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Poems in Terza Rima
On the Transitory
I still feel her breath upon my cheeks
How can it be, that these close days
Are gone, gone for ever, completely passed?
This is a matter that no one fully comprehends,
And it’s far too grim for any complaint:
That everything slips and passes away.
And that my own Ego, limited by nothing,
Slips away from a small child
To me unearthly silent and alien like a dog.
Then: I existed a hundred years ago
And my ancestors, those in the shroud,
Are as related with me as my own hair.
Are as one with me as my own hair.
The hours! In which we stared into
The pale blue of the sea and understood death,
So simply and festively and without dread,
Like small girls, who appear very pale,
With big eyes, and who are always chilly
Silently gazing out into the evening
And know that life is silently flowing out
From their limps drunk with sleep
Into trees and grass garnished with faint smiles
Like a saint who pours out her blood.
We are made of the stuff of dreams,
And thus dreams open their eyes
Like small children under the cherry trees,
From whose crown the pale golden course
Of the full moon lifts up through the great night.
…Not otherwise appear our dreams,
They are there and live as a child, that laughs,
No less large in floating up and down
Than the full moon is, awakened by the crown of trees.
The innermost is open to her weavings;
Like the hands of ghosts in a locked room
They are within us and always have life.
And the three are One: a human, a thing and a dream.
On occasion never-loved women appear
Before us in a dream as small girls
And are unspeakably touching to behold.
As if they had accompanied us on a distant path
Once on an evening
While the tree-tops moved, breathing
And scent descended, and night, and fear
And along the path, our path, the dark one,
By the evening’s light the silent ponds are resplendent
And, mirror of our desire, in dreamlike flashes,
And all softly-spoken words, all breezes
Of the evening air and the first starlight
The souls quake deeply and sisterly
And are sad and filled with the jostle of triumph
In the face of deep apprehension, which the great life
Comprehends, with its magnificence and strength.
–Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Terzinen I-IV: Über Vergänglichkeit (1894) (S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”