Biography of Georg Trakl
Georg Trakl was an Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most important Austrian Expressionists.
Life and Work
Trakl was born and lived the first 18 years of his life in Salzburg, Austria. His father, Tobias Trakl (11 June 1837, Ödenburg/Sopron – 1910), was a dealer of hardware from Hungary, while his mother, Maria Catharina Halik (17 May 1852, Wiener Neustadt – 1925), was a housewife of Czech descent with strong interests in art and music.
Trakl attended a Catholic elementary school, although his parents were Protestants. He matriculated in 1897 at the Salzburg Staatsgymnasium, where he studied Latin, Greek, and mathematics. At age 13, Trakl began to write poetry. As a high school student, he began visiting brothels, where he enjoyed giving rambling monologues to the aging prostitutes. At age 15, he began drinking alcohol, and using opium, chloroform, and other drugs. By the time he was forced to quit school in 1905, he was a drug addict. Many critics think that Trakl suffered from undiagnosed schizophrenia.
After quitting high school, Trakl worked for a pharmacist for three years and decided to adopt pharmacy as a career. It was during this time that he experimented with playwriting, but his two short plays, All Souls' Day and Fata Morgana, were not successful.
In 1908, Trakl moved to Vienna to study pharmacy, and became acquainted with some local artists who helped him publish some of his poems. Trakl's father died in 1910, soon before Trakl received his pharmacy certificate; thereafter, Trakl enlisted in the army for a year-long stint. His return to civilian life in Salzburg was unsuccessful and he re-enlisted, serving as a pharmacist at a hospital in Innsbruck. There he also met the local artistic community. Ludwig von Ficker, the editor of the journal Der Brenner (and son of the historian Julius von Ficker), became his patron: he regularly printed Trakl's work and endeavored to find him a publisher to produce a collection of poems. The result of these efforts was Gedichte (Poems), published by Kurt Wolff in Leipzig during the summer of 1913. Ficker also brought Trakl to the attention of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who anonymously provided him with a sizable stipend so that he could concentrate on his writing.
In 1912, he was stationed in Innsbruck, Austria, where he became acquainted with a group of avant-garde artists involved with the well-regarded literary journal Der Brenner, a journal that began the Kierkegaard revival in the German-speaking countries.
At the beginning of World War I, Trakl was sent as a medical official to attend soldiers in Galicia (comprising portions of modern-day Ukraine and Poland). Trakl suffered frequent bouts of depression. During one such incident in Gródek, Trakl had to steward the recovery of some ninety soldiers wounded in the fierce campaign against the Russians. He tried to shoot himself from the strain, but his comrades prevented him. Hospitalized at a military hospital in Kraków and observed closely, Trakl lapsed into worse depression and wrote to Ficker for advice. Ficker convinced him to communicate with Wittgenstein. Upon receiving Trakl's note, Wittgenstein went to the hospital, but found that Trakl had died of a cocaine overdose. Trakl was buried at Kraków's Rakowicki Cemetery on 6 November 1914, but on 7 October 1925, as a result of the efforts by Ficker, his remains were transferred to Mühlau near Innsbruck (where they now repose next to Ficker's).
Georg Trakl's Works:
Gedichte (Poems), 1913
Sebastian im Traum (Sebastian in the Dream), poetry 1915
Der Herbst des Einsamen (The Autumn of The Lonely), 1920
Gesang des Abgeschiedenen (Song of The Departed), 1933
DECLINE: 12 POEMS trans. Michael Hamburger, Guido Morris / Latin Press, 1952
Twenty Poems of George Trakl, trans. James Wright & Robert Bly, The Sixties Press, 1961
Selected Poems, ed. Christopher Middleton, trans. Robert Grenier et al., Jonathan Cape, 1968
Georg Trakl: A Profile, ed. Frank Graziano, Logbridge-Rhodes, 1983
The Golden Goblet: Selected Poems of Georg Trakl, 1887-1914, trans. Jamshid Shirani & A. Maziar, Ibex Publishers, 1994
Song of the West: Selected Poems, trans. Robert Firmage, North Point Press, 1988
Autumn Sonata: Selected Poems of Georg Trakl, trans. Daniel Simko, Asphodel Press, 1998
Poems and Prose, Bilingual edition, trans. Alexander Stillmark, Libris, 2001
In an Abandoned Room: Selected Poems by Georg Trakl, trans. Daniele Pantano, Erbacce Press, Liverpool, 2008
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Georg Trakl Poems
At evening the autumn woodlands ring With deadly weapons. Over the golden plains And lakes of blue, the sun More darkly rolls. The night surrounds
When snow falls against the window, Long sounds the evening bell... For so many has the table Been prepared, the house set in order.
The black snow runs down from the rooftops; A red finger dips into your brow; Blue snow flakes sink into the empty room, They are a lovers’ dying mirrors.
There is a stubble field on which a black rain falls. There is a tree which, brown, stands lonely here. There is a hissing wind which haunts deserted huts- - How sad this evening.
It is a light, that the wind has extinguished. It is a pub on the heath, that a drunk departs in the afternoon. It is a vineyard, charred and black with holes full of spiders. It is a space, that they have white-limed with milk.
In the spirit’s solitary hours It is lovely to walk in the sun Along the yellow walls of summer. Quietly whisper the steps in the grass; yet always sleeps
The blueness dies out in my eyes tonight, the red gold of my heart. O how still the light burns! Your cloak of sadness encircles the long descent. Your red lips seal your friend’s unhinging.
Whispered Into Afternoon
Sun of autumn, thin and shy And fruit drops off the trees, Blue silence fills the peace Of a tardy afternoon’s sky.
At my windows the night weeps - The night is mute, the wind probably weeps, The wind, like a lost child - What is it that makes him weep so?
Dreamless sleep - the dusky Eagles nightlong rush about my head, man's golden image drowned in timeless icy tides. On jagged reefs
Night threatens at the bed of our kisses. Somewhere a whisper: who absolves your guilt? Still trembling from the sweetness of nefarious lust We pray: forgive us, Mary, in your mercy.
To The Silenced
Oh, the great city's madness when at nightfall The crippled trees gape by the blackened wall, The spirit of evil peers from a silver mask;
In the evening, when the bells ring peace, I follow the wonderful flights of birds, That in long rows, like devout processions of pilgrims, Disappear into the clear autumn vastness.
The wind, which moves purple treetops, Is God's breath that comes and goes. The black village rises before the forest; Three shadows are laid over the field.
Kaspar Hauser's Song
He truly loved the purple sun, descending from the hills,
The ways through the woods, the singing blackbird
And the joys of green.
Sombre was his dwelling in the shadows of the tree
And his face undefiled.
God, a tender flame, spoke to his heart:
Oh son of man!