Wednesday, December 02, 2015



Gottfried Benn (1886-1956), "Travel" (tr. Robert M. Browning):
Zurich you think for example
Must be a place more profound
Where wonders and wisdom are always
A part of the daily round?

You think that out of Havana,
White and hibiscus red,
Must break forth eternal manna
For you in your desert of lead?

Bahnhofstrassen and rues,
Boulevards, Lidos, and Quais,
On even the Fifth Avenues
Emptiness comes and holds sway.

Travel's a vain undertaking!
In the end you meet only yourself:
Stay put and hold in safekeeping
The I that delimits itself.
The same (tr. J.M. Ritchie):
Do you think Zürich for instance
Would be a town with more style?
Miracles galore and incense
To make your life more worth while?

Or do you think Havana,
White and hibiscus red,
Would offer eternal manna
In your waste land for bread?

Zürich main streets, London mews,
Boulevards, lidos in plenty,
Even on Fifth Avenues,
Suddenly you feel empty.

What use does travel serve?
Not till too late do you see:
Stay put and quietly preserve
The self-sufficient me.
The German (title "Reisen"):
Meinen Sie Zürich zum Beispiel
sei eine tiefere Stadt,
wo man Wunder und Weihen
immer als Inhalt hat?

Meinen Sie, aus Habana,
weiß und hibiskusrot,
bräche ein ewiges Manna
für Ihre Wüstennot?

Bahnhofstraßen und Rueen,
Boulevards, Lidos, Laan —
selbst auf den Fifth Avenueen
fällt Sie die Leere an —

ach, vergeblich das Fahren!
Spät erst efahren Sie sich:
bleiben und stille bewahren
das sich umgrenzende Ich.
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