The Petrified Angel

by Nelly Sachs

The petrified angel
still dripping memory
of an earlier universe
without time
in the women’s ward, wandering
in amber light
encased in the visit of a single voice
fleshless, before the world
to sing in the red morning
of Truth—

And the others comb their hair with disaster
and weep
when the crows in the yard
unfurl their blackness at midnight.

Translated by Eric Plattner


Der versteinerte Engel

by Nelly Sachs

Der versteinerte Engel
noch von Erinnerung träufend
von einem früheren Weltall
ohne Zeit
in der Frauenstation wandernd
im Bernsteinlicht
eingeschlossen mit dem Besuch einer Stimme
vorweltlich ohne Apfelbiss
singend im Morgenrot
vor Wahrheit—

Und die anderen kämmen die Haare vor Unglück
und weinen
wenn die Raben draussen
ïhre Schwärze entfalten zur Mitternacht.


~ by Ep on January 12, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Petrified Angel”

  1. Eric, I edited Joachim’s Celan translations for him in my then capacity as the Suhrkamp representatives, going down to Dutton to do so. Meanwhile I don’t know who has done the best TODESFUGE, Michael Hamburger, Joachim, John Felstiner, or any of the many others who have given it a try. That Celan poem is modelled on a Heine poem. I forgot whether Heather McHugh also gave that a try in her versions of Celan. xxx michael r.

    • Joachim’s translations sing as few others. And I am ruled by my ear.

      Though I am vastly lacking in the expertise to unravel Celan’s tightly-scrolled & ever-spidering German/Hebrew allusions (and thus incapapble of detecting what compromises Joachim made to achieve his music), of all the versions of “Todesfugue” I have read (recited) — and I have read all the versions you mentioned — his is the one with the unerring rhythm of nightmare & surreality.

      My favorite single English collection of Celan is *Last Poems* (trans. by Katherine Washburn & Margret Guillemin).

      Best regards,

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