The poets and the World War: "Gródek" by Georg Trakl

Georg Trakl
This post is supposed to be the first of a series dedicated to the Great War poets. There is no need to spend too many words on this topic, today we have plenty of dedicated websites, you can always take a look at the list of links beside that is constantly getting longer and where you can already find out something that is worth a look. If you are interested in the First World War, you surely know that it meant also a new season for the entire world poetry. We will propose every time a single poem in English and of course in the original text.
The first poet of the series is Georg Trakl (1887, Salzburg - 1914, Kraków), for sure one of the most important 20th century German writing poets. At the war's outbreak, Trakl was sent as a medical official in Galicia (he worked as a chemist apprentice at "Zum weißen Engel", a chemist in Salzburg). After the carnage of Gródek, Trakl had to guard a post where ninety heavily wounded soldiers were gathered. He could not count on medicines or on medical support. He could not stand this and tried to shoot himself, but was disarmed at once by his comrades. He died some days later of a cocaine dose, at the military hospital of Kraków.


Am Abend tönen die herbstlichen Wälder
Von tödlichen Waffen, die goldnen Ebenen
Und blauen Seen, darüber die Sonne
Düstrer hinrollt; umfängt die Nacht
Sterbende Krieger, die wilde Klage
Ihrer zerbrochenen Münder.
Doch stille sammelt im Weidengrund
Rotes Gewölk, darin ein zürnender Gott wohnt
Das vergossne Blut sich, mondne Kühle;
Alle Straßen münden in schwarze Verwesung.
Unter goldnem Gezweig der Nacht und Sternen
Es schwankt der Schwester Schatten durch den schweigenden Hain,
Zu grüßen die Geister der Helden, die blutenden Häupter;
Und leise tönen im Rohr die dunkeln Flöten des Herbstes.
O stolzere Trauer! ihr ehernen Altäre
Die heiße Flamme des Geistes nährt heute ein gewaltiger Schmerz,
Die ungebornen Enkel.


At nightfall the autumn woods cry out
With deadly weapons and the golden plains,
The deep blue lakes, above which more darkly
Rolls the sun; the night embraces
Dying warriors, the wild lament
Of their broken mouths.
But quietly there in the willow dell
Red clouds in which an angry god resides,
The shed blood gathers, lunar coolness.
All the roads lead to blackest carrion.
Under golden twigs of the night and stars
The sister’s shade now sways through the silent copse
To greet the ghosts of heroes, the bleeding heads;
And softly the dark flutes of autumn sound in the reeds.
O prouder grief! You brazen altars,
Today a great pain feeds the hot flame of the spirit,
The grandsons yet unborn.

(translation by Michael Hamburger)