A small selection of poems from the German

Expressionist Decade

(1910-1920) in English translation by Johannes Beilharz




Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) Glance and flash
Jomar Förste (?) To a wounded Frenchman
At night
Henriette Hardenberg (1894-1993) Southern heart
George Grosz (1893-1959) Song
Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) To Anna Blume
Banalities translated from the Chinese
René Schickele (1883-1940) Eulogies
The sorrows
Gustav Sack (1885-1916) Blue sky  NEW 
Alfred Lichtenstein (1889-1914) The storm  NEW 



Wassily Kandinsky

Glance and flash

That when he (man) wished to feed
the thick white comb renounced the pinkbird.
Now she rolls the windows wet in wooden cloths!
Not to the distant but the crooked.
Discharged the chapel - oh! ah!
Half-rounded sheercircles press down hard on
            chessboards and! iron books!
Nuremberg wants to lie kneeling next to the pronged ox wants to
- horrible weight of eyebrows.
Heaven, heaven, printed ribbons you can bear -
The leg, it might well grow out of my head
                  from the short-tailed horse with
the pointed mouth.
But the redjags, the yellowheel at
    the northpolac like a missile at noon!
Munich, 1912.

Blick und Blitz


Jomar Förste

To a wounded Frenchman

Glistening gold at sundown, carried by the drunkenness of brotherhood,
it was me who babbled enraptured words,
the firn glowed and my heartblood surged
for you, bleeding, nailed to the cross like HIM.

Blood-drenched, we crept into the darkening fields
of sunbrooks. Knowing: their submergence
gives way to distant drinking of circling stars.
Your silence screamed like blood from my shield.

Einem verwundeten Franzosen


At night

The drumfire's clearing narcosis
flames through my brain, still warm from wounded rivers,
silvery eyes. (Dripping, shot dead by gunfire ...)
- my conscience reeling like a sick little dog,
escaped to the moon! Whose bloody rose
is eye, inflamed. Shivering, my dead body
dances on the hemline: To castrate the barrels.
Babbling mechanically, I try to relax,
feeling for light, bellowing like a beast in dreams.
A grey destiny sputters up high in the sky.



Henriette Hardenberg

Southern heart

Blossom deep down,
mountain tops swaying,
wind stretched out in rest,
the tree stands frozen.

Then suddenly a flowering,
and in my heart's center
you burn in me, tree.

Nowhere is there rest in me,
I cry out in flames,
a sea swelling in all things.

Then they too - blossom and
tree - twitch, having already
reddened with sweetness.

Südliches Herz

Short biography of Henriette Hardenberg



The houses wished for the moon;
unable to stand the edges, the hardness any longer,
they had to bend.
I lay in my room and felt
how they were shaking with longing,
how sick they were, how they swayed.
And the moon came,
and my heart grew along with it,
and its loneliness grew.
The houses held on to each other tight that night.
I kissed the moon and cried.



George Grosz


We contain all the passions
and all the vices
and all the suns and stars,
chasms and heights,
trees, animals, forests, streams.
This is what we are.
Our experience lies
in our veins,
in our nerves.
We stagger.
between grey blocks of houses.
On bridges of steel.
Light from a thousand tubes
flows around us,
and a thousand violet nights
etch sharp wrinkles
in our faces.



Kurt Schwitters

To Anna Blume

You, oh you, beloved of my twenty-seven senses, I
love ya! - You thine thou yours, I you, you me.
- Us?
This (incidentally) does not belong here.
Who are you, countless woman? You are
- are you? - People say you are - let
them say it, they don't know where the steeple is.
You wear a hat on your feet and stand
on your hands, on your hands you walk.
Hello, your red clothes, sawed into white pleats.
Red I love, Anna Blume, red I love ya! - You
thine thou yours, I you, you me. - Us?
That (incidentally) belongs in the cold embers.
Red flower, red Anna Blume, what are people saying?
Prize question: 1. Anna Blume has a bird.
                       2. Anna Blume is red.
                       3. What color is the bird?
Blue is the color of your yellow hair.
Red is the cooing of your green bird.
You plain girl in an everyday dress, you dear
green animal, I love ya! - You thine thou yours, I
you, you me - us?
That (incidentally) belongs in the ember box.
Anna Blume! Anna, a-n-n-a, I am dripping your
name. Your name drips like soft suet.
Do you know, Anna, do you know yet?
You can also be read from back to front, and you, you
most marvelous creature of them all, you are from the back
as you are from the front: »a-n-n-a.«
Suet drips caress my back.
Anna Blume, you droppy animal, I love ya!

An Anna Blume


Banalities translated from the Chinese

Flies have short lice.
To hurry is wit in a flurry.
Red raspberries are red.
The end is the beginning of every end.
The beginning is the end of every beginning.
Banality becomes all respectable citizens.
Bourgeoisie is the beginning of every bourgeois.
Spice makes short jokes nice.
All women hate mice.
Every beginning has an end.
The world is full of smart people.
Smart is dumb.
Not everything called expressionism is expressive art.
Dumb is smart.
Smart remains dumb.

Banalitäten aus dem Chinesischen


René Schickele


They had buried me. I heard them say
I was dead.
But as the shiver of resurrection went through the earth
and the floods of the eternity reached me
with their starless blue days
I woke up in the light of your eyes and called,
called your name soundlessly.
You kissed me, and I became like your lips:
somewhat pale, turning a bloody dark in kiss
and merrily curved, became a high rose, your mouth in the wind,
to which this rose, shining from its purple depths,
bent down, weighted down, to open for a kiss.



The sorrows

And the way you were, rigid, your hands hot!
we saw them come: a hungry, threatening bunch of deformed sorrows
that, bleeding tears, did not want to go on.
As if such sadness were already hope, you sang almost inaudibly:
Never again shall I freeze at day in blazing heat and see
morning melt on flower beds like big kisses.

Die Sorgen


Gustav Sack

Blue sky

I do not like you like this;
but when the storm howls across your expanse
and when the clouds
rage through you like winter wolves,
ravenous and mute with hunger,
my agitation will show
how much I crave your freedom.
I do not like you like this,
not this cloudless braggart
whose boastful purity
crushes me like one would crush a leaf.

Blauer Himmel

Alfred Lichtenstein

The storm

The world's ablaze in wind, the cities blister.
Hello, the storm, the great storm is at the hilt.
A little girl is ripped away from her sister.
Escaping to Ithaca is a car just built.

A path has lost its way entirely.
The stars in the sky have been eroded.
A future madhouse inmate's born prematurely.
In San Francisco the moon has exploded.

Der Sturm

Copyright © of translations by Johannes Beilharz 2007.

These translations are based on German original texts collected in Lyrik des expressionistischen Jahrzehnts (introduction by Gottfried Benn), published by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag in Munich in 1962. Benn's introduction dates from 1955.

The poem by Gustav Sack, added in November 2006, is from the collection Die drei Reiter. Gedichte 1913-1914. The translation of Der Sturm by Alfred Lichtenstein was added in January 2007.


World's End (van Hoddis) | More poems by Henriette Hardenberg | Poems by Richard Huelsenbeck | Poems by Else Lasker-Schüler

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