No Comment — September 5, 2007, 12:02 am

Hofmannsthal’s ‘On the Transitory: I-IV’

Poems in Terza Rima

I
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.

II
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.

III
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.

IV
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.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
 Jessica Bruder on the end of retirement, Mary Gordon on the new Vatican, Laura Kipnis on narcissism, and more
Article
The End of Retirement·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“For those riding the economy’s outermost edge, adaptation may now mean giving up what full-time RV dwellers call ‘stick houses’ to hit the road and seek work.”
Photograph (detail) © Max Whittaker
Post
God Lives on Lemon Street·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Bethel was Oz-like for me. I mean that with all the awe, utter hopefulness, and mythic fear with which Dorothy and her friends had approached that magical city.”
Photograph (detail) ©© Clemens v. Vogelson (Flickr)
Article
The Octopus and Its Grandchildren·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Stanford University’s origins and vision
“The pervasive fantasy that Silicon Valley doesn’t need the government obscures the role of that government in funding much of the research that built it.”
Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz
Post
World Cup Boom and Bust·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I’m not giving a dime to FIFA. You know they’re not paying taxes on any of this?”
Photograph © The author

Chance that an American believes Ramadan is the Jewish day of atonement:

1 in 10

Mathematicians discovered the existence of a pseudoprime that is the sum of 10,333,229,505 known primes and contains roughly 295 billion digits but cannot be represented precisely because the mathematician who found it lacks sufficient RAM.

On the eve of Independence Day in Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko delivered a speech in Belarusian instead of Russian for the first time in 20 years, disproving rumors that he can no longer speak the language.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today