Ingeborg Bachmann ~ The Blue Hour

The old man says: my angel, come
and stroll a while on my arm, the way you like to do;
you alone quiet the empty evening,
and understand the verdict of the linden tree,
its old conspiracy! Bloated lamps blur the last faces
in blue; your face alone shines through.
The books are dead, the world falls from its poles;
yet holding the dark flood together,
the clasp in your hair stands apart.
A draft blows through my house, an unstoppable train,
a moon whistle -– then between stations,
love, shut off from memory, leaps out.
The young man asks: will you always…too?
Swear it by the shadows in my room,
and is the linden’s verdict both dark and true?
Tell it here with blossoms, and loosen your hair
and the pulse of the night, which are longing to spill.
A signal from the moon and the wind stands still.
The lamps are sociable in the blue light,
up to the space where the vague hours break;
under soft bites your mouth comes home
to my mouth, until pain teaches you:
It’s a living word that wins the world,
plays out, loses, and then love begins.
The girl keeps silent until the spindle turns.
Silver falls from the stars. Time in the roses fades:
Gentlemen, put the sword in my hand,
and Joan of Arc will save the Fatherland.
People, we bring the ship through the ice,
I’ll keep to the course that no one else knows.
Buy anemones! three wishes a bunch,
then breathe, and a wish will close in your mouth.
From the high trapeze in the circus tent,
I leap through the flaming hoop of the world
I put myself in the hand of my master,
and he graciously gives me the evening star.


Translation by Joan Harvey

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