Two Poems of Friedrich Ruckert

Translated from the German by
Michael Shindler (June 2019)


Friedrich Rückert
 

Friedrich Rückert was a 19th century German poet who is mostly known in the anglosphere for his pioneering translations of eastern literature and related scholarship. The two poems below are relatively well known in Germany thanks to musical settings that Mahler wrote for them.
 
 

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen

Afar from the world I've gone wandering,
With her, I've wasted much of my life's thread,
For so long she's not heard of me a single thing,
She must very well think—I am dead!
 
For me it's not even the slightest issue,
If she really reckons that I'm dead,
I cannot say that such a thing is untrue,
For truly my soul from the world has fled.
 
I am dead to the wild world's lunacy,
And now rest in a tranquil universe!
I live alone in my own holy ecstasy,
Within my rapture—within my Verse!
 
 
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
Sie hat so lange nichts von mir vernommen,
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben!
 
Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.
 
Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel,
Und ruh' in einem stillen Gebiet!
Ich leb' allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied!
 
 
 
Um Mitternacht
 
At midnight
I'd no respite
And looked aloft to the sky;
Not a single star up high
Laughed from its height
At midnight.
 
At midnight
I set my sight
On the deeps the darkness wrought.
Not a single twinkling thought
Lessened my plight
At midnight.
 
At midnight
I thought with fright
Of the beating of my heart;
A pulse of pain like a dart
Set me alight
At midnight.
 
At midnight
I fought the fight,
O Mankind, your suffering;
I can't reconcile the thing
With all my might
At midnight.
 
At midnight
I have, my might,
Placed into Thy care and power!
Lord! of first and final hour,
Keep lit Thy light
At midnight!
 
 
Um Mitternacht
Hab' ich gewacht
Und aufgeblickt zum Himmel;
Kein Stern vom Sterngewimmel
Hat mir gelacht
Um Mitternacht.
 
Um Mitternacht
Hab' ich gedacht
Hinaus in dunkle Schranken.
Es hat kein Lichtgedanken
Mir Trost gebracht
Um Mitternacht.
 
Um Mitternacht
Nahm ich in acht
Die Schläge meines Herzens;
Ein einz'ger Puls des Schmerzes
War angefacht
Um Mitternacht.
 
Um Mitternacht
Kämpft' ich die Schlacht,
O Menschheit, deiner Leiden;
Nicht konnt' ich sie entscheiden
Mit meiner Macht
Um Mitternacht.
 
Um Mitternacht
Hab' ich die Macht
In deine Hand gegeben!
Herr! über Tod und Leben
Du hältst die Wacht
Um Mitternacht!
 
 

__________________________________
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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Comments
5 Jun 2019
Send an emailStephen Schecter
In the Passover Haggadah there is a psalm of praise that is recited called "It Happened At Midnight." I was reminded of it reading the second poem, whose rhythm is modelled upon this older piece of verse. I wonder if Ruckert was aware of this.

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