No Comment — August 1, 2007, 7:33 am

Brentano’s ‘A Servant’s Springtime Cry from the Deep’

  1. Master, without your compassion
    I must despair in the abyss
    Do you not want to carry me
    With strong arms back to the light?

  2. With each year your goodness
    Reaches into the earth and into men’s hearts
    With each year you arouse the blooms,
    And your arouse in me the old pains.

  3. Born but once to the light,
    But dead a thousand times,
    I am lost without you
    Without you I am spoiled in myself.

  4. When the earth moves thus,
    When the air waves sunnily,
    Then the flow is moved as well,
    Which stands in a funereal shroud.

  5. And in my heart shudders
    A sorrowful, bitter fountain
    If the springtime lurks outside,
    Then a flood of anxieties will run against me.

  6. Woe! Through poisonous earthly premises
    As time flows into them,
    I have sunk the shafts
    And he is but weakly condemned.

  7. As the springs now swell about us,
    As the ground bring forth about us,
    The poisonous waves break upon us,
    Which compel no curse, no wit.

  8. I call to others, swimming, swimming,
    But no such call can be good for me,
    For in me rises the grim Deluge,
    Surging from my eyes.

  9. And then they all seemed evil growths
    To me, all these bright lambs,
    Which I greeted, sweet fruits,
    Which ripened to me into bitter bile.

  10. Lord, take pity upon me,
    Make my heart bloom anew,
    No one has taken pity upon me
    From the springtimes of the earth.

  11. Master, if all hands approach
    You with sweet-filled peelings,
    Then I will never pay my debt
    To you with a bitter donation.

  12. Oh, how I rake more deeply,
    How I create and wine,
    Never shall I flush the torrent
    Into the firm and pure foundation of crystal.

  13. The walls always collapse upon me,
    Every stratum lies to me,
    And hands bloodied by work
    Burn in the bitter swells.

  14. Woe! The space grows tighter,
    Wilder and more deserted grow the waves,
    Lord, oh lord, I can sustain it no longer,
    Strike your rainbow.

  15. Lord, I plea to you, spare me,
    Lord! I heard it recently said,
    Wondrous salvation resides
    In your floresence.

  16. And so I cry to you,
    I cry from the bitterest depths,
    Can you not then forgive that
    Your servant so audaciously ripens.

  17. That the source of light again
    Flows pure and holy in me
    One drop trickles down
    From Jesus, to me, to your bloom!

Clemens Brentano, Frühlingsschrei eines Knechtes aus der Tiefe in Brentanos Werke, vol. 1, p. 329-335 (Carl Hanser ed. 1968)(S.H. transl.)

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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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