[This page by Richard Millington]
An Karl Borromäus Heinrich
Über den weißen Weiher
Sind die wilden Vögel fortgezogen.
Am Abend weht von unseren Sternen ein eisiger Wind.
Über unsere Gräber
Beugt sich die zerbrochene Stirne der Nacht.
Unter Eichen schaukeln wir auf einem silbernen Kahn.
Immer klingen die weißen Mauern der Stadt.
O mein Bruder klimmen wir blinde Zeiger gen Mitternacht.
To Karl Borromäus Heinrich
Over the white pond
The wild birds have moved away.
In the evening an icy wind blows from our stars.
Over our graves
Bends the shattered brow of night.
Under oaks we rock on a silver boat.
Always the sound of the town’s white walls.
Under thorny arches
O my brother blind clock hands we climb towards midnight.
This poem, which was included in Trakl’s second published collection Sebastian im Traum of 1915, was written in February 1913. It is dedicated to Karl Borromäus Heinrich, a young novelist – and equally troubled soul – whom Trakl had befriended only a few months earlier. In a letter published in the Innsbruck literary journal Der Brenner (the same journal where most of Trakl’s works were first published) in March 1913, Heinrich describes his first encounter with Trakl’s poems: “I read them and felt deeply moved. I read them again and was amazed. I read them a third time and was shocked, bewildered and excited all at the same time”. “Untergang” itself inspired a similar reaction in a later reader, Franz Fühmann, who repeatedly – almost obsessively – cites its last two lines in the opening chapter of his book of very personal reflections on Trakl’s poetry Der Sturz des Engels (The Fall of the Angel, 1982). The powerful final image of the poem that so affected Fühmann, in which the speaker and the “brother” he is addressing are cast together as “blind clock hands” climbing towards midnight, is illustrative of Trakl’s tendency to portray human solidarity as a source of meaning and solace in a disintegrating world. In several other poems sister figures play roles similar to the brother’s one here.