Henriette Hardenberg


I. Poems from Southern Heart



Birch-white leg,
Love landscape,
Her flower balcony,
Tender and gone to seed,
Full fragrance of narcissus,
You, man
I love!

Frühling (1919)



Like rare animals they move up and down
And lie deep at the bottom of the sea;
Moon-colored is the stone, like a wound
Set in flowering plumage.

I fear this hidden motion,
Like wind held up in branches;
So few fingers, in figures,
Will excite thoughts in me.

The sea divides so that I can reach it -
In swaying underbrush of crystal night -
This hand, extended flat yet softly sunk,
There before my pallid face.

I don't know whether the little bones,
Rinsed by the sea, will drift and mingle,
Or if, wrapped in clouds,
They will reach up for music and dance.

I know that dreams without fragrance,
Like dead fingers rigid in the joints,
Do not give shrouded magic
For which the living call in sleep.

Hände (1924)


White and red

Clouds tumble from the skies,
Impenetrable hedges of white roses grow,
The heart, of marble, lies slain.
Snow stars float
In whitewashed time space.

A human being, resurrected, screams,
Blood sprays from the fountains of the heart,
Roses burn in arms,
Dusk shed by a lamp brightens the tears.

Weiß und rot (1925)


An image of fear

Evil pond surrounded by full lips
Angry ruby glass bursting off the bottom.
Secret tiger paths, sandy,
Drawn around golden almond flowers,
Labyrinth passages.
And hot rain pouring down
Among a spark dance of bodies.
Mangling through and through,
Sound from the top of the tower of need.

Angstbild (1925)



II. Poetic prose



     I have not received your address; I think you may not know it yourself since I just now walked down the big railroad station hall and sat down in a waiting room, afraid to go home. The other women left behind pushed on like sacks. The entire railroad station is a sound I am forced to hear, without interruption, as if all of us were united here. Wasteland of the world. Deftness turned to ungainliness. How the trains used to fly towards distant places with burning hearts. I am petrified, my own skin has become too taut over my flesh. I cannot shed a tear. The children will bombard me with questions because they think I went to visit you in the barracks. How unbearable separation into uncertainty is.
     Silence all around, I am awake, my senses are alert as a dog's.
     All thoughts you gave me light up around me; I am an animal with a halo. I switch off the bright lamp and send you a gentle night.

Krieg (1915/16)



     She is tied to his golden hair. His ear is her little pond. Adelaide, with the feet of a princess, parts the dark-green water. Then she rests on a meadow, which is his hand. The grass is tall, light and young. She kisses all its leaves, one remains between her lips and in dream.
     Black and starless, they call in turn like animals in the forest. Softly enclosed in her arm, they rest together in the moss of lips, all heart. And the eyes, taken from earth at dusk, are radiant stones.

Johannes (1921)



     I became very sick. My heart is out of step. My body lies in bed weakly. Oh comrades, please come and take apart those bones which are of no more use in this flesh God has left. Come help me tie them up, those slate pencils that are scribbling in savage gangrene.
     Is this white linen the spirit? I will not rattle for it, I trumpet at it. See my arms of metal sheet, two long trumpets.
     My hunger avidly intrudes: put an end to war. The thirst of my blood blows stiffly: put an end to this disgrace for mankind. My hunger and thirst do not relent.
     I come running from mountains, from which vile air from my brothers rises up to the sky, from rubble they are searching for a grave of earth, from wild seas that rock people in their storms, without respite.
     And thirst and hunger drone out of me:
     Oh trumpet hurricane, annihilate the killing, seize the evil ones. Take your big hands and throw them at me, the international bayonet. Throw the profiteers and the commanders-in-chief onto my forest of sharp points. Those that were allowed to destroy us: Hand me the foul minds; decay, you hearts of coldness; dissolve, figments of imagination.
     We tumble into your outstretched arms, liberty, and the wounds that come with you cover us softly, like a mother's. I lie still and fearless when you enter, you with the many heads, liberty, with singing hearts and hands.
     Revolution, you song suppressed in our throats, now liberated, sing to reach those who feel, break out of the dead who died wishing and dreaming, and come into our world.

Verwundeter (1918)


These translations are based on German texts from the book Henriette Hardenberg, Südliches Herz, Nachgelassene Dichtungen, edited by Hartmut Vollmer, published by Arche Verlag, Zurich in 1994.

© of English translation by Johannes Beilharz 2001.

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