Death Poems: Death Fugue - Poem by Paul Celan

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Death Fugue - Poem by Paul Celan

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden
hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are
flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a
grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at
sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair
Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith we dig a grave in the breezes
there one lies unconfined

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you
others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his
eyes are blue
jab deper you lot with your spades you others play
on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at at noon in the morning we drink you
at sundown
we drink and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith he plays with the serpents
He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master
from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then
as smoke you will rise into air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one
lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink
and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in
the air
He plays with the serpents and daydreams death is
a master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith


Translated by Michael Hamburger


Comments about Death Fugue by Paul Celan

  • Gold Star - 171,167 Points Fabrizio Frosini (12/10/2017 5:35:00 AM)

    1.
    on the Holocaust theme, a poem by Barbara Sonek:

    Holocaust

    We played, we laughed
    we were loved.
    We were ripped from the arms of our
    parents and thrown into the fire.
    We were nothing more than children.
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  • Gold Star - 171,167 Points Fabrizio Frosini (12/10/2017 5:34:00 AM)

    2.
    We had a future. We were going to be lawyers, rabbis, wives, teachers, mothers. We had dreams, then we had no hope. We were taken away in the dead of night like cattle in cars, no air to breathe smothering, crying, starving, dying. Separated from the world to be no more. From the ashes, hear our plea. This atrocity to mankind can not happen again. Remember us, for we were the children whose dreams and lives were stolen away.

    (Barbara Sonek)
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  • Gold Star - 646,468 Points Bernard F. Asuncion (12/6/2017 5:25:00 PM)

    Such an interesting write by Paul Celan as translated by Michael Hamburger👍👍👍 (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Gold Star - 698,821 Points Edward Kofi Louis (12/6/2017 10:46:00 AM)

    Black milk! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 8,551 Points D Priyanka Singh (12/6/2017 4:36:00 AM)

    we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
    Beautiful poem shared.
    10
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  • Gold Star - 31,425 Points Deepak Kumar Pattanayak (12/6/2017 1:33:00 AM)

    This fiery composition is followed by a four-voiced real fugue as the grave which has been dug by the Jews, must be theirs and they are likely to be comforted with it lying there free and liberated........very profound and
    somewhat abstruse........thanks for sharing
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  • Gold Star - 171,167 Points Fabrizio Frosini (2/25/2016 8:23:00 AM)

    Celan's Todesfuge should be revered by all those who call themselves 'poets' and by all those who have a heart still capable to quiver! (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 171,167 Points Fabrizio Frosini (5/20/2015 6:45:00 AM)

    Deathfugue

    '' Hamburger’s translation of ''man'' into ''one'' provides an uncomfortable answer to this question. By differentiating the ''one'' from the ''you'' early in the poem, Hamburger makes it even more clear in the latter parts of the poem that there is a distinction between what could happen to anyone versus what is happening to the we, the speakers, the labor camp prisoners.

    ''Then a grave you will have in the clouds'' Hamburger translates, the ''you'' spoken to the Jews by the camp guard, ''there one lies unconfined''. A crucial placement of ''one'' Hamburger creates a distance between the grave that ''you'' are digging and the instruction that anyone can lie in it, unconfined. This leaves room in the sky not only for the Jewish prisoners who are digging the grave —their grave— but for the guard, for his serpents, for Margarete, for Shulamith, for Celan, for his readers. Because the grave has been dug by the Jews, with day after day of forced labor, then it should belong to the Jews, and they should find the comfort of lying there no longer chained, imprisoned, or confined.
    However, the discomfort rooted so deeply in this ''one'' little word is that Hamburger suggests they might inevitably share this grave, this death, with those experiencing the Holocaust opposing them, whether through action or through written word.
    Uncomfortably, unconventionally, Hamburger lets ''der Mann'' lie beside ''seine Juden'' even in the afterlife. ''
    [Goodrich, J., Rhyme or Reason? : Successfully Translating the Poetry of Paul Celan,2008]
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  • Gold Star - 171,167 Points Fabrizio Frosini (5/20/2015 6:33:00 AM)

    Deathfugue
    In Celan’s ''Todesfuge'', Celan presents his readers in his opening two lines with four different times of the day. A reader understands that this 'black milk' is forcefully constant yet darkly discomforting, and its repetition scores the image of black milk into nearly every stanza.

    Though they might come across as merely subtle differences, the translations of these pairs —''evening'' and ''midday''; ''sundown'' and ''noon''— structure the time and place around which the poem centers.
    Felstiner’s translations suggest general times. Evening and midday blend ranges of hours together, without specificity.
    Oppositely, Hamburger’s translations are more definite. His ''sundown'' and ''noon'' provide exact times in the day in which ''we'' drink the black milk, almost like clockwork. Rather than the hours that pass through the evening, Hamburger’s ''we'' drinks the black milk at precisely sundown; rather than the hours surrounding midday, Hamburger’s ''we'' drinks the black milk at precisely noon. The rigidity, the exactness, of Hamburger’s word choices hint at the structure present in the camp system —the wake up call, the evening roll call, and the slim rationings of food at specific times during the day— and therefore offer the reader a more uncomfortable, somewhat tangible sense of the activities of the camp and of the Jewish experiences there.
    [Goodrich, J., Rhyme or Reason? : Successfully Translating the Poetry of Paul Celan,2008]
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  • Gold Star - 171,167 Points Fabrizio Frosini (5/20/2015 5:25:00 AM)

    ''Todesfuge'' is an 'expression born of the poet’s experience of the crisis of language, the imminence of silence, and the magic of the word' (Weimar 94) (Report) Reply

    117 person liked.
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Death Poems
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  2. 2. And Death Shall Have No Dominion
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  3. 3. Death Is Nothing At All
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  4. 4. Death Be Not Proud
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  5. 5. Because I Could Not Stop For Death
    Emily Dickinson
  6. 6. Nothing But Death
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  7. 7. A Dream Of Death
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  8. 8. A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, O..
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  9. 9. Father Death Blues
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  11. 11. An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
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  12. 12. Death Wants More Death
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  13. 13. The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner
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  14. 14. Death
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  15. 15. A Death Blow Is A Life Blow To Some
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  16. 16. Death Xxvii
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  17. 17. The Beauty Of Death Xiv
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  18. 18. A City's Death By Fire
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  19. 19. Holy Sonnet X: Death Be Not Proud
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  20. 20. Gacela Of The Dark Death
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  21. 21. After Death
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  22. 22. Death Leaves Us Homesick, Who Behind
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  30. 30. I Have A Rendezvous With Death
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  38. 38. For The Anniversary Of My Death
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Death Poems

  1. Death Be Not Proud

    Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe, For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow, Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee. From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie. Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well, And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then? One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

  2. Let Me Die A Youngman's Death

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  3. And Death Shall Have No Dominion

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  4. Because I Could Not Stop For Death

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  5. Death Is Nothing At All

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