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Manche freilich müssen drunten sterben
wo die schweren Ruder der Schiffe streifen,
andere wohnen bei dem Steuer droben,
kennen Vogelflug und die Länder der Sterne.
Manche liegen mit immer schweren Gliedern
bei den Wurzeln des verworrenen Lebens,
anderen sind die Stühle gerichtet
bei den Sibyllen, den Königinnen,
und da sitzen sie wie zu Hause,
leichten Hauptes und leichter Hände.
Doch ein Schatten fällt von jenen Leben
in die anderen Leben hinüber,
und die leichten sind an die schweren
wie an Luft und Erde gebunden.
Ganz vergessener Völker Müdigkeiten
kann ich nicht abtun von meinen Lidern,
noch weghalten von der erschrockenen Seele
stummes Niederfallen ferner Sterne.
Viele Geschicke weben neben dem meinen,
durcheinander spielt sie all das Dasein,
und mein Teil ist mehr als dieses Lebens
schlanke Flamme oder schmale Leier.
Many will of course have to die down there
Where the heavy oars of the ships sweep
Others reside above near the helm
Aware of the migration of the birds and the lands of the stars.
Many lie always with heavy limbs
At the roots of a life intertwined,
Others have seats prepared for them
With the sibyls, the queens,
And sit there as if at home,
With a giddy head and light hands.
But a shadow falls from those lives
Across and into the others’ lives,
And the light are bound to the heavy
As the air is bound to the earth.
The weariness of peoples quite forgotten
I cannot banish from my eyelids,
Neither can I keep away from my terrified soul
The silent descent of distant stars.
Many fates weave alongside my own,
All are interconnected by a common existence
And my part is more than simply this life’s
Slender flame or narrow lyre.
–Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Manche freilich. . . (1895-96) in: Ausgewählte Werke in zwei Bänden, vol. 1, p. 22 (S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
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.
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Amount by which a typical good-looking U.S. worker will out-earn a typical ugly one over a lifetime:
A Japanese inventor unveiled a new invisibility cloak that uses a material made of thousands of tiny beads called “retro-reflectum.”
A couple at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina, left their waitress a note telling her “the woman’s place is in the home,” in lieu of a tip.
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"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."