Friday, February 10, 2012

Answer

Also fragen wir beständig,
Bis man uns mit einer Handvoll
Erde endlich stopft die Mäuler --
Aber ist das eine Antwort?


We keep on asking, said the old not a Jew,
not a German, dying of the lead-cancer --

until our mouths are plugged with a handful
of earth -- but is that an answer?


Well, in the same sense as the fingernail-white
is an answer to the cloud-eaten sun;

even if you can't step in the river twice,
you can drown in it as handily as in the same one.

11 comments:

Dale said...

Heinrich Heine, after a long illness, died (1856) of lead-poisoning in his adopted land of France.

Dale said...

He converted to Christianity as a young man. Noboby's ever been quite sure what, if anything, that meant to him.

Dale said...

And he was not "old." He was six years older than I am.

Dale said...

(So you see, I've figured out a solution to the problem of nobody commenting on Fridays.)

marly youmans said...

Oh, I see, you took the fourth stanza as your epigraph...

Although we underestimate how difficult matters of climate and nutrition and so on were, so very recently, don't you think? Life spans are increasing, and comfort has increased. So he may have felt a bit older--certainly he had his reasons!

Interesting how you choose to give an echo-image that's so very far apart, yanking together the tiny and the immense... Works well. And the last lines, meaningful and yet resisting meaning.

My head keeps trying to add a caesura or else chisel something off the last line...

marly youmans said...

So glad I commented on a Friday, Dale.

marly youmans said...

Now let me do it one more time...

XD

Dale said...

Yes, it still doesn't run quite right! I like the sudden drop in tone -- and it's my homage to Heine, who did that sort of sudden drop better than anyone I know of -- but the rhythm's off. Maybe the penultimate line needs to set up the anapests more clearly. (It's suppose to go "you can DROWN in it z HAND'ly as IN the same ONE.")

Here, let me try something...

Dale said...

(And thank you! Friday comments acquire three times the merit of comments on other days. An auspicious rebirth practically guaranteed!)

marly youmans said...

When word gets out, you will be mobbed on Fridays!

marly youmans said...

Let me just add one more, as 11 is an auspicious number! XD