Wednesday, March 09, 2005


There are certain constants in life. Here are a few of them:

A mullet is never a good idea.
People of any race, creed or sexuality will bleed when cut. If they are hemophiliacs, they will bleed more.
It is generally not a good idea to become too involved with any grown man who still goes by a little boy name like Stewie (unless he's Johnny Depp - Johnny Depp could call himself Frieda and still be hot).

There are, however, constants that are even more impressive because of the way in which they link us all together. For example, the same sun that shines on me warms people half a world a away. The same gorgeously full moon that accompanied my drive home a couple weeks ago is the same one that shone down on my weird cousin and aunt (who don't speak, by the way...well, they speak, just not to each other) in Berlin, other friends in Germany and the UK, and the most charming, lovable man I have ever met, who unfortunately resides in Switzerland. I've always loved this idea, because it makes me feel like maybe they are not so far away after all. Even if we don't see each other as much as I would like, we can share the pleasure of gazing at the same stars and wondering at the vastness of the same universe.

It's no wonder that the planets have been venerated by myth, legend and art throughout history. One of my favorite poems is called Mondnacht (Moon Night) It is by Joseph von Eichendorff, a German Romantic poet. When I read it, it makes me wish that everyone could read German. While the language is not as melodic as Italian or as romantic as French, I don't think anyone could read or hear the poem and find the language harsh (especially not if s/he understands it). It is typically Romantic, filled with nature and opening with the image of the sky (presumably via the moonlight, which is never directly mentioned) kissing the earth, making it dream of him. But she doesn't only dream of him. Oh no, she does it in the shimmer of blossoms.

When I read Eichendorff's lines, I can picture the scene. I don't remember a time when I didn't know them. More like prayer than a poem, it has always made me feel peaceful. It makes me feel similar to the way I feel when I look at the Sülamith Wülfing sketch, Der Schutzgeist. Even as a girl I liked it. Since then I have come to associate the poem with my father. As he was dying, its lines kept whispering through my head, especially the last part, which talks about the soul spreading its wings, flying across the quiet countryside, as though flying home. Not being particularly religious in any traditional sense, it somehow seemed apt at the time.

Es war, als hätt der Himmel
Die Erde still geküßt,
Daß sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nun träumen müßt.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder,
Die Ähren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis die Wälder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte
Weit ihre Flügel aus,
Flog durch die stillen Lande,
Als flöge sie nach Haus.


Jen said...

Oh - that poem sounds lovely. This whole post is lovely, in fact. The shimmer of blossoms is so apt right now as I look out my window and see the cherry and plum petals floating by. Have you translated it for your mono-language friends? (clears throat)

I know some people grump at German for not being Italian (Mark Twain, I'm looking at you)- so not fair! As someone who understands next to no German, I think it has a musical quality all its own. It reminds me (again, just as a listener) to Japanese in some ways.

Martina said...

You asked for it, you got it. My mostly literal translation won't ever begin to do it justice, but here is at least the gist:

It was as though the sky
Had softly kissed the earth
So that she would dream of him
Beneath the shimmer of blossoms

The breeze blew through
Gently swaying fields of wheat
The woods rustled softly
The night was clear with stars

And my soul spread
it's wings out wide
Flew through the quiet countryside
As if flying home

monquee said...

Wow, That is beautiful!
Thanks for the translation.

Jen said...

Oooh - so lovely! I think I will print them both out so I can look at/read whenever I like.
Thank you!

Martina said...

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff couldn't be here tonight. He's busy on location being dead, but he gave me a message to pass on to you:

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart, because while critical acclaim is awesome, it's the fans that make it all worthwhile. You are the people who help me keep it real. I wanna give a shoutout to all my homies in Huntown, with special mad props to the Big G's - God and Goethe. Biggie and Little Biggie G, you inspire me! Without Sturm & Drang there would have be no Romantic poetry, so let's never forget our roots. Peace out."

Jen said...

Ha ha ha!!! I, for one, feel like the Homies from Huntown are destined to make a comeback and/or become the next big boyband.

Holger said...

It's a poem with deep beauty that had captured me when I first read it many years ago. A few times since, just as strongly, and today again in your lovely post, thank you!


Martina said...

Thank you, Holger! It is a lovely poem. I've read a lot of poetry over the years and it remains one of my favorites.