Ich war Georg Trakl

Ich war Georg Trakl
‘I was Georg Trakl’ (1887 – 1914):
a theatrical prologue

Georg Trakl, poet into mirror’s dark

born 1887, salzburg, austria, where
i lived till 21, quitting the gymnasium*
for something better, those powders
and crystals in glass, working in a pharmacy
where i learnt much of mental colour and
intoxication in what was bottled on the
shelves, the morphine, the cocaine,
nights writing my plays that
swam in melancholy of the age,
and poems,
in 1908 i moved to vienna to
qualify in the pharmaceutic arts
whose products i loved well,
and met that boisterous crowd, the artists
unafraid of what the soul exhaled unbound
in their expression, while round them the
true hell gaped in pomp and trenches that were
being dug in mind and soon mud between the
peoples of europe, these friends helped my poems
into print to see the fading light of those days
and barely certified in the alchemical come chemical arts
i was drafted into uniform serving for a year,
yet released back into the shadows of an ordinary
life and its concerns like a garden grown rank,
i enlisted, assigned to the hospital at Innsbruck,
where evenings in the salons i would greet the
bold, the avant garde, the men and
women done with the art of a world
soon to come to bits, the editor of
‘Der Brenner’, that journal where they
were gathered in word and sketch,
would put my poems besides theirs,
and with his help i was published, that
first book, ‘poems’ – Gedichte –
and he found me too a patron in
Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher,
who saw to it that my pockets would
be lined with silver enough to write the days
away instead of fruitless labouring yet war had
fallen to our lot in such numbers as we
never dreamed.
it was at Grodek, Ukraine, november 1914
where the russians had crushed our
hopes in sapling men
when i was charged with the care of some 90
cases of agony, the wounded, bodies and minds
truncated in the dark of what they’d seen,
had done, had been done to them,
my fears, my loathing overcame me, i swung
the revolver barrel up to my head to shoot,
my comrades, good hearted heroes, shallowed out
from their own fears, thought for my sake to save me
and struggled the weapon out of my hand, and
hospitalised i was given bitter tea of common
sense for comfort, my final poem ‘grodek’* scribbled out in these
last days was an empty mirror hope abandonned
and only days later i did the job in earnest,
wolfing down a dose of cocaine that floated me
into a luminous river, the sky burning out of
autumn to join the futile, honoured dead

october 2019
*type of school with a strong emphasis on academic learning, and providing advanced secondary education in some parts of Europe comparable to British grammar schools

Copyright ©2020 Peter Le Baige.  All Rights Reserved

The music is from “Sebastien im Traum – Sebastian in the dream” by Hans Werner Henze, based on the eponymous poem by Georg Trakl (2004)

   by Georg Trakl (presumed written in October 1914)

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 dunklen Flöten des Herbstes.
O stolzere Trauer! ihr ehernen Altäre
Die heiße Flamme des Geistes nährt heute ein gewaltiger Schmerz,
Die ungebornen Enkel.

         translated by Peter Le Baige

At evening the autumn woods ring with
deathly weapons, the golden plains, the
blue lakes, over which the sun rolls on
more grimly; night embraces dying warriors,
the crazed lament of their shattered mouths
Yet in meadow earth quietly gathers
red cloud, the spilt blood, lunar cooling,
in which a raging god dwells;
All roads lead to black rot .
under golden branch of night and stars
there sways the sister’s shadow
through the hushed copse to greet the ghosts
of heroes, the bleeding heads;
and softly in reed ring the dark flutes of autumn.
Oh prouder grief! You iron altars,
Today a mighty anguish feeds the hot flame of spirit,
the unborn grandchildren.

The music is from a live performance of Dmitri Shotakovich’s Piano Sonata No.2 by  Emil Gilels

6 thoughts on “Ich war Georg Trakl”

  1. Trakl – just what I needed on this rainy Monday, fantastic! The title “ich war Georg Trakl” alone puts shivers down my spine. Well done Peter, and greetings from Ljubljana.


    1. HI Olithal, many thanks! Greetings from New Zealand, and how very far from Slovenia. I am very curious about how you came across this poem, as I have never seen any reader from Slovenia appear on this site previously. If you don’t mind my asking, how on earth did you find ‘Ich war Georg Trakl’. Regards, Peter


      1. Hello Peter, and a happy first day of spring to you. – (he writes with envy as he folds the shorts back into the closet)
        I am using WordPress Reader to find interesting blog posts and did previous searches on Trakl. Somehow, the algorithm must have memorised this search as your site appeared on my timeline. I am originally from German-speaking Switzerland. Trakl and German Expressionism was part of our curriculum and I have ever since loved the atmosphere and pictures created by such poems.
        Gonna peruse your blog, now that I found you!
        Here is some stuff about me, if you’re interested to learn more – https://olliethalmann.wordpress.com/


      2. Hi Olithal, I actually realised later that you were referred by the WordPress Reader, as it was identified in the statistics as the source for your view. I look forward to having a look at your own blog properly.; I did see that you have posted health/medical related articles as well. I think for those of us who enjoy Trakl’s work, it is a lifelong affair. Certainly for me, the brilliance of his lines in their colour and strong lines, like a woodcut, have always stayed with me. Thanks again for your reading.


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