po·e·sy n. pl. po·e·sies 1. Poetical works; poetry. 2. The art or practice of composing poems. 3. The inspiration involved in composing poetry. [Middle English poesie, from Old French, from Latin posis, from Greek poisis, from poiein, to create; see kwei-2 in Indo-European roots.]

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Monday, February 01, 2016

February 1 – Hugo von Hofmannsthal

                                                   Photo of Hofmannsthal, approx. 1924

                                  Hugo von Hofmannsthal (February 1, 1874 – July 15, 1929)

Vienna, Austria-born novelist, librettist, poet, dramatist, narrator, and essayist. His first poems were published under a pseudonym when he was sixteen. Hofmannsthal quit writing poetry altogether around 1900 and concentrated on drama.

Some poems, translated by Johannes Beilharz

The Gardener's Daughters

One fills the large Delft jugs,
Painted with blue dragons and birds,
With a loose sheaf of bright flowers:
Among them jasmine, ripe roses unfolding,
Dahlias, carnations and narcissus...

Tall daisies, lilac umbels and snowball
Dance above them, and
Stalks, silvery down and panicles sway...
A fragrant bacchanal...
The other with pale thin fingers picks
Long-stemmed rigid orchids,
Two or three for a narrow vase...
Rising up with fading colors,
With long styles, strange and winding,
With purple threads and garish dots,
With violet brown panther spots
And lurking, seductive chalices
Wanting to kill...

Die Töchter der Gärtnerin, 1891

Written in a Copy of 'Yesterday'

Thoughts are apples on the tree,
Not meant for anyone in particular,
But they end up belonging
To the one who takes them.

In ein Exemplar von 'Gestern', 1891

Canticum Canticorum IV, 12-16

You are the garden locked,
Your childlike hands are waiting,
Your lips are without violence.
You are the fountain sealed,
Life's frozen threshold,
Tart and cold in ignorance.

Take wings, north wind,
Come, south wind, across the hills,
And blow through this grove!
Let all fragrances come awake,
Let life free itself

From sleep's frozen depth.

Canticum Canticorum IV. 12-16, 1893

[A variant of The Song of Songs (Canticum Canticorum in Latin) 4, verses 12-16]

Prose poems

The Rose and the Desk

I know that flowers never fall out of open windows by themselves. Especially not at night. But that's beside the point. Anyway, the red rose suddenly lay before my black patent leather shoes in the white snow covering the street. The rose was very dark, like velvet, still slender, not yet unfolded, and without fragrance because of the cold. I took it with me, put it in a small Japanese vase on my desk and went to bed.

I woke up soon afterwards. There was a dim light in the room, not from the moon but from the stars. Inhaling, I felt the perfume of the now warm rose drift over and overheard a whispered conversation. The china rose on the old Viennese ink set was dropping remarks about something. »He doesn't have any taste, any style left,« it said, »not a trace of taste.« Meaning me. »Or else he couldn't possibly have put something like that next to me.« Meaning the live rose.

Die Rose und der Schreibtisch, 1892

Creature of the Flood / Poem of the Mussels
We are alone in the dark. You up there have lips, rolled-up leaves, hands entwined with rosy blood and bluish veins, we are alone and cannot touch. We live our life fully, our fate is to resist the waves, that is what we become, and triumph and pain color us as the reflection of fall and of the sun colors the waves there near the surface.

Geschöpf der Flut / Gedicht der Muscheln, 1899

Creatures of Flame

We are all creatures of flame. The butterfly: the intensity of a short life and fragility become color. My death is like shadow, my life aquiver, a pulse in the light; I am so close to death it makes me proud, cruel and demonic.

Unmoved, I flutter from Helen's lips to Adonis' wound. I love my death, the flame, more than anything.

Geschöpfe der Flamme, 1899

Hofmannsthal's prose poems were published after his death.

 – Cat

Thursday, February 01, 2007 Hugo von Hofmannsthal Photo of Hofmannsthal, approx. 1924

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