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Peter Huchel

(1903-1981 / Germany)

Melpomene


The forest bitter, spiky,
no shore breeze, no foothills,
the grass grows matted, death will come
with horses' hooves, endlessly
over the steppes' mounds, we went back,
searching the sky for the fort
that could not be razed.

The villages hostile,
the cottages cleared out in haste,
smoked skin on the attic beams,
snare netting, bone amulets.
All over the country an evil reverence,
animals' heads in the mist, divination
by willow wands.

Later, up in the North,
stag-eyed men
rushed by on horseback.
We buried the dead.
It was hard
to break the soil with our axes,
fir had to thaw it out.

The blood of sacrificed cockerels
was not accepted.


Translated by Michael Hamburger.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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