Swimmers On The Eisbach

by William Ruleman (June 2015)

(Munich, Englischer Garten, 8 June 2014)


You let yourself be swept upon

Time’s swirling stream

In couples, pairs, or all alone

As in a dream;


As satyrs, fauns, and naiads too

For this one day,

This “ice brook” seems designed for you

And your fond play.


Like Böcklin’s figures, and yet real

On the racing green,

Your wet flesh flashes its appeal

In this leaf-framed scene


Where you succumb to the water’s surge

Before the call

Of workday drudgery stems your urge

For free-flung fall;                             


So give yourself to the current’s flow

To let it send

You on wherever it might go

And someday end.


I laud your reckless willingness

To leave behind

All signs of name, address, and dress

And as one mind


And soul and body just flow free

For this one hour,

Drifting through eternity

In Nature’s power


Unmindful of the single life

And its desire

For comfort, love, or wealth, or strife

In the muck and mire


Of the world with all its lust for work

And show of will;

The rut, for one brief day, you shirk

For freedom’s thrill.


Though one nymph clings to a willow bough

From future-fear,

Most surrender to the Now

And know that here,


Full abandon to the whole

Is only wise:

Aware they lack complete control

In Fortune’s eyes,


They cannot halt their transformation

Through time’s course

So frolic in the rude sensation

Of its force.


Yet through the voicing of this verse,

Help me lend

Their lives (which may no doubt turn worse)

A beauty sans end


Despite the rocks and snags of Time,

The lures of hate,

Routine, the city and its grime—

A kindlier fate


(At least on this memorial page)

So others might

In some even darker age

Know their delight.




William Ruleman is Professor of English at Tennessee Wesleyan College. His recent publications include poems and translations in Ezra, The Galway Review, The Pennsylvania Review, and The Sonnet Scroll, as well as two books of translation: of prose and poetry by Stefan Zweig in A Girl and the Weather and of poetry by the German Romantics in Verse for the Journey: Poems on the Wandering Life (both available from Cedar Springs Books via amazon.com).

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