a poem by August von Platen-Hallermünde

August_von_Platen_by_Moritz_RugendasIt has been almost a year since I posted a translation. This is a poem by August von Platen-Hallermünde, an early 19th Century German writer. I dare say that I know very little about him but apparently his slim volumes of poetry caught the eye of even greats like Goethe. I don’t know if he is available in English (or in any other language besides the original German) but I hope you enjoy.
 
 
Specks of colors dust the wings
of summer butterflies.

They are fleeting and ephemeral,
Like the gifts that I bring,
Like the wreaths that I weave,
Like the songs that I sing.

Swiftly hovering above all,
Your time is scarce,
Like foam on a swaying wave,
Like a breath on a bare blade.

I do not desire immortality,
Death is the fate of all things,
My tones are as fragile
As the glass which I ring.

Farbenstäubchen auf der Schwinge
Sommerlicher Schmetterlinge.

Flüchtig sind sie, sind vergänglich,
Wie die Gaben, die ich bringe,
Wie die Kränze, die ich flechte,
Wie die Lieder, die ich singe.

Schnell vorüber schweben alle,
Ihre Dauer ist geringe,
Wie ein Schaum auf schwanker Welle,
Wie ein Hauch auf blanker Klinge.

Nicht Unsterblichkeit verlang ich,
Sterben ist das Los der Dinge.
Meine Töne sind zerbrechlich
Wie das Glas, an das ich klinge.

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5 comments

  1. Very nice – though there’s something a little goofy about poems that describe themselves as fleeting and ephemeral and yet are still read and translated two hundred years later. Then again, that’s not von Platen-Hallermunde’s fault – he never intended to turn up in a blog post.

    Still, if he meant to be a butterfly, he should have written worse poems. 😉

    1. I occasionally stumble upon these little poems and I think they are quite interesting to see especially in comparison to our contemporary literature. I did find myself wanting to change words but then again, it’s not my poem. The woes of a translator!

  2. Sounds like a “live in the moment” and “enjoy the beauty of small things” inspired poem. I have journals full of cursive scrawls and retyped attempts at similar poems written when my children were young.

    Thanks for translating – and sharing :o)

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