Sunday, July 28, 2013

Love and Theft - Housman and Heine

Reading Heine today, I came across the poem below. It's a clear point of departure for Housman's "Sinner's Rue." This unacknowledged translation is not a translation only but an expansion. It is a great example of my thesis that all is fair in love, war, and literature. If the end result is good poetry, who cares what skullduggery and nefariousness occurred in bringing it to being.

Heine:

They buried him at the cross-roads,               Am Kreuzweg wird begraben
Whose own hand wrought his doom ;            Wer selber sich brachte um;
And over him grow blue flowers                    Dort wächst eine blaue Blume,
Called the " Poor-Sinner's Bloom."                Die Armesünderblum.

I stand at the cross-roads sighing,                  Am Kreuzweg stand ich und seufzte;
Wrapped in a cloak of gloom,                       Die Nacht war kalt und stumm.
And watch the moonlight trembling                Im Mondschein bewegte sich langsam
On the Poor-Sinner's Bloom.                        Die Armesünderblum.


Housman:

I walked alone and thinking,
And faint the nightwind blew
And stirred on mounds at crossways
The flower of sinner's rue.

Where the roads part they bury
Him that his own hand slays,
And so the weed of sorrow
Springs at the four cross ways.

By night I plucked it hueless,
When morning broke 'twas blue:
Blue at my breast I fastened
The flower of sinner's rue.

It seemed a herb of healing,
A balsam and a sign,
Flower of a heart whose trouble
Must have been worse than mine.

Dead clay that did me kindness,
I can do none to you,
But only wear for breastknot
The flower of sinner's rue.

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