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Kaspar Hauser Lied

[This page by Richard Millington]
 
Kaspar Hauser Lied
 
Für Bessie Loos
 
Er wahrlich liebte die Sonne, die purpurn den Hügel hinabstieg,
Die Wege des Walds, den singenden Schwarzvogel
Und die Freude des Grüns.
 
Ernsthaft war sein Wohnen im Schatten des Baums
Und rein sein Antlitz.
Gott sprach eine sanfte Flamme zu seinem Herzen:
O Mensch!
 
Stille fand sein Schritt die Stadt am Abend;
Die dunkle Klage seines Munds:
Ich will ein Reiter werden.
 
Ihm aber folgte Busch und Tier,
Haus und Dämmergarten weißer Menschen
Und sein Mörder suchte nach ihm.
 
Frühling und Sommer und schön der Herbst
Des Gerechten, sein leiser Schritt
An den dunklen Zimmern Träumender hin.
Nachts blieb er mit seinem Stern allein;
 
Sah, daß Schnee fiel in kahles Gezweig
Und im dämmernden Hausflur den Schatten des Mörders.
 
Silbern sank des Ungebornen Haupt hin.
 
 
Caspar Hauser Song
 
For Bessie Loos
 
Truly he loved the sun that climbed crimson down the hill,
The paths of the forest, the singing blackbird
And the joy of green.
 
Earnest was his living in the shade of the tree
And pure his face.
God spoke a gentle flame into his heart:
O man!
 
Quietly his footstep found the town in the evening;
The dark lament of his mouth:
I want to be a horseman.
 
But he was followed by bush and animal,
House and twilit garden of white men
And his murderer was seeking him out.
 
Spring and summer and already the autumn
Of the righteous one, his quiet footstep
Past the dark rooms of dreamers.
At night he remained alone with his star;
 
Saw snow falling in bare branches
And in the darkening hallway his murderer’s shadow.
 
In silver sank the head of the unborn.
 
This poem was written in late 1913 and was included in Trakl’s second published collection Sebastian im Traum of 1915. It can be placed in a tradition of literary elaborations of the Casper Hauser story, and several lines appear to allude directly to previous works in the same tradition, especially Paul Verlaine’s poem “Gaspar Hauser chante” (1873) and Jakob Wassermann’s novel Caspar Hauser oder die Trägheit des Herzens (Caspar Hauser or the Indolence of the Heart,1908). Caspar Hauser was a 16 year-old boy whose sudden appearance on the streets of Nuremberg in May 1828 had caused a sensation. He could barely speak, could write only his own name, and when questioned could only repeat, “I want to be a horseman like my father”. He soon became an object of study and speculation, with some assuming that he was of noble descent and others claiming that he was a fraud. A first attempt on his life occurred in October 1829, a second, this time with fatal consequences, in December 1833. Trakl’s interest in the figure of Caspar Hauser predates his work on this poem. In 1910 he had written a puppet play, which has not survived, with the title “Kasper Hauser”, and in a letter of April 1912 he wrote, “I will always be a poor Caspar Hauser”. “Kaspar Hauser Lied” is dedicated to Elizabeth Bruce, known as Bessie Loos, the partner of Trakl’s friend Adolf Loos, one of the leading Austrian architects of his time. In August 1913 Trakl had spent two weeks in Venice with Loos, Bruce and Karl Kraus.
 
Further Reading
 
Gunther Kleefeld, “Kasper Hauser and the Paternal Law: the Dramaturgy of Desire in Trakl’s ‘Kaspar Hauser Lied’,” trans. by Susan Swanson and Thomas Ringmayr, in Eric Williams (ed.), The Dark Flutes of Fall: Critical Essays on Georg Trakl (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1991), 38-84