Sunday, April 01, 2007

Heimchen Brazos Santiago

I translated this poem more than a year ago. I wanted to be certain that my great great grandfather was actually with his unit in Texas before I put it online. It was my first attempt to translate a Krez poem from German into English. Click on the image to enlarge the German text.

Copied courtesy of Wolfgang Diehl,
Konrad Krez: Freiheitskampfer und Dichter
in Deutschland und Amerika

Pfalzische Verlagsanstalt Gmbh, Landau Pfalz

From a Camp on Brazos Santiago

Come in my tent, you unfeathered singer of the waste.
Hop fearless inside! Gladly I offer you refuge
From the scorching heat of the Mexican sun.

When in the evening the gulf breeze has finally cooled
The burning sand, and on the ocean the stars twinkle
And the barren solitude covers itself with darkness,
And you with your knowing song compensate me for the shadows,
Then I will gladly endure the day's hardships.

Your chirp overheard, I think of the crickets
That I heard in my youth on evenings at home by the fireside
And I hear again the bubbling and gurgling of the waters,
Flowing from the fountain's pipes, as melting ice,
Inexhaustible, perpetually replenishes the cistern,
Quenching the thirst better than the costliest wine.

Unforgettable Pfalz! Whose beauty drips in abundance,
From the southern heat and the chill of the north
Equally remote! Where the poorest freely eats
What the richest, even with gold, has no power to obtain.

I will think of you then in this lake of quicksand,
Your blooming fields, wrinkled with brooks,
Your chestnut forests at the foot of the mountains
And your grape-laden vineyards, where in April
The almond trees bloom, arrayed in bouquet,
Your resplendent orchards with succulent fruit,
Full of cherries and apricots, of apples and pears,
Where twittering hummingbirds nest in the treetops.

All this you become, my tent, for my soul calls me.
How the sun feeds the fantasy of streams and lakes
Appearing here as a vision in the afternoon sand.
And I forget for awhile that only a few
Spare tufts of grass grow in the sand,
That the only fruit, the pear of the thorny cactus,
Uncharitably arms itself with protruding prickles,
That every single droplet of drinkable water flowing
On the surface of this island sinks at once into brine.

And your plain song brings the evening's stillness alive,
And as the northern constellations wheel above me,
My homesickness praises this naked strip of earth
Which the creator, indeed, produced, but forgot to dress.

June, 1865

From the collection 'Aus Wisconsin', first published in 1875.