Monday 13 April 2020

Poetry Revisited: Ostern – Easter by Marie Rudofsky


(aus Schulter an Schulter.
: 1915)

Noch bläst es scharf vom Bergwaldkamm,
Wenn abendlich die Sonne scheidet;
Die tiefversteckte steile Klamm
Liegt windverweht in Schnee gekleidet.

Noch steht die weite Flur so kahl,
Wie in des Winters dunklen Tagen,
Und aus dem Bach im Wiesental
Nur scheue Weidenkätzchen ragen.

Und dennoch naht, du ahnst es kaum,
Auf weichen, bunten Falterflügeln
Der alte Auferstehungstraum
Und läßt nicht hemmen sich, nicht zügeln.

Er schwirrt mit Zaubermacht und Pracht
Durch Feld und Au und Waldesengen,
Und über Nacht ist froh erwacht:
Ein Keimen, Sprudeln, Leben, Drängen.

Leicht schmilzt des Winters letzter Rest,
Die Erde taut aus harten Schollen;
Sie rüstet sich zum Frühlingsfest—
Ein neuer Segen ist erquollen.

Und neues Hoffen sproßt und schwillt
Im qualerstarrten Menschenherzen;
Mit wehmutsvollem Trost gestillt,
Ruh’n ausgesöhnt bezwung’ne Schmerzen.

Der frohe Osterglockenklang
Hell übertönt die dumpfen Klagen,
Es will beim Allelujasang
Ein lichtes, freies Werden tagen.

Es will in jeder deutschen Brust
Die Hoffnung tiefe Wurzeln schlagen,
Und nach des Lenzes Blütenlust
Auch reiche, volle Früchte tragen.

Marie Rudofsky (1869-1946)
böhmisch-österreichische Dichterin


(from Side by Side.
War Poems
: 1915)

Still it blows sharply from the mountain ridge,
When the sun parts in the evening;
The deeply hidden steep gorge
lies blown over, clad in snow.

Still the wide corridor is so bare
Like in winter’s dark days
And from the brook in the grassland valley
Only shy catkins protrude.

And yet, is approaching, you hardly suspect it,
On soft, colourful butterfly wings
The old dream of resurrection
And cannot be delayed, nor restrained.

It buzzes with magic power and splendour
Through fields and meadows and forest narrows,
And woke up happily overnight:
A germination, bubbling, living, pushing.

Easily melts the remaining winter’s rest,
The earth thaws from hard clods;
It is gearing up for the Spring Festival—
A new blessing has gushed.

And new hope sprouts and swells
In the torment-frozen human heart;
Satisfied with wistful comfort
Rest reconciled overcome pains.

The happy sound of Easter bells
Drowns out brightly the dull complaints,
With the song of Hallelujah will
Be born a bright, free becoming.

In every German breast wants
To take deep roots Hope
And after spring’s lust for flowers
Also to bear rich, full fruit.

Marie Rudofsky (1869-1946)
Bohemean-Austrian poet

Monday 6 April 2020

Poetry Revisited: Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(from Kéramos and Other Poems: 1878)

Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
                    To stay at home is best.

Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
                    To stay at home is best.

Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O’er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
                    To stay at home is best.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
American poet and educator

Monday 30 March 2020

Poetry Revisited: Loneliness by Sophie M. Hensley


(from The Heart of a Woman: 1906)

Dear, I am lonely, for the bay is still
     As any hill-girt lake; the long brown beach
     Lies bare and wet. As far as eye can reach
  There is no motion. Even on the hill
     Where the breeze loves to wander I can see
     No stir of leaves, nor any waving tree.

There is a great red cliff that fronts my view
     A bare, unsightly thing; it angers me
     With its unswerving-grim monotony.
  The mackerel weir, with branching boughs askew
     Stands like a fire-swept forest, while the sea
     Laps it, with soothing sighs, continually.

There are no tempests in this sheltered bay,
     The stillness frets me, and I long to be
     Where winds sweep strong and blow tempestuously,
  To stand upon some hill-top far away
     And face a gathering gale, and let the stress
     Of Nature's mood subdue my restlessness.

An impulse seizes me, a mad desire
     To tear away that red-browed cliff, to sweep
     Its crest of trees and huts into the deep;
  To force a gap by axe, or storm, or fire,
     And let rush in with motion glad and free
     The rolling waves of the wild wondrous sea.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the child
     Of calm, law-loving parents, or a stray
     From some wild gypsy camp. I cannot stay
  Quiet among my fellows; when this wild
     Longing for freedom takes me I must fly
     To my dear woods and know my liberty.

It is this cringing to a social law
     That I despise, these changing, senseless forms
     Of fashion! And until a thousand storms
  Of God's impatience shall reveal the flaw
     In man's pet system, he will weave the spell
     About his heart and dream that all is well.

Ah! Life is hard, Dear Heart, for I am left
     To battle with my old-time fears alone
     I must live calmly on, and make no moan
  Though of my hoped-for happiness bereft.
     Thou wilt not come, and still the red cliff lies
     Hiding my ocean from these longing eyes.

Sophie Margaretta Almon Hensley (1866-1946)
Canadian writer and educator

Monday 23 March 2020

Poetry Revisited: Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins


(from Robert Bridges (ed.). Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins: 1918)

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
     When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
     Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
     The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
     The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

     What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
     In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
     Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
English poet and Jesuit priest

Friday 20 March 2020

Bookish Déjà-Vu: Puffball by Fay Weldon

Many dream of a secluded life in the country although it certainly isn’t right for everybody. Those who are used to the permanent commotion of city life may find it not just a big change, but also a challenge to have just a few neighbours to talk to all day long and only a handful of places to go to for meeting people. At this difficult time that requires social distancing – or rather physical distancing –, most of us have become painfully aware of how important social interaction actually is for us human beings. Introverts like me will find it less hard to stay at home than extraverted people whose mental well-being depends to a considerable extent on the personal exchange with numerous others. The loneliness that the female protagonist of Puffball by Fay Weldon feels having moved from London to a country cottage with her husband makes her fall victim to false friends…

Read my review »

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Back Reviews Reel: March 2017

My reads of three years ago were diverse as ever and comprised three contemporary and two classical works of literature from the pens of female and male writers from Europe and the Americas. The first two were The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey and The Pope’s Daughter by en-Nobel-ed writer Dario Fo, namely biographical novels bringing to life Austrian fin-de-siècle painter Gustav Klimt and the much defamed beauty Lucrezia Borgia from Renaissance Italy respectively. The short-story collection The Country Road by forgotten writer Regina Ullmann took me on a trip across rural Switzerland of the 1920s, while The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary, an award-winning French classic from the 1950s set in Africa, advocated the protection of wild life and more generally of the environment. Finally, I got absorbed in a fictitious Brazilian painter’s arbitrary train of thoughts running through the pages of non-narrative Água Viva by Clarice Lispector.

Monday 16 March 2020

Poetry Revisited: The Idea by Agnes Mary F. Robinson

The Idea

(from Songs, Ballads and a Garden Play: 1888)

Beneath this worlcj of stars and flowers
     That rolls in visible deity,
I dream another world is ours
     And is the soul of all we see.

It hath no form, it hath no spirit;
     It is perchance the Eternal mind;
Beyond the sense that we inherit
     I feel it dim and undefined.

How far below the depth of being,
     How wide beyond the starry bound;
It rolls unconscious and unseeing,
     And is as Number or as Sound.

And through the vast fantastic visions
     Of all this actual universe,
It moves unswerved by our decisions
     And is the play that we rehearse.

Agnes Mary Frances Robinson (1857-1944)
English poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic, and translator