Paul Celan--Romanian

 

       

Paul Celan
(1920-1970)

 

Born in Romania as Paul Antschel, Celan was the son of German-speaking Jewish parents, both of whom died in Nazi concentration camps. Celan himself was interned for eighteen months, but managed to escape. In 1945, he moved to Bucharest and began writing poetry in earnest. Living for a short time in Vienna, he settled in Paris in 1948, where he studied German philology and literature. Celan continued to pursue his writing career but remained active as an instructor and translator. Regarded as one of the most important poets to emerge following the war, Celan committed suicide in 1970. His best known war poem is “Fugue of Death.”


Death Fugue 

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at nightfall

we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night

we drink it and drink it

we are digging a grave in the sky it is ample to lie there

A man in the house he plays with the serpents he writes

he writes when the night falls to Germany your golden

               hair Margarete

he writes it and walks from the house the stars glitter he

               whistles his dogs up

he whistles his Jews out and orders a grave to be dug in

               the earth

he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night

we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at

               nightfall

drink you and drink you

A man in the house he plays with the serpents he writes

he writes when the night falls to Germany your golden

               hair Margarete

Your ashen hair Shulamith we are digging a grave in the

               sky it is

ample to lie there

He shouts stab deeper in earth you there and you others

               you sing and you play

he grabs at the iron in his belt and swings it and blue are

               his eyes

stab deeper your spades you there and you others play on

               for the dancing

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at nightfall

we drink you at noon in the mornings we drink you at

               nightfall

drink you and drink you

a man in the house your golden hair Margarete

your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with the serpents

He shouts play sweeter death's music death comes as a

               master from Germany

he shouts stroke darker the strings and as smoke you

               shall climb to the sky

then you'll have a grave in the clouds it is ample to lie

               there

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night

we drink you at noon death comes as a master from

               Germany

we drink you at nightfall and morning we drink you and

               drink you

a master from Germany death comes with eyes that are

               blue

with a bullet of lead he will hit in the mark he will hit

               you

a man in the house your golden hair Margarete

he hunts us down with his dogs in the sky he gives us a

               grave

he plays with the serpents and dreams death comes as a

               master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete