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Georg Trakl

Photo by K. Trakl

Georg Trakl

A beautiful city

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Read by Wojciech Barczyński, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
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English translation: Paulina Ohar-Zima
In the sun, squares emanate silence.
Immersed in blue and gold
Sleepy nuns gently scurry
Under sultry beeches’ silence.
From grey lightness of churches
Stare images of death,
Beautiful shields of great princes.
Crowns shimmering in churches.
A horse emerges from a well.
Flowers’ claws haunt from trees.
Boys imagining dreams are playing
On a quiet evening there by the well.
Girls are standing by the gates,
Looking fearfully into colourful life.
So their moist lips are trembling
As they wait so by the gates.
In a wave of bells, swimming are sounds,
A march and the guards’ shouting blast out.
Strangers listen in hallways.
In the blue of organ – sounds.
Light instruments singing.
From bunches of garden leaves
Beautiful ladies’ laughter spreads.
New mothers’ silent singing.

In flowery windows
Wafts homely scent of incense, lilac and tar.
Blinking of tired eyelids
Drizzles like silver through flowers in windows.
English translation: Paulina Ohar-Zima
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Georg Trakl

(1887-1914) Austrian poet, considered the most important representative of literary expressionism.
Born in Salzburg, he wrote his first poems at the age of 13. Still a high school student, he was said to have visited Salzburg brothels and to have delivered bold monologues to the women working there. He quickly got addicted to alcohol and drugs. In 1908, he moved to Wien in order to study pharmaceutics. At that time, he got to know the capital city’s literary circles, thanks to which he could develop his poetry writing. The renowned philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, interested in his poetry, assured him anonymously of regular patronage. In 1913, Trakl published his first volume of poetry, which was also the only one published within his lifetime.
After his father’s death in 1910, in order to receive stable income, Trakl joined the army, serving it as a pharmacist. On the outbreak of World War I, he was sent to Galicia, where he lapsed into depression. After a failed suicide attempt, he was hospitalised at the military hospital in Wrocławska Street in Krakow, where Wittgenstein meant to visit him. Unfortunately, he came too late, for the poet had already died — most probably of an overdose of cocaine, used at that time as medicine — in November 1914. He was buried at Krakow’s Rakowicki Cemetery, but in 1925 his remains were transferred to Mühlau near Innsbruck, where they repose till now. In the Krakow military hospital, there used to be a room commemorating the poet, but some time ago it was closed because it used to cause disturbance to the normal functioning of the unit. (mj)
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