Sunday, June 17, 2007
As far as I know, Konrad Krez only published three poems about his experiences commanding a Union regiment in the Civil War. None of those poems, to my knowledge, have been translated into English except on this blog.
Unlike 'New Orleans, February 1865' and 'Heimchen Brazos Santiago', written about locales where his unit was stationed for only a week or two, 'Little Rock' is about the place where he and his men were assigned for a year and a half, fully half of the three years that the 27th Wisconsin was involved in the war.
My great great grandfather, as a replacement troop, joined up with the regiment at the end of January, 1865, a few days before the unit was transferred by boat to Mobile by way of New Orleans.
Where, as from the emerald gates
A stream of silver, the Arkansas
From forested hills down into the flat land
Flows, and you crown the plain,
The river's long course from far distant
Rocks spills at last its flood.
Beloved of the South, the North
Kisses the sweat from your brow;
Underground springs that never run dry
Replenish your cool waters.
February brings you its buds,
Leaves in full array decorate your March,
And with the flowers' fragrance filling
The air, your blossoms bring in April.
On far away mountains the snow in May melts,
Delivering refreshing floods to your feet
To soften your summer nights.
Storms douse your hot autumn,
And in November the first frost comes
To kill your last roses
And the leaves on your trees turn colors.
Your eaves shiver with the light snow
In January, often coating your ponds
With thin ice, and more often,
Ornamenting your trees with icicles,
That hang with the rainbow's splendor
From your pine needles, covering
Every bough with glittering jewels.
Mild is your winter, and indeed cold enough,
That with the comfort of a chimney
One enjoys the warmth of a good fire.
How fortuitously mixed your heaven of warm and cold!
In which a foreigner, coming from hot
Or cold lands, always encounters old friends,
For your Germans are your wild vines,
And your oaks, as lovely and large
As those of the Spessarts, are like
A piece of his old Fatherland.
In your garden an apple tree stands
Beside pear, plum and fig plants,
And all of the familiar flowers
That with our species go wandering.
A rock, like the Lorelei on the Rhine,
Nearby to you in your highlands,
Looks out over the plain, where your corn's
Full cobs grow higher than
A man on horseback, standing in his stirrups,
Can reach with his outstretched arms.
There grows the barley and there the rye
In heavy sheaves, richly turned out;
There fly the bursting shells of cotton about,
Where the white fleece, like balls of snow,
Hangs from green stalks.
Generous, as your fertile soil,
Are your hospitable people,
Who know no poverty
And make thrift their virtue.
Welcome is the foreigner, for whom
A ready chair is found at every table.