William Ruleman – Three Translations

William Ruleman is Professor of English at Tennessee Wesleyan University. His latest books include two volumes of his own poetry (Munich Poems and Salzkammergut Poems, both from Cedar Springs Books, 2016), as well as his translation of Stefan Zweig’s unfinished novel Clarissa (Ariadne Press, 2017).


THE GOLDEN AGE

(by Alfons Petzold; translated by William Ruleman)

Once there was nothing in the world but love.
All things were joined in kindly heart and mind.
Whenever a mountain laughed or sighed or whined,
So did sky and wood and field and grove.

The cloud waved gently toward the valley, for
The river sang to her; the elders played
Quite gladly with the water pearls that sprayed
From the whirlpool’s dark and deep but slender core.

All creatures lived in reverence, tame and freed
Of fear in the fields, in the jungle’s thick twilight,
Gratefully given to day yet also night,
And never lamed by the numbing glance of greed.

Hatred ate not one thing up inside.
The lion’s roar was not the voice of doom;
And all that budded soon turned into bloom—
Until Man came, and then Love died.


DAS GOLDENE ZEITALTER

(Alfons Petzold)

Einst war nichts als Liebe auf der Welt.
Alle Dinge freundlich sich vereinten,
wenn die Berge lachten oder weinten
taten gleiches Himmel, Wald und Feld.

Wolke winkte zärtlich in das Tal,
weil der Fluß ihr zusang, und die Erlen
spielten fröhlich mit den Wasserperlen
an der Wirbelstelle, tief und schmal.

Alle Wesen lebten fromm, gezähmt
auf den Wiesen, in dem dichten Dschungel,
dankbarst hingegeben Licht und Dunkel,
keines ward vom Blick der Gier gelähmt.

Nicht das kleinste Ding in Haß verdarb.
Im Gebrüll des Löwen war noch Güte,
und was Knospe war, das wurde Blüte –
bis der Mensch kam und die Liebe starb.


 

Alfons Petzold (1882-1923) was well-known for his prose and verse during his lifetime, but since then, he has suffered neglect. Afflicted with tuberculosis, Alfonso Petzold did not see active duty in the Austro-Hungarian military during World War I, yet he imagined its horrors vividly in his verse, championing world peace as he did.


COMMUNION

(by Hedwig Lachmann; translated by William Ruleman)

The crowd of faithful, pious worshippers
Has pressed before the opened altar rail
To kneel in silence as the priest confers
Into their hands the consecrated grail.

The suffering figure up there on the cross
Hovers in calm before each humble head,
Yet the mystery leaves them at a loss:
They find no body and blood in wine and bread.

A faithless dreamer sits within the glow
Of the lamp, reflecting on the sacrament,
That daring doctrine that would have us know
That, in mere matter, God is immanent.

With all the fervor of murkiest sorcery,
It rises up as if by dark design;
He holds the cup; he breaks the bread; and see?
Inside his soul, the meal becomes divine.


ABENDMAHL

(Hedwig Lachmann)

Es drängt die gläubig fromme Beterschar
Sich in die weit geöffneten Portale,
Auf Knien zu empfangen am Altar
Aus Priesterhänden die geweihte Schale.

Am Kruzifix die leidende Gestalt
Schwebt milde über ihren Büssermienen:
Doch Leib und Blut, die mystische Gewalt
Von Brot und Wein, ist ohne Macht an ihnen.

Ein glaubenloser Träumer sitzt beim Schein
Der Lampe, sinnend über jener Lehre
Von dem geheimnisvollen Brot und Wein,
Mit dem man Leib und Blut des Herrn verzehre.

Aus aller Inbrunst dunkelster Magie
Taucht sie empor wie eine Zauberweise:
Er hält den Kelch, er bricht das Brot, und sieh:
In seiner Seele göttlich wird die Speise.


Hedwig Lachmann (1865-1918) translated many authors, including Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde, into German. She was also married to the German revolutionary Gustav Landau, who published her collected poems in book form after her death from pneumonia in her 53rd year.


INSIDE YOUR ROOM

(by Ernst Wilhelm Lotz; translated by William Ruleman)

Inside your room, I’ve made my own homestead.
Inside your room, I know just who is who.
I find myself, here all day long in bed,
My body nestled right up next to you.

I feel the days—indeed, whole seasons—change
On bedsheets laid for us: pristine, sublime.
At times I marvel at our bed lands’ range
As, with celestial laughs, we conquer time.

At times a sound from distant streets below
Will reach our realm of feathery clouds, which we
Will gulp down, drowsy in the gaudy glow
Of tapestries formed by love, kisses, reverie.


IN DEINEM ZIMMER

(Ernst Wilhelm Lotz)

In deinem Zimmer fand ich meine Stätte,
In deinem Zimmer weiß ich, wer ich bin.
Ich liege tagelang in deinem Bette
Und schmiege meinen Körper an dich hin.
Ich fühle Tage wechseln und Kalender
Am Laken, das uns frisch bereitet liegt,
Ich staune manchmal still am Bettgeländer,
Wie himmlisch lachend man die Zeit besiegt.
Bisweilen steigt aus fernen Straßen unten
Ein Ton zu unserm Federwolkenraum,
Den schlingen wir verschlafen in die bunten
Gobelins, gewirkt aus Küssen, Liebe, Traum.


Ernst Wilhelm Lotz (1890-1914) shared with his fellow German Expressionist poets the desire for an energetic spiritual transformation of the staid society of his youth, but his poetic career was cut short when he died in battle in France in 1914.

 

 

 

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