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.
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.
“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