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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:
No Comment — November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm
An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath
No Comment — August 12, 2013, 7:55 am
How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?
No Comment — July 29, 2013, 11:36 am
Is it possible to simply disband the partisan FISA court?
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature