirit of the forest; a golden cloud
Follows the lonely one, the black shadow of the grandchild.
Decline in the stone chamber; beneath old cypresses
Nocturnal images of tears are gathered at the well;
Golden eye of the beginning, dark patience of the end.

About the Author

Georg Trakl was born February 3, 1887 in Salzburg, Austria. A major influence on German literature and expressionism, Trakl’s poety is notable for its haunting lyricism and emphasis on images and symbolic figures. Trakl wrote from an early age and studied pharmacology at the University of Vienna. He served in the Austrian Army, worked as a pharmacist, and struggled with drug addiction for much of his life. He died in Poland in 1914.

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About the Translator

Robert Firmage taught philosophy at the University of Utah for over thirty years. He wrote or translated several volumes of poetry and prose.

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“Trakl’s work is disturbing and visionary, melancholy and surreal… Delving deeply into the unconscious, Trakl’s poems are voyages of poetic discovery.” —Chris Faatz, Powell’s Books

“For me the Trakl poem is an object of sublime existence… In the history of the poem Trakl’s books are important contributions toward the liberation of the poetic figure.” —Ranier Maria Rilke