Hugo von Hofmannsthal ~ On Schnitzler’s Anatole

DMdJ Neu1Spearhead fences, yew-tree hedges,
Coats of arms no more regilded,
Sphinxes gleaming through the thickets….
Creakingly the gates swing open.

With its tritons sunk in slumber,
And its fountains also sleeping,
Mildewed, lovely, and rococo,
Lo … Vienna, Canaletto’s,
Dated Seventeen and Sixty.

Quiet pools of green-brown waters,
Smooth and framed in snow-white marble,
Show between their mirrored statues
Gold and silver fishes playing.
Slender stems of oleander
Cast their prim array of shadows
On the primly close-cropped greensward.
Overhead, the arching branches
Meet and twine to sheltering niches,
Where are grouped in loving couples
Stiff-limbed heroines and heroes….
Dolphins three pour splashing streamlets
In three shell-shaped marble basins.
Chestnut blossoms, richly fragrant,
Fall like flames and flutter downward
To be drowned within the basins….
Music, made by clarinettes and
Violins behind the yew-trees,
Seems to come from graceful cupids
Playing on the balustrade, or
Weaving flowers into garlands,
While beside them other flowers
Gayly stream from marble vases:
Jasmin, marigold, and elder….
On the balustrade sit also
Sweet coquettes among the cupids,
And some messeigneurs in purple.
At their feet, on pillows resting,
Or reclining on the greensward,
May be seen abbés and gallants.
From perfumed sedans are lifted
Other ladies by their lovers….
Rays of light sift through the leafage,
Shed on golden curls their luster,
Break in flames on gaudy cushions,
Gleam alike on grass and gravel,
Sparkle on the simple structure
We have raised to serve the moment.
Vines and creepers clamber upward,
Covering the slender woodwork,
While between them are suspended
Gorgeous tapestries and curtains:
Scenes Arcadian boldly woven,
Charmingly designed by Watteau….
In the place of stage, an arbor;
Summer sun in place of footlights;
Thus we rear Thalia’s temple
Where we play our private dramas,
Gentle, saddening, precocious….
Comedies that we have suffered;
Feelings drawn from past and present;
Evil masked in pretty phrases;
Soothing words and luring pictures;
Subtle stirrings, mere nuances,
Agonies, adventures, crises….

Some are listening, some are yawning,
Some are dreaming, some are laughing,
Some are sipping ices … others
Whisper longings soft and languid….

Nodding in the breeze, carnations,
Long-stemmed white carnations, image
Butterflies that swarm in sunlight,
While a black and long-haired spaniel
Barks astonished at a peacock….


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