Thursday, 7 April 2016

Georg Trakl: The Rats


Into the court the autumnal moon shines white.
From the roof's edge fall fantastic shadows.
In the empty windows a silence dwells;
Then rats appear quietly from below

And scurry whistling back and forth
And a horrid haze of something foul
Wafts after them from the toilet
That ghostly moonlight shudders through

And they squabble in lunatic greed
And fill up the house and barns
That are full of fruit and grain.
Ice-cold winds moan in the dark.


Tr. Margitt Lehbert. Trakl's animals are mainly rats and ravens, as well as deer (hallucinatory symbols of purity). This translation has serious flaws but I chose it because it gets the line And they squabble in lunatic greed right. James Wright's version is better overall but has And the rats squeak eagerly as if insane, which in one blow kills any poetry.