Elis, when the blackbird calls in darkest wood,This is your destruction.Your lips drink the cool of the blue rock-spring.
When your brow softly bleeds, forsakeAncient legendsAnd dark readings of the flight of birds.
But you walk with soft steps into the nightWhere purple grapes hang thicklyAnd you move your arms more gracefully in the blue.
A thorn-bush soundsWhere your moonlike eyes are.O how long, Elis, have you been deceased.
Your body is a hyacinthInto which a monk dips his waxen fingers.Our silence is a black cave
From which at times a gentle beast emergesAnd slowly lowers heavy eyelids.Black dew drips onto your forehead,
The last gold of decayed stars.
from The Poems of Georg TraklAnvil, 2007Translation copyright © Margitt Lehbert 2007
Margitt Lehbert's deft and attentive translations of Trakl's poems and her introduction to The Poems of Georg Trakl
are a fine guide to a poet now regarded as among the most original of
the twentieth century. Surreal, expressionist and starkly beautiful, his
poems responded to his own pain and to the traumas of the First World
War with work of unique depth and power. Although he is a complex and
difficult poet in many respects, he translates well into a complex and
Born in Salzburg, Austria, he lived from 1887 to 1914, mainly in
Vienna. He died after a drug overdose in a military hospital in Krakow,
Poland. Margitt Lehbert has translated Elizabeth Bishop, Carol Ann Duffy
and Les Murray for German publishers, and Sarah Kirsch into English for
Anvil. She lives in southern Sweden where she runs a small press,
Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.