De profundis

[This page by Richard Millington]

De profundis

Es ist ein Stoppelfeld, in das ein schwarzer Regen fällt.

Es ist ein brauner Baum, der einsam dasteht.

Es ist ein Zischelwind, der leere Hütten umkreist.

Wie traurig dieser Abend.

Am Weiler vorbei

Sammelt die sanfte Waise noch spärliche Ähren ein.

Ihre Augen weiden rund und goldig in der Dämmerung

Und ihr Schoß harrt des himmlischen Bräutigams.

Bei ihrer Heimkehr

Fanden die Hirten den süßen Leib

Verwest im Dornenbusch.

Ein Schatten bin ich ferne finsteren Dörfern.

Gottes Schweigen

Trank ich aus dem Brunnen des Hains.

Auf meine Stirne tritt kaltes Metall.

Spinnen suchen mein Herz.

Es ist ein Licht, das meinen Mund erlöscht.

Nachts fand ich mich auf einer Heide,

Starrend von Unrat und Staub der Sterne.

Im Haselgebüsch

Klangen wieder kristallne Engel.


De profundis

There is a stubble field into which a black rain falls.

There is a brown tree that stands alone.

There is a whistling wind that circles empty huts –

How sad this evening.

Past the pond

The gentle orphan still gleans meager ears of corn.

Her eyes graze round and golden in the twilight

And her womb awaits the heavenly bridegroom.

On their way home

The shepherds found the sweet body

Decaying in a bush of thorns.

A shade I am far from dark villages.

I drank God’s silence

From the well in the grove.

Cold metal strikes against my forehead.

Spiders seek my heart.

There is a light that extinguishes in my mouth.

At night I found myself upon a heath,

Bristling with trash and the dust of stars.

In the hazel bush

Crystal angels sounded once more.

This poem was written in late 1912 and was included in Trakl’s first published collection Gedichte of 1913. The striking use of anaphora (repetition of a sequence of words at the beginning of successive lines) in the first section amounts to a variation on the technique known as Reihungsstil, which is especially pronounced in the poems making up Gedichte. Trakl counts among the pioneers of this method, whereby disparate images are juxtaposed and the logical connections between them suppressed. This poem also illustrates Trakl’s tendency to interweave processes of decay in the natural and human worlds, a pattern encapsulated in the combination of “trash” (human) and “the dust of stars” (natural) on the heath of the final section. The world of this poem is metaphysically charged, and its images of disintegration have obvious biblical resonance. Its religious stance is ambivalent: God’s bride is found dead by shepherds, the speaker gains nourishment from “God’s silence”, and “crystal angels” continue to ring out to the end. In this way Christian doctrine is effectively assimilated to Trakl’s vision of terminal decline as the poem affirms a spiritual dimension without offering any prospect of redemption. The publication of this poem immediately inspired an anonymous parody beginning with the line: “Es ist ein Hurenhaus in das ein besoffener Dichter fällt” (There is a whorehouse into which a drunk poet falls).