WordCaves: Celan’s Insi/ght/de/s

A poem from Paul Celan’s volume Threadsuns in my translation. It is one of Celan’s more programmatic poems, speaking as it does to his writing in the later years, starting with Breathturn, & gathered in Breathturn into Timestead.

KLEIDE DIE WORTHÖHLEN AUS
mit Pantherhäuten,

erweitere sie, fellhin und fellher,
sinnhin und sinnher,

gib ihnen Vorhöfe, Kammern, Klappen
und Wildnisse, parietal,

und lausch ihrem zweiten
und jeweils zweiten und zweiten
Ton.

 

LINE THE WORDCAVES
with panther skins,

widen them, hide-to and hide-fro,
sense-hither and sense-thither,

give them courtyards, chambers, drop doors
and wildnesses, parietal,

and listen for their second
and each time second and second
tone.

& here a very different poem, though most certainly Celan’s most famous one, also in my translation, from Memory Rose into Threshold Speech:

 

 

DEATHFUGUE

 

Black milk of morning we drink you evenings
we drink you at noon and mornings we drink you at night
we drink and we drink
we dig a grave in the air there one lies at ease

A man lives in the house he plays with the snakes he writes
he writes when it darkens to Deutschland your golden hair Margarete
he writes and steps in front of his house and the stars glisten and he
whistles his dogs to come
he whistles his jews to appear let a grave be dug in the earth
he commands us play up for the dance

Black milk of dawn we drink you at night
we drink you mornings and noon time we drink you evenings
we drink and we drink
A man lives in the house he plays with the snakes he writes
he writes when it turns dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margarete
You ashen hair Shulamit we dig a grave in the air there one lies at ease

He calls jab deeper into the earth you there and you other men sing and play
he grabs the gun in his belt he draws it his eyes are blue
jab deeper your spades you there and you other men continue to play for the dance

Black milk of dawn we drink you at night
we drink you at noon we drink you evenings
we drink you and drink
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamit he plays with the snakes

He calls out play death more sweetly death is a master from Deutschland
he calls scrape those fiddles more darkly then as smoke you’ll rise in the air
then you’ll have a grave in the clouds there you’ll lie at ease

Black milk of dawn we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Deutschland
we drink you evenings and mornings we drink and drink
death is a master from Deutschland his eye is blue
he strikes you with lead bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his dogs on us he gifts us a grave in the air
he plays with the snakes and dreams death is a master from Deutschland

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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