Thursday, 26 July 2007

Schlaf gut

My mate 'taught' me this and it's one of the many things I can reel off in different Euro languages that don't help me at all but make me feel like a polyglot:

Gut ist der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser — freilich
Das beste wäre, nie geboren sein

it means, roughly: 'Sleep is good, death is better but the best is never to have been born in the first place'.

I wanted to track it down and discovered it's from 'Morphine' by a 19th C German romantic poet, Heinrich Heine. It turns out that he was born Jewish but converted to christianity and, as a consequence, recognition of him in Israel is split between the secular and the orthodox. All this fascinates me because I wasn't looking for links with my recent visit to Auschwitz but they seem to be everywhere. Also, Heine's books were burnt by the Nazis in the 1930s and his reference to the burning of the Qu'ran during the Spanish inquisition is very often cited as a prophecy of Nazi excesses as it was written in 1821. It also features on some of the displays at Auschwitz 1. "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." (German: "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen")

Back to Morphine... the poem in full is:
Groß ist die Ähnlichkeit der beiden schönen
Jünglingsgestalten, ob der eine gleich
Viel blässer als der andre, auch viel strenger,
Fast möcht ich sagen viel vornehmer aussieht
Als jener andre, welcher mich vertraulich
In seine Arme schloß -
Wie lieblich sanft
War dann sein Lächeln und sein Blick wie selig!
Dann mocht es wohl geschehn, daß seines Hauptes
Mohnblumenkranz auch meine Stirn berührte
Und seltsam duftend allen Schmerz verscheuchte
Aus meiner Seel - Doch solche Linderung,
Sie dauert kurze Zeit; genesen gänzlich
Kann ich nur dann, wenn seine Fackel senkt
Der andre Bruder, der so ernst und bleich. -
Gut ist der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser - freilichDas beste wäre, nie geboren sein.

Of course, as I said, my german just isn't up to this so I ran it through a translator- you may get some better idea but I'm guessing the subtelty and romance are lost somewhere:

The similarity of the two beautiful is large
Young man shapes whether the one directly
Many more blässer than the andre, also many more strictly,
Nearly möcht I say looks many more distinguished
As that andre, which me confidentialInto its arms closed - as lovely gently
Then its smile and its view were as blessed!
Then it probably mocht geschehn that its head
Poppy flower ring also my forehead affected
And strangely smelling all pain verscheuchte
From my Seel - nevertheless such Linderung,
It lasts short time; completely genesen
I can then only if its torch/flare lowers
The andre brother, who so seriously and bleach. -The sleep, death is good is better - certainly
The best would be never born, its.


Anonymous said...

ich möchte meine Löffel versilbert haben bitte

Anonymous said...

I've been having fun with Google Translator. Here's a compliment translated into German and back again: Merry good appearance, old muzzle! Upper markings for a maintenance and an informative piece. Stirling the work maintain!