On Waking and Dreams

This is a translation of a poem from Felix Hausdorff’s 1900 collection, Ekstasen (Ecstasies).
It captures an experience many of us have had while being away from someone with whom we are in love.
(You can see a piece I previously translated from the same collection.)

You came to me in dreams, invisibly
You glowed as warmth, all hidden from the light
More present, though, than anything I see
Much closer to my heart all through the night.

Filled up with you, I yielded, swept away
Commanded not to look upon your face
Thus too, the formless God meets those who pray
As their souls approach the darkness of the grave.

I lay in you as if in the womb of Eve
My body stretching like a cloth you weave
And felt myself through endless space unspool.

Then the dawn broke! As it lit up the world
Of objects, much was seen and much obscured –
Including you, by sun-rays sharp and cruel.

 

Original German:

Traum und Erwachen

Ich hab’ von dir geträumt, doch sah dich nicht
Als Wärme warst du ohne Licht entglommen
Viel Gegenwärt’ger als dem Angesicht
Viel näher warst dem Fühlen du gekommen

Von dir erfüllt, bemeistert, hingenommen:
Kein Dich-Erkennen, seliger Verzicht!
So dämmert wohl gestaltlos Gott dem Frommen
Wenn Dunkel Ihm der Erde Saum umflicht.
Ich lag in dir, im Schoß des ersten Weibes;
Mich endlos dehnend, fühlt’ ich meines Leibes
Geheimste Faser noch von dir benetzt.

Aufsprüht der Tag! der läßt in hundert Spitzen
Der Dinge