More of the Brilliant Trakl Poems of 1914

Here are more of my translations of the great Trakl poems of 1914.   These include the terrifying war poem, “In The East,” the odd and lovely and desolate “Homecoming,” and a first version of “Lament.”  This is not the famous “Klage,” one of Trakl’s last poems, but neither is it an early version.  It stands on its own.  All of these poems were published in the magazine Brenner in 1914-1915.

Trakl’s work has had an interesting publication history, reception, and influence. In his lifetime, only his Gedichte (Poems) was published, in 1913.  In 1915, the year after his death the extraordinary Sebastian im Traum (Sebastian in the Dream) was published, a volume he had prepared prior to his suicide.  Both books proved popular, and in 1918 his publisher brought out a collected poems, Die Dichtungen.  As his fame grew, translations appeared in Czech, Rumanian, and English in the 1920’s, and musical settings of some of the poems were published in 1922 by Paul Hindemith.   Appreciation was wide, though there was not much critical commentary or deep analysis, perhaps because the poems seem to travel directly into our appreciation and sensibility without much room for the usual kinds of critical analysis.  In fact, there was not much deep critical commentary on Trakl until the 1950’s.  Interest grew markedly with the publication in 1961 of Robert Bly and James Wright’s Twenty Poems of Georg Trakl (Sixties Press (Madison), 1961).

One of the more interesting comments came in 1915, from Rilke in a private letter on Sebastian I’m Traum that was published much later:  “I imagine that even those standing close shall still experience these views and insights as if through a window-pane: since Trakls’ experience goes as if in reflections and fills his whole room, which is unenterable, like the room in a mirror. (Who could he have been?)”  I like these comments a lot, that description of wide vistas in enclosed space circling back endlessly on itself.  Heidegger has also made some wonderful and fascinating comments on the poems, in the way they open and close, present and distance themselves and their objects and images.  I also like this