Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hermann Hesse: "Sometimes"

Sometimes, when a bird calls,
Or a wind moves through the brush,
Or a dog barks in a distant farmyard,
I must listen a long time, and hush.

My soul flies back to where,
Before a thousand forgotten years begin,
The bird and the waving wind
Were like me, and were my kin.

My soul becomes a tree, an animal,
A cloud woven across the sky.
Changed and unfamiliar it turns back
And questions me. How shall I reply?

The original German:

Manchmal, wenn ein Vogel ruft
oder ein Wind geht in den Zweigen
oder ein Hund bellt im fernsten Gehöft,
dann muß ich lange lauschen und schweigen.

Meine Seele flieht zurück,
bis wo vor tausend vergessenen Jahren
der Vogel und der wehende Wind
mir ähnlich und meine Brüder waren.

Meine Seele wird Baum
und ein Tier und ein Wolkenweben.
Verwandelt und fremd kehrt sie zurück
und fragt mich. Wie soll ich Antwort geben?

"Sometimes" by Hermann Hesse, as translated online from the original German by The original rhymes, but the standard English translation I found does not, so I thought I’d try my hand at a rhyming version.  I admit I'm not happy with the middle verse, but you can see ... the translation by Robert Bly here."
Art credit: "Howling Away at the Gray," photograph by Shreve Stockton.

1 comment :

  1. Thank you for this work! We discussed this poem 2/24/21 in a poetry group I have moderated here in Rochester, NY since Feb. 2008. With the Bly translation, which lacks rhyme, we still had a sense of a unified treatment of feeling fortified by the images. It is an enigmatic poem. What are the questions asked? We as readers cannot participate in the reply, but rather must seek our own questions, join in the universal conversation with "soul" in this way.


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