Zerplatztes Porzellan (Shattered Porcelain)

The following is an old poem of mine from 2004. Please scroll down for an English translation and commentary.

Das Böse dieser Welt ist überall
und wie zerplatztes Porzellan in meinem Kopf,
dessen Scherben meine Seele schneiden
und den Ozean der Verdammnis
mit Blut und Tränen füllen.

Hier ist deine Seele
ein Schiff in dunkler Nacht,
mein Herz ein rotes Segel,
aufgespießt auf einen Mast,
dessen Spitze feurig glüht.

Unser Fleisch ist längst verwest
und brennt auf Stirn und Lippen.
Das Verderben folgt mir nach
auf Schritt und Tritt
und auf dem Fuße.

Das erdrückende Gewicht
der Welt stürzt auf mich ein
wie glühend heiße Nägel,
die sich in die Augen bohren,
weil die Welt in Blut ertrinkt.

English translation

The evil of this world is everywhere
und like shattered porcelain in my head
whose shards cut my soul
and fill the ocean of condemnation
with blood and tears.

Here your soul is
a ship in the darkest night,
my heart a crimson sail
impaled upon a mast
whose top glows fervidly.

Our flesh has long since decayed
and burns on forhead and lips.
Doom follows me
at every turn
and hard on my heels.

The stifling weight of the world
comes crushing down on me
like scorching nails
that sink into the eyes,
as the world drowns in blood.

Commentary

This poem, in contrast to the one I posted before, posed few difficulties with respect to its translation into English. First and foremost, the strength of the metaphors does not rely upon compounds. Instead, I chose a rather simple language and form (there are neither rhymes nor metres), while the metaphors – the pictures I paint with words – unfold over several lines. This allows them to remain in a steady flow on the one hand, but keeps them somewhat unpredictable as waves at sea on the other.
The lyrical self’s expression of despair is one big (and perhaps final) sigh of surrender. This is most prominent in lines four and five of verse three, which expresses the feeling that regardless of what the lyrical self does, however may describe or analyse the situation, it will always be and stay the same. No complication of words would serve this purpose, let alone improve it.
Interestingly, there is a lyrical you, a second person, vaguely addressed, but even this fact provides the lyrical self with no comfort. The reason for this may be that for the lyrical self, the lines between reality and the dark world to which it feels tied against its own will have long since blurred.

Nächte ohne Schlafgespann

The following is an old poem of mine I just found among some old hand-writings from 2006. The original hand-writing does not feature a title, but I consider the one I chose adequate. Please scroll down for an English translation. I am not content with the translation (see my commentary below), but fortunately, translating a poem is a crime from which you get off scot-free.

Nur für den Moment, in dem ich meine Augen schließe,
bleibt mein Herz stehn, da der Sommer wehmütig zerrinnt.
Und alles, was dahinter bleibt, ist atemloser Seelensturz
durch Nächte ohne Schlafgespann vor leeren Himmeln.

Das Seelennetz fängt die, die schlafen,
doch was, wenn sie des Schlafes Tiefe nicht ergründen,
wenn sie die Herzenstoten nur für schlafend halten,
als könnten ihre zarten Finger dem Sog der Leere trotzen?

Ich halte mich nur mühsam über Wasser,
und meine Lippen spiegeln blau den einst ersehnten Himmel,
da jedes Seemanns Schiff fänd einen Hafen –
Äonen müssen mir seitdem entglitten sein.

Noch auf ein Letztes schließe ich die Augen
und kehr zurück zu deinen Regenküssen,
bevor mich aller Drang zu neuen Sommern
zu Engelschören stiller Ewigkeiten treibt.

English translation

Just for the moment that I close my eyes
my heart stands still, as summer wistfully fades away.
And all that remains behind is breathless fall of the soul
through nights without a sleeping team before empty heavens.

The net of souls catches those sleeping,
but what if they don’t fathom sleep’s depths,
if they just deem those dead at heart asleep,
as though their delicate fingers could brave the pull of the void?

I hardly keep my head above water,
and my blue lips reflect the once-desired heavens,
for every sailor’s ship would find a haven –
eons must have slipped from me since then.

One last time I close my eyes
and return to your rainy kisses
before all urge to new summers
carries me to angelic choirs of still eternities.

