Monday, May 19, 2008

Heinrich Heine's Schmerzensgewalt and a couple of thank yous

Still ist die Nacht, es ruhen die Gassen

The night is calm; the streets quiet down;
Here lived a lass who was dear to me.
Long years ago she left the town,
Bu here is her house, as it used to be.

And here is a creature who stares into space
And wrings his hands in a storm of pain.
I shudder when I see his face:
It is my own self the moon shows plain.

You double! You comrade ghostly white!
Why have you come to ape the woe
That tortured me, night after night,
Under these windows - long ago?

Heinrich Heine, published in The Book of Songs (1827), tr. Aaron Kramer

A horrible moment of self-awareness? A memory, or an event? Does the poet see himself, or his double, in a vision, or in a reflection in a window? Is "a storm of pain" an adequate translation of "Schmerzensgewalt"? How could it be?

I'll spend the rest of the week with Heine. Maybe at some point I'll not only ask a question, but answer it.


A couple of thank yous, first to Nigel Beale at Nota Bene for hosting the Hamlet book chat last week. It was a great deal of fun for me, and I hope we can organize another one.

Second, thanks to the indefatigable, all-seeing Brontë blog, which linked to all of my Jane Eyre pieces last week. With any luck, I'll take a run at Wuthering Heights and Emily's poetry later in the year.

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