I have been working on a translation of Emmy Hennings’ little book Die Letzte Freude (The Last Joy) with a critical introduction. Here are more of the poems (I still would call them works-in-progress). Hennings used short words and simple verse forms associated with German Romanticism, but for me she avoids cloying through her pose of languorous melancholy while confronting the intolerable facts of existence.
I walk alone each city street,
The sun drops low and darkness comes
Softly then your songs I hum`.
Oh! I feel forlorn and beat.
In the fading red-tinged light
(how your mouth could bring such pain!)
your face so sweet and almost white,
and so heart-felt your folksong’s strain!
Eyes acquainted much with tears
that know the pain of love’s desire,
two dark, far-off, celestial spheres
burning with a low, low fire.
My body aches somewhere in some far land,
for years my limbs have been as dead,
my feet both feel as though they’re made of lead,
my breast’s a void, a burned out brand.
Nothing’s wrong – I suffer painful days,
I seem to you like something banned.
I fall asleep as candles blaze
to light my way to an unknown land.
We lie under the sea so low
we nothing know of pain and woe.
Held we are on every side,
for water-roses ring us round.
We strive and hope and care no more.
Desire’s gone from us.
Lover, something still I seek,
one wish that I still have,
such longing to feel longing.
With Me at Home
Grandma’s up all through the night –
light shines through green glass panes –
by window’s lattice-work a sight
to see is her pale face.
The blue room’s furniture all round
may be the source of all our woe.
When someone dies, the clock, to show
its grief, strikes with the sickest sound.
The rain is beating on the glass.
A flower’s lit with red.
A cool wind wafts on past.
Am I awake or dead?
A world extends far as can be.
A clock strikes four so slow,
but time is nothing to me.
Into your arms I go. . .
(dedicated to Robert Jentzsch)