Parrish recently reviewed The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems and wrote that “as an introduction to a poetry that can hold it’s head high on the world stage, this book will take some beating”. I was inspired me to take a look at it and agree that its pretty good. I’m not a great poetry lover, but sometimes a poem speaks to me and makes me wish I could commit to memory without all the hard work that would take me.
This book comes with various covers but I liked the one to the left, a photograph of the Berlin Wall (which also gives the book a slightly different title).
The book covers a very troubled century of course, and we start with the classicism of Rilke and move on through First and Second World Wars, to East/West partition and beyond. Gunter Grass is included an many others including Bertolt Brecht, Inge Muller (“After the Rubble” – “When I went to fetch water, ths house collapsed on top of me . . “).
Michael Hoffman has expertly translated many of the poems but others too seem to have done a fine job – I particularly liked Autumn Day by Rainer Maria Rilke which is translated by C F MacIntyre:
Lord it is time. The summer was too long.
Lay now thy shadow over the sundials
and on the meadows let the winds blow strong.
Bid the last fruit to ripen on the vine:
allow them still two friendly southern days
to bring them to perfection and to force
the final sweetness in the heavy wine.
Who has no house now will not build him one.
Who is alone now will be long alone,
will waken, read and write long letters
and through the barren pathways up and down
restlessly wander when dead leaves are blown.
Rainer Maria Rilke