Commentary

The German original contains several compounds that can by no means be adequately translated. While the first two lines of the first verse are comparatively unproblematic, the rest of the poem presents the translator with insurmountable obstacles. The English translation can, for its most part, be considered an attempt of an approach to the original at best. There is, for instance, no appropriate translation for ‘Seelensturz’, first and foremost because you cannot express this compound in a single English noun. The literal translation ‘soul fall’ neither makes any sense nor sounds any good.
I also struggled with the translation of the first half of the first verse’s third line: ‘Und alles, was dahinter bleibt, …’, because it does not mean that anything is left behind, but its meaning is rather both literal and metaphorical at the same time. You can imagine this as meaning something similar to ‘Her face remained behind her mask’, where ‘mask’ carries an additional metaphorical meaning.
Something similar applies to the fourth line of the first verse. How do you translate a line that purely consists of metaphorical expressions for which there are no equivalents in English? In German, there is the expression ‘Sternengespann’ (English ‘constellation’) – which you will not even find in most German dictionaries –, but in the line being considered, the first part, ‘Sternen’ (English ‘starry’), is replaced by ‘Schlaf’ (English ‘sleep’), again a compound you simply cannot translate with an equivalent. German ‘Gespann’ literally translates to English ‘team’ in the sense of ‘two or more animals, especially horses, in harness together to pull a vehicle’ [definition according to http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/team, 1.3]. ‘Sleep team’ or ‘team of sleep’ neither appear to make any sense nor sound any good (at least to me), so I was left with the alternative ‘sleeping team’.
The same holds true, in turn, for the third line of the second verse: ‘Herzenstoten’ is a compound consisting of the two nouns ‘Herz’ (English ‘heart’) and ‘(die) Toten’ (English ‘(the) dead’). I resolved to break the compound up into a demonstrative pronoun (‘those’), an adjective (‘dead’), a preposition (‘at’), and a noun (‘heart’), the entirety of which resembles the English expression ‘(those) sad at heart’. ‘Dead at heart’ is, to be sure, not supposed to mean ‘emotionless’, though. It rather means that someone suffered so much from love that they died from it. ‘Die of a broken heart’ would, by the way, mean something different in its turn. The latter expression describes a process, often a rather long one, whereas the former describes something that happens instantly. To use another common English expression, you may say that someone who is dead at heart was stopped dead in their tracks (by love).
Both in German and English, the respective words ‘Himmel’ and ‘heaven’ can either mean ‘sky’ or refer to a place beyond death as imagined by several religions. Although in modern English, ‘sky’ has prevailed as the preferred expression for the non-religious concept, ‘the heavens’ has remained as a literary expression, and it seemed proper to me throughout the poem. Nonetheless, it carries both meanings, at least to a degree, in the second line of verse three.
Moving to the next line, the German word ‘Hafen’ gave me some trouble. In fact, ‘port’, ‘harbour’, and ‘haven’ would all be adequate in their own right. While German ‘Hafen’ (which can mean both ‘harbour’ and ‘haven’) is obviously related to both ‘harbour’ and ‘haven’, the latter appeared to me the best alternative, since it carries the meanings ‘safe place’ and ‘shelter for ships or boats’.
In line two of verse four, I translated ‘Regenküsse’ simply as ‘rainy kisses’ for want of a better alternative. It is not correct, however, because the kisses referred to are not rainy in nature or related to rain, but they are rain – in the sense of the poem, that is.
I hope that, despite all the difficulties of translation, the poem is still enjoyable in English.

Falling in Love Then and Now

If you fall in love with someone who already belongs to someone else, it will always seem like the end of the world. The older you grow, the more likely you will be to realize that this is not the case, although it will continue to feel the same way.
Personally, I do not fall in love as easily as I used to when I was younger. But perhaps this is exactly the reason for which I notice it sooner. From a physiological standpoint, falling in love is a kind of intoxication. I feel the blood run to my head and I get all enthusiastic, yet I still manage to concentrate on what is said in a conversation, including those with the woman with whom I am in love. Trust me, this is far better than the way it used to be. Even a decade ago, I would feel dizzy and be unable to concentrate on anything that was said in a conversation. Maybe this is just a sign for a maturer kind of falling in love. When you are young, everything is new and exciting, but at the same time confusing and more or less overtaxing. When you grow older, however, you still feel the excitement, but your emotions cannot and will not run wild and out of control as easily – unless you allow them to, of course. You just learn to control them to a degree, and I perceive this as encouraging rather than disillusioning, let alone disappointing.
Am I the only one?

Demon-Haunted History (Part 2)

The delusions of which I have written so far are, unfortunately, not a thing of the past alone. They continue to evolve into new idiocy, such as young-world creationism or world-conspiracy theories. As it tends to appear as backwards evolution, I am tempted to call it devolution. Ironically, while there are more sources of knowledge and manners of obtaining knowledge than there have ever been before, large parts of humankind appear to get more ignorant by the decades. The saddest thing about this is that ignorance goes along not only with stupidity but also with confidence. Ignorant and stupid people are usually the most outspoken ones, and, even worse, they appear to be immune to doubt. Both politics and religion (I tend to think that the latter is only a variant of the former) teach people not to question the authority of that which they are told and of those who tell them so – a strategy that has been successful for as long as we can trace it back in human history.
Let me introduce you to a case of which I have not been fully aware till recently. You know how it works when you look something up on the internet and click yourself from one link to the next till you end up somewhere that has more or less nothing to do with that which you were origially trying to look up – and you cannot even remember how you actually got there. Well, this recently happened to me, so that I cannot even provide you with any reason for which I came to the website, but here is the link nonetheless: Occult Symbolism in the Music Industry that is Hidden in Plain Site. (By ‘Plain Site’ they most probably mean ‘Plain Sight’.) What this article says in a nutshell is that at the Video Music Awards 2009, the songwriter Taylor Alison Swift became part of the Illuminati, a secret order of a select few who secretly rule the world – or, on a side note, not so secretly any longer according to this website: http://www.illuminatiofficial.org/.
While it may be true that there are agendas to entertainment – such as selling products and making profits –, people who believe as the article linked says got extremely carried away. Ironically, the Bavarian Illuminati, an organization which was founded in the Age of Enlightenment, opposed, inter alia, superstition and religious influence over public life. Apparently, interpretors have got carried away into extremely different directions since then. They see hidden symbols and signs everywhere, and there can be nothing to disconfirm their hypothesis because everything necessarily confirms it. Behold a classic case of selective perception. How intriguing it can be to imagine secret orders behind everything is demonstrated by the sheer amount of conspiracy theories (in the broadest sense) that has been formulated over time. There are quite a few people who sincerely believe that the Bible contains hidden code, for example, when the world is going to end. A case in point is this website: http://www.understanding-the-bible.com/hidden-codes-in-the-bible.html. At least this site admits that ‘[t]o some extent it comes back to faith: you will try to prove what you want to believe.’ Unfortunately, the author appears not to take this possibility too seriously in their own case.
All of these cases share a common fault. None of them actually gives us good reasons to believe them, nor does any supporter of those would-be theories provide us with actual evidence. Instead, in order to be convinced of those systems of beliefs, you need to be in a preconditioned set of mind, which means nothing more than that you already believe in them (at least partially). For instance, the author of http://www.understanding-the bible.com/ writes, ‘Firstly as we examine these codes, we will see that they are from a supernatural source and could not have been devised by any human, as they require knowledge not available to us.’ This statement alone is at best problematic as to several aspects. Both this statement and everything that follows draws conclusions at which you can only arrive by ignoring several facts.
First of all, the Bible is a conglomerate of stories originating from several different cultural backgrounds which used to be handed down from generation to generation orally before they were even so much as written down. And even when those stories were finally written down, the texts changed significantly over time. Not only were words exchanged for other words, but entire stories were added, removed, added to, removed from, and so forth. Even today, there are several versions of the Bible, and the authority of the texts has remained as arbitrary as ever.
Second, if a supernatural being with the ability of foretelling the future would want us to know about said future, why would it go to such lengths as hiding the information in religious texts, that is to say, texts the truth of which is allegedly a matter of faith rather than knowledge? And if the hidden code refers to the future, why hide it in texts that refer to the past and are basically inaccessible to most people in their original language? A supernatural being of such enormous power would certainly be able to communicate this vital information in a more convenient and more easily accessible manner.
Third, randomly or arbitrarily starting at a word, then skipping several words, may or may not lead to something which may appear meaningful in its own right. It does not prove anything, however, especially not that it actually was put there on purpose and with the meaning ascribed to it. Consider the following example:

You of all people should know better. Are you not the one I trusted? Most beautiful are the stars tonight, behold!

I make this up as I go. There is no hidden message or code in the text above, but if you try hard enough, if you look hard enough, you may find something. For instance, each of the three sentences consists of exactly seven words, and the number seven has been deemed a lucky number for ages. And if you connect the first word of the first two sentences, respectively, with the first two words of the third sentence, you get the following: ‘You are most beautiful’. Yet even though all of this is true, it neither proves that today is your lucky day or that you will be lucky henceforth, nor that I intend to tell you that you are (most) beautiful.
Besides, it is nothing more than an historical accident that it takes as many letters and words to say or write something as it does. Furthermore, many aspects are simply the result of errors and grammatical constructions that faded away over the course of time.
But as I said, nothing is ever going to convince someone that their system of beliefs is not only unsubstantiated but also incoherent and implausible, if not absurd, if everything counts as a confirmation. If you try to point out to someone that the world is most likely not ruled by the Illuminati or any other secret order, they are going to take that as a confirmation of their hypothesis, just as much as they would if you were to tell them that the world indeed is ruled by the Illuminati or any other secret order.

[To be continued.]

Demon-Haunted History (Part 1)

There has always been this borderline between amusingly stupid, ignorant, or delusional, and dangerously paranoid or delusional. All of us are stupid or ignorant or delusional to a degree, and while it may be comic in many cases, it can evolve into a cause soon to get out of hand. Outstanding historical examples are, without a doubt, crusades, the witch-hunt, and German fascism. Interestingly, the second is most often construed as a part of medieval culture and life, yet it actually culminated in the modern era and continued well past the Age of Enlightenment. And just as popes had repeatedly drawn on the power of mass delusion and the urge of the majority of people for a common cause and a scapegoat to blame for all social and economical issues alike, fascism found the most furtile grounds in Germany for the exact same reasons. The difference between Italy and Germany consisted mostly (albeit not only, of course) in weak and strong leadership, as well as economical power. Again, it would mean to oversimplify the situation to say that it only took one man. It goes without saying that Adolf Hitler was not alone, he was not the sole cause of the catastrophe to come. And he could not have succeeded without help or, even more importantly, without the conceptual seeds sown decades, even centuries before. A single cause to unite us all, one leader, one nation, one enemy, one goal: those are the words that have always led into the abyss. They promise both glory and safety – they bring but doom and despair.
In the Western countries, crusades, the witch-hunt (as a historical event), and fasciscm faded away into the obscurity of an awkwardly remembered past that appears to be less and less relevant to the current age. In fact, however, these events keep returning and repeating themselves in different shapes and shades. The fantasy of world domination, of a single ruler, of a single nation to rule them all, has been kept close to mother’s teats and nourished well. And when it grows larger, it will find futile ground again. Gullible masses cheering for it to come down on them, eagerly sucking up the poison raining from its open veins. And as it burns inside of them, eating them up till they are but shadows, it marches them on again to their shallow, nameless graves. And those who survive the madness will use these graves as a foundation for their next futile attempt of building a flourishing society upon the denial of the horrors they caused, supported, or tolerated.

Life & Love, & Other Irrelevant Stuff

Life is an illusion – lucky you if you can mould it into a delusion working in your favour.

Love is a form of cancer – it devours you from inside and slowly decays.

Religion is a tool – making profit for the greedy and keeping the foolish in line.

Despair is a pale rider – it chases you all day to tire you and strikes you down at night.

Death is a number – the zero of all concepts.

Thoughts Concerning Human Non-Understanding

Nothing is definite, but these days, it seems, many people are defiant. If we took this seriesly, how many episodes should we have to watch?  I wonder, furthermore, whether we should have to take the arrival of the new ‘your – you’re’ (k) in Old York into account. For who’s to say whose idea it was to say that they’re staying there during their holidays?

Regardless, in the United States of America’s attempt to create a definite world order, they keep encountering unexpected defiance by the primitive, communist, homosexual barbarians (all non-American peoples in the world). Apparently, the ingenious underestimated the ingenuous, although applying the concept of innocence to either side would, at least for my money, be nonsense. You get a rapper for 50 cents, but sadly, only a dollar or more will save a child’s life. Unserious attempts in series to do so are legion. In other words, all attempts to change the world – and especially the human condition – in a positive manner have been either illegitimate or hindered by legislation. Legal corruption to a society’s core whose core principle consists in burying the answer to the question, ‘Who’s who?’, under a mountain of public apathy, assissted by a pathetic horde of mindless zombies worshipping the demigod irrelevancy. Their sermons are everywhere, here, there, and they’re not going to stop there till their infestation drowns the voice of conscience beneath the towers of death and despair which support the tops of abundance and decadence.

Where eating is a sin and not eating a disorder, where fake and fact become synonymous, where shallowness surpasses personality in esteem, happiness is sacrificed at the altar of conformity. – And we acceptantly pay the price.