:: Article

Four Poems

By Georg Trakl.

Dream Of Evil

A gong’s sound, dying out –
A lover wakes in black chambers
Cheek to stars, that flicker at the window.
On the river, rope, mast and sail blaze.

A monk, a pregnant woman in the crowd.
Guitars that strum, the shimmer of scarlet frocks.
Sultry, in golden gleams the chestnuts wither away;
Black looms the churches’ dismal panoply.

From pale masks peers the spirit of evil.
A square darkens morbid and terrible;
Whispers well up on the islands at nightfall.

Lepers who may rot away at night
Read confused omens from the bird flight.
Brother and sister spy on each other
Trembling in the park.


    For Karl Kraus

There is a light which the wind has extinguished.
There is an inn on the heath, which a drunk abandons
        in the afternoon.
There is a vineyard, black and burnt with holes full of spiders.
There is a room, which they have whitewashed with milk.
The madman has perished. There is an island of the
        South Sea,
To receive the sun god. Drums are beaten.
The men lead dances of war.
The women hipsway in fireflowers and creepers,
When the sea sings. O our lost paradise.

The nymphs have left the golden woods.
The stranger is buried. Then a shimmering rain arises.
The son of Pan appears as an earthworker,
Who sleeps through noon against glowing asphalt.
There are little girl in a courtyard in tiny frocks
        full of heart-rending want!
There are rooms filled with accords and sonatas.
There are shadows which embrace before a mirror
        gone blind.
At the windows of hospitals convalescents warm
Up the canal a white steamer carries the boody epidemic.

The sister again appears in someone’s evil dreams.
Resting in the hazel bush she plays with his stars.
The student, perhaps a double, follows her from the
        window for a long time.

Behind him stands his dead brother, or else he descends
        the old spiral staircase.
In darkness, brown chestnut trees fade the figure
        of the young novice.
The garden is in evening. Bats flutter about the cloister.
The caretaker’s children surrender play and seek the gold
        of heaven.
Final chord of a quartet. The little blind girl runs trembling
        down the avenue.
And later her shadow feels its way along cold walls,
        surrounded by fairytales and holy legends.

There is an empty boat, which drifts down the black canal
        at evening.
In the gloom of the old asylum human ruins decay.
The dead orphans lie by the garden wall.
From grey rooms step angels with filth-spattered wings.
Worms drip from their yellowed lids.
The square before the church is dark and silent,
        as in the days of childhood.
On silver soles earlier lives glide by
And the shadows of the damned decline towards
        the sighing waters.
In his grave the white magician plays with his serpents.

Slowly above the place of skulls God’s golden eyes
        are opening.


    To Karl Borromäus Heinrich

Over the white pond,
The wild birds have journeyed on.
At evening an icy wind blows from our stars.

Over our graves
Leans the shattered brow of night.
Beneath oaks we rock in a silver boat.

Ever the white walls of the city ring out.
Beneath arches of thorn
O my brother, our blind hour-hands climb towards



At nightfall they carried the stranger
Into the room of the dead;
An odour of tar; the red plane tree’s soft rustling;
Dark flight of jackdaws, the guard marched
        on the square.
The sun has sunk in black linen; forever
        this bygone evening returns.
In the next room the sister is playing a Schubert sonata.
So softly sinks her smile into the ruined fountain,
Which rustles bluish in the twilight. Oh how ancient
        our lineage.
Someone whispers below in the garden; someone has
        left this black heaven.
Aroma of apples on top of the cupboard. Grandmother
        is lighting the golden candles.

Oh, how mild is autumn. Softly our footsteps ring out
        in the old park
Beneath tall trees. Oh, how sober is the hyacinthine
        face of twilight.
The blue spring at your feet, mysterious your mouth’s
        red stillness
Made sombre by the leaves slumber, the dark gold
        of decayed sunflowers.
Your lids are heavy with poppy and dream softly
        against my brow.
Gentle bells quiver in the breast. A blue cloud
Your face is sunk over me in the twilight.

A song for guitar rings out from an unknown tavern,
The wild elder bushes there, a long bygone
        November day,
Familiar steps on the dusking stairway, the sight of beams
        turned brown,
An open window, at which a sweet hope lingered –
Unspeakable it all is, Oh God one falls to one’s knees

Oh how dark is this night. A crimson flame
Died at my mouth. In the stillness
The anxious soul’s lonely music fades to perish.
Enugh, when drunk with wine the head sinks down
        into the gutter.


Georg Trakl was born in Salzburg in 1887. A poète maudit, his writing emerged from a tempestuous life of drug addiction, rumoured incest and madness. For all its undoubted bleakness, his is a work of startling terrible visions and fleeting transcendence amidst the most abyssal despair, the poet Rilke stating, “For me, the Trakl poem is an object of sublime existence…” Having experienced the full savagery of the First World War as a medical orderly in the Austrian army, Trakl suffered a final mental breakdown in the winter of 1914. He died from a cocaine overdose whilst under psychiatric observation in a military hospital in Krakow, Poland. He was 27.


Will Stone, English poet and translator, was born in 1966. In 2008 his first poetry collection Glaciation, published by Salt, won the international Glen Dimplex Award for poetry. The featured translations come from his collection To The Silenced – selected poems of Georg Trakl (Arc Publications). A number of his translations were also selected for the Tate anthology of German Expressionist, Music While Drowning in 2003, the title of which is taken from a poem by Egon Schiele. He has collections of translations of the long-neglected Belgian poets Emile Verhaeren and Georges Rodenbach forthcoming this year with Arc. His first English translation of Stefan Zweig’s travel writings Journey is also due out on Hesperus Press. His reviews have appeared in the TLS, Guardian, Independent on Sunday, The London Magazine, Poetry Review and PN Review .

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, April 15th, 2010.