"What is the moon to us?"



What is the moon to us, and what do stars mean,
to us, or to brows so dark and glowing bright!
At the downfall of the most beautiful lands,
we are the ones who absorb it like a dream at night.

Where is there law, where order? Where do we see
the wholly comprehensible leaf or tree or stone?
They are only present in language's beauty,
in Being's pure tone . . .

Ingeborg Bachmann/translation by Peter Filkins

Excerpt from "Von einem Land, einem Fluss und den Seen"
("Of a land, a river and lakes") from the collection, Darkness Spoken: The Collected Poems (Zephyr Press), 2006

Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1973) is one of Europe's finest postwar writers, but she is just being discovered by many North American readers. Peter Filkins' masterful translations of her poetry offer an excellent introduction to her work. Here are the excerpted lines in German:

Was kümmern uns der Mond und was die Sterne,
uns, deren Stirnen dunkeln und erglühn!
Beim Untergang des schönsten aller Länder
sind wir’s, die es als Traum nach innen ziehn.

Wo ist Gesetz, wo Ordnung? Wo erscheinen
uns ganz begreiflich Blatt und Baum und Stein?
Zugegen sind sie in der schönen Sprache,

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