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|Publisher:||Carcanet Press, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)|
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Selected Poems and Prose
By Gottfried Benn, David Paisey
Carcanet Press LtdCopyright © 2013 David Paisey
All rights reserved.
The spittoon-glass –
not remotely a match
for such great green tepid floods –
crashed down at last.
The mouth dropped after it. Hung deep. Sucked
back vomit convulsively. Disappointed
any trust. Gave stones for bread
to the breathless blood.
The little bundle smelled like a chicken-coop,
beat to and fro. Grew. Fell still.
The granddaughter played the old game:
when grannie's asleep:
around the collarbones there were such hollows
she hid beans in them.
In the throat you could even fit a ball,
if you blew the dust out.
His thing was a spittoon with plumstones.
He crawled over and bit them open.
They threw him back in his bunk,
and the madman died in his straw.
Towards evening the head keeper came
and gave the attendants an earful:
You lazy damned beasts,
why is this box not cleared out yet?
For weeks her children had been looking after her
when they came home from school,
holding her head up,
then there was some air-movement and she could sleep.
One of them bent over unintentionally
and the head fell out of its hands.
Turned round. Hung across her shoulder
A coffin gets to work, an empty bed.
When you consider: a couple of hours wasted
to silent night now find themselves translated
and floating in the cloudscape overhead.
How white they are! The lips as well. Like smudges
at the edge of snow across the winter land,
comforting snow, redeemed from deceitful colours,
hill and valley held in an open hand.
Near and far are one in perfect balance.
The flakes blow over fields, then rapturous
blow on, the world's last flickering mere absence.
O scarcely dreamt! The distant happiness!
The mouth of a girl who had lain long in the reeds
looked kind of nibbled.
When we sectioned the thorax, the gullet was full
Finally, in a pocket under the diaphragm
we found a nest of young rats.
One little sister lay dead.
The others lived on liver and kidney,
drank cold blood and had had
a nice childhood here.
Their death was nice too, and quick:
we threw them all in the water.
Ah, how the little muzzles squeaked!
The solitary molar of a whore
who had died a missing person
had a gold filling.
As if by mutual consent,
all the others had left.
The morgue attendant knocked it out
and pawned it to go dancing.
Because, he said,
only dust should come to dust.
Incision-ready, everything is white.
The scalpels steam. The belly's painted.
Under sheets a whimpering thing waited.
'Herr Professor, the time is right.'
The first incision. Like slicing bread.
'Clamps, please!' A spurt of something red.
Deeper. The muscles: shining, fresh and wet.
Is that a bunch of roses on the bed?
Is that pus that's spurting so?
Is the intestine snagged below?
'Doctor, you're standing in my light,
the peritoneum has vanished from sight.
Anaesthetic, I can't operate
if the belly is walking to the Brandenburg Gate.'
Silence, muffled and deep, only broken
by dropped scissors that cause a minor explosion.
And the sister, an angel in blue,
proffers sterile swabs to the crew.
'I can't find a thing in this dirt, OK!?'
'Blood turning black. Take the mask away!'
'But – God in heaven – what are you doing?,
can't you stop the heels from moving?'
Severe deformation. Finally, found!
'Hot iron, sister!' A fizzing sound.
You're lucky again this time, my son.
Perforation had nearly begun.
'Do you notice the little green bit? –
Three hours to fill the belly with shit.'
Belly closed, skin closed. 'Plaster here!
Good morning, gentlemen.'
The theatre clear.
Death gnashing and grinding his teeth in fury
slinks in the cancer shed for another sortie.
Man and woman walk through the cancer shed
This row here is rotten womb
and this row rotten breasts.
Bed stinks by bed. The nurses change on the hour.
Go on, lift this sheet and look.
This lump of fat and putrid juices
meant everything to some man once –
he called it heaven and home.
Come and look at this scar on the breast.
Can you feel the rosary of soft lumps?
Go on, feel. The flesh is soft and without pain.
This one is bleeding enough for thirty.
No human has so much blood.
This one first had a baby
cut from her cancerous womb.
They're kept asleep. Day and night. The new ones
are told: You'll have a sleep cure here. Only on
for visiting are they let wake a bit.
They eat next to nothing. Their backs
are raw. You can see the flies. Sometimes
the nurses wash them. Like washing trestles.
Loam already churns about each bed.
Flesh flattens into land. Warmth dissipates.
Juice prepares to flow. Earth calls.
Brown as cognac. Brown as leaves. Red-brown.
Berlin express from Trelleborg and the Baltic
Flesh that walked naked.
Tanned to the lips by the sea.
Drooping ripely, like Greek hedonists.
Missing sickles: how long since summer!
And tomorrow the final day of the ninth month!
Stubble and last almonds thirst in us.
Unfoldings, our blood and tirednesses,
the proximity of dahlias confuses us.
Male tan in collision with female tan:
A woman is good for one night.
And if it went well, for the next one too!
Oh! and then being alone again!
These silences! This sense of being driven!
A woman is something with fragrance.
Inexpressible! Pass away! Mignonette.
Enclosing the South, shepherds and sea.
On every slope a happiness leans.
Female light brown staggers against male dark
Hold me, love! I'm falling!
My back is so exhausted.
Oh, this feverish final
sweet fragrance from the gardens.
824: Frauenliebe und -leben.
The cello has a quick swig. The flute
belches three bars away: supper was good.
The drum reads the end of his detective story.
Green teeth, acned face
waves to lids with styes.
is talking to open mouth with tonsils,
faith hope and charity round her neck.
Young goitre fancies saddle-nose.
He buys her three beers.
Barber's itch buys carnations.
To soften up double chin.
Opus 35: B flat minor sonata.
Two eyes roar up:
Don't squirt Chopin's blood down here
so the pack can scuff about on it!
Enough! Hey, Gigi! –
The door dissolves. A woman.
Utterly dried out. Canaanite brown.
Chaste. Full of caverns. A scent comes with her.
Merely a gentle arching of air
against my brain.
An obesity trips after her.
Frauenliebe und -leben is Schumann's song-cycle to poems by Adalbert von Chamisso (1781–1838), op.
42. '824' may be an inaccurate reference to the last, tragic song, no. 8.
O could we restart our primal mission
and be a speck of slime in a tepid fen.
Life, death, insemination, parturition
would slip out from our voiceless fluids then.
A leaf of algae or a sand-dune growing
under the wind and gravity's firm touch.
Even a dragonfly's head, a gull's wing blowing
would go too far and suffer much too much.
Despise the infatuated and the callous,
nostalgia, desperation, a hope of sorts.
We gods are rotten with disease and sadness,
and yet a god is often in our thoughts.
The bay is soft. Our dreams are dark with promise.
The stars hang big as snowball blossoms there.
Panthers are hunting soundless through the forest.
All is shore. The sea calls everywhere –
Then Icarus crashed down at our feet
and screamed: Get fucking, kids!
Get in there, into that stale Thermopylae! –
Then threw us one of his shin-bones,
keeled over, snuffed it.
The gentle showers. Flowering dawn. As if
from downy furs arriving from the forests.
A red swarms up. Blood's greatness starts to grow.
Through all this springtime comes an unknown
The stocking on her instep. But where it ends
is far from me. I sob there at the threshold:
tepid florescence, unknown dampnesses.
Oh, how her mouth squanders the tepid air!
You rose-brain, sea-blood, twilight of the gods,
you bed of earth, oh how your hips stream forth
the cool precision of the way you walk!
Darkness: alive now under what she wears:
animal whiteness, relaxed, dumb fragrances.
Pathetic brain-dog, heavy laden with God.
I am so tired of thinking. Oh a lattice
of flower-heads could so softly fill its place,
could swell with me and burst in showers and
So disconnected. So tired. Let me wander.
Bloodless the pathways. Singing from the gardens.
Shadows, the Flood. A distant joy: to die
beneath the sea's redeeming deep, deep blue.
Excerpted from Selected Poems and Prose by Gottfried Benn, David Paisey. Copyright © 2013 David Paisey. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Translator's Preface xi
Biographical Introduction xiii
Schöne Jugend/Nice childhood 6/7
Mann und Frau gehn durch die Krebsbaracke/Man and woman walk through the cancer shed 14/15
Nachtcafé/Night café 18/19
Da fiel uns Ikarus vor die Füße/Then Icarus 22/23
Untergrundbahn/Underground train 24/25
Englisches Café/English café 26/27
Hier ist kein Trost/No comfort here 36/37
Nachtcafé IV/Night café IV 38/39
O Nacht/O night 40/41
Durchs Erlenholz kam sie entlang gestrichen/Through the alder wood it was making its way 44/45
Der Arzt/The doctor 48/49
Das Instrument/The instrument 58/59
Trunkene Flut/Drunken flood 72/73
Das späte Ich/The later I 76/77
Staatsbliothek/State Library 80/81
Die Dänin/The Danish girl 84/85
Der Sänger/The singer 90/91
Wer bist du/Who are you 102/103
Osterinsel/Easter Island 106/107
Orphische Zellen/Orphic cells 110/111
Qui sait/Qui sait 114/115
Sieh dir Sterne, die Fänge/Behold the stars 118/119
Was singst du denn/What are you singing? 120/121
Aus Fernen, aus Reichen/From distances, from kingdoms 122/123
Immer schweigender/Ever more silently 126/127
Primäre Tage/Primal days 128/129
Zwei Auszüge aus dem Oratorium 'Das Unaufhörliche' Musik von Paul Hindemith. I Lied, II Knabenchor/Two extracts from the oratorio 'The unceasing'. Music by Paul Hindemith. I Song, II Choirs of men and boys 130/131
Dennoch die Schwerter halten/Hold the swords in defiance 134/135
Am Brückenwehr/On the bridge 136/137
Valse triste/Valse triste 144/145
Tag, der den Sommer endet/Day, when summer ended 148/149
Auf deine Lider senk ich Schlummer/I give your lids the gift of slumber 150/151
Das Ganze/The whole 152/153
Turin/Turin (I) 154/155
Am Saum des nordischen Meers/On the edge of the Baltic Sea 156/157
Einsamer nie/The loneliest time 160/161
Wer allein ist/He who's alone 162/163
Die Gefährten/The companions 164/165
Du trägst/You bear 166/167
So still/So tranquil 168/169
Wenn dir am Ende der Reise/If at your journey's limit 170/171
Dann gliederten sich die Laute/Then the sounds created a structure 172/173
Wer Wiederkehr in Träumen weiss/He who dreams the dead recur 176/177
Ein Wort/A word 188/189
Verlorenes Ich/Lost I 192/193
Nachzeichnung/A drawing after 196/197
Welle der Nacht/Wave of the night 202/203
V. Jahrhundert/Fifth century 204/205
Ach, das ferne Land/Ah, the distant land 214/215
Überblickt man die Jahre-/If you survey tradition 220/221
Statische Gedichte/Static poems 224/225
Orpheus' Tod/The death of Orpheus 226/227
Gewisse Lebensabende/Certain evenings of life 230/231
Kleines süßes Gesicht/Sweet little face 236/237
Du liegst und schweigst und träumst der Stunde nach/You lie in silence 238/239
Der Dunkle/The dark one 248/249
Was meinte Luther mit dem Apfelbaum?/What did Luther mean by the apple tree? 254/255
Künstlermoral/Artistic ethics 256/257
Du übersiehst dich nicht mehr/What does your retrospect lack? 270/271
Verhülle dich/Muflle yourself 274/275
Wir ziehn einen großen Bogen/We draw a great are 276/277
Die Gitter/The barriers 280/281
Verzweiflung III/Despair III 282/283
März. Brief nach Meran/March: letter to Meran 284/285
Nimm fort die Amarylle/Away with the amaryllis 288/289
Eingeengt/Hemmerd in 290/291
Auferlegt/Laid on us 292/293
Was schlimm ist/What's bad 294/295
Nur zwei Dinge/Only two things 298/299
In einer Nacht/In a night 304/305
Herr Wehner/Herr Wehner 318/319
Kann keine Trauer sein/Can be no mourning 320/321
Wie sehn die Buchen im September aus/How do the beeches look 322/323
Von Bremens Schwesterstadt/From Bremerhaven 342/325
Epilog 1949/Epilogue 1949 326/327
Brains (Gehrine) 335
The birthday (Der Geburtstag) 340
Diesterweg (Diesterweg) 350
The garden of Arles (Der Garten von Arles) 358
an extract from The modern self (Das moderne Ich) 366
extracts from Lyric self (Lyrisches Ich 370
How Miss Cavell was shot (Wie Miss Cavell erschossen wurde) 372
Primal vision (Urgesicht) 378
an extract from On the problems of being a poet (Zur Problematik des Dichterischen) 386
an extract from After nihilism (Nach dem Nihilismus) 390
extracts from Speech to the Prussian Academy of Arts, 5 April 1932 (Akademierede) 393
Eugenics I (Züchtung I) 396
Extracts from Expressionism (Der Expressionismus) 403
extracts from Mind and soul of future generations (Geist und Seele künftiger Geschlechter) 409
an extract from The people and the writer (Das Volk und der Dichter) 412
Doric world (Dorische Welt 413
an extract from Writing needs inner latitude (Die Dichtung braucht inneren Spielraum 436
an extract from Pallas (Pallas) 437
extracts from On the theme of history (Zum Thema Geschichte) 441
three extracts from The phenotype's novel (Roman des Phänotyp) 444
an extract from Marginalia (Marginalien) 449
an extract from Double life (Doppelleben 450
extracts from Problems of lyric poetry (Probleme der Lyrik) 451
extracts from Speech in Darmstadt, 21 October 1951 (Rede in Darmstadt) 455
extracts from Speech in Knokke (Rede in Knokke) 457
an extract from Should poetry improve life? (Soll die Dichtung das Leben bessern?) 459
Index of Poem Titles and First Lines (English) 461
Index of Poem Titles and First Lines (German) 468