Archives for posts with tag: German poets

by Gottfried Benn
(Translated by Michael Hofmann)

A shadow on the wall
boughs stirred by the noonday wind
that’s enough earth
and for the eye
enough celestial participation.

How much further do you want to go? Refuse
the bossy insistence
of new impressions—

lie there still,
behold your own fields,
your estate,
dwelling especially
on the poppies,
because they transported the summer—

where did it go?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gottfried Benn (1886-1956) served in the German army’s medical corps during WWI and used his clinical experiences as inspiration for his first collections of poetry, Morgue und andere Gedichte (1912) and Fleisch (1917).

PHOTO: “The Great Wall of China” by J.L. Woody Wooden. Prints available at


On this Memorial Day morning, I woke up to the child next door practicing the “Ode to Joy” section of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on the piano, with a crow sitting in the lemon tree outside the building singing along with the music. As the junior pianist repeated passages over and over, ending in the middle and beginning again, I felt privileged that life was reminding me to recognize and appreciate joy.

So this post is my way of sharing a joyous moment — and wishing the same for all of you.

Beethoven based the “Ode to Joy” chorale on a poem written by Friedrich von Schiller in 1785. While much of the language is obscure by today’s standards, suffice it to say the verses address Joy as a goddess and cite her accomplishments and attributes. Here are some excerpts (English translation from German).

TO JOY (Excerpts)
by Friedrich von Schiller

Joy, beautiful sparkle of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magics bind again
What custom has strictly parted…

Joy is the name of the strong spring
In eternal nature.
Joy, joy drives the wheels
In the great clock of worlds.
She lures flowers from the buds,
Suns out of the firmament,
She rolls spheres in the spaces
That the seer’s telescope does not know.


Read the entire poem at

Listen to Leonard Bernstein conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in the “Ode to Joy” chorale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at — beautiful!

Illustration: “Crow in a Lemon Tree,” giclee archival art print by Lynnette Shelley. Find the print at Visit Lynnette Shelley‘s store and view more of her beautiful artwork — including whimsical, original depictions of animals.