Three Poems by Clemens Brentano

Translated from the German by
Michael Shindler (September 2020)

Child’s Profile and Study for a Still Life, Louis Emile Anquetin



An dem Feuer saß das Kind

By the fire there sat the child,
Cupid, Cupid,
Eyes beguiled;
With his small wings he flapped the wind
Up into the flames and he grinned,
Flapping, grinning, clever child!

O, flames caught the flapping child,
Cupid, Cupid
Running wild!
‘O, how the embers torment me!’
He cried while still flapping loudly,
And hugged the shepherdess mild
Begging for help—clever child.

The shepherdess helps the child
Cupid, Cupid,
Rude, beguiled.
Shepherdess, see—your heart aflame,
Have you forgotten the rogue’s name?
See—how high the flame is riled,
Beware of the clever child!

An dem Feuer saß das Kind,
Amor, Amor,
Und war blind;
Mit dem kleinen Flügel fächelt
In die Flamme er und lächelt,
Fächle, lächle, schlaues Kind!

Ach, der Flügel brennt dem Kind,
Amor, Amor
Läuft geschwind!
»O, wie mich die Glut durchpeinet!«
Flügelschlagend laut er weinet,
In der Hirtin Schoß entrinnt
Hülfeschreind das schlaue Kind.

Und die Hirtin hilft dem Kind
Amor, Amor,
Bös und blind.
Hirtin, sieh, dein Herz entbrennet,
Hast den Schelm du nicht gekennet?
Sieh, die Flamme wächst geschwind,
Hüt’ dich vor dem schlauen Kind!

Dein Lied erklang, ich habe es gehöret

Your song went by—I had listened to it,
Through the roses drawn to the moon in wing;
The butterfly, which flew multihued in spring,
You have to the form of a humble bee fit,
To the rose my fires fly,
Since yet your song went by!

Your song went by—carried away by the blue,
O, my ever restfully sweet swan-song!
To the moon, listening above—looking along,
These stars and roses I cannot but rue,
Where she swung from my sigh,  
That soul whose song went by!

Your song went by—not a note was in vain,
The whole of the springtime, which breathed of love,
Had, as you sang, plunged down from high above
Into the yearning stream of my life’s terrain,
Into the darkling sky,
As yet your song went by!

Dein Lied erklang, ich habe es gehöret,
Wie durch die Rosen es zum Monde zog;
Den Schmetterling, der bunt im Frühling flog,
Hast du zur frommen Biene dir bekehret,
Zur Rose ist mein Drang,
Seit mir dein Lied erklang!

Dein Lied erklang, die Nacht hat’s hingetragen,
Ach, meiner Ruhe süßes Schwanenlied!
Dem Mond, der lauschend von dem Himmel sieht,
Den Sternen und den Rosen muß ich’s klagen,
Wohin sie sich nun schwang,
Der dieses Lied erklang!

Dein Lied erklang, es war kein Ton vergebens,
Der ganze Frühling, der von Liebe haucht,
Hat, als du sangest, nieder sich getaucht
Im sehnsuchtsvollen Strome meines Lebens,
Im Sonnenuntergang,
Als mir dein Lied erklang!



Heil’ge Nacht, heil’ge Nacht!

Holy night, holy night!
Peace on high held in the stars’ yoke!
All—that ever the Light had broke,
Is rejoined now,
Both flesh and brow
Bleed sweetly in the red-dusk!

Bjelbog’s Spear, Bjelbog’s Spear
Sinks to the heart of the drunk earth,
Which—with a sign of holy mirth
A lone rose-bloom
Within the womb
Of the darkest desire dips.

Spotless bride, spotless bride!
Your sweet contrition—cover up,
When the full-filled wedding cup
Yet overflows.
Thus also goes
Into the fierce Night the Day!

Heil’ge Nacht, heil’ge Nacht!
Sterngeschloßner Himmelsfrieden!
Alles, was das Licht geschieden,
Ist verbunden,
Alle Wunden
Bluten süß im Abendrot!

Bjelbogs Speer, Bjelbogs Speer
Sinkt ins Herz der trunknen Erde,
Die mit seliger Geberde
Eine Rose
In dem Schoße
Dunkler Lüste niedertaucht.

Zücht’ge Braut, zücht’ge Braut!
Deine süße Schmach verhülle,
Wenn des Hochzeitbechers Fülle
Sich ergießet.
Also fließet
In die brünst’ge Nacht der Tag!


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Michael Shindler is a writer living in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in publications including The American Conservative, The American Spectator, National Review Online, HillRag, and Providence Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelShindler.

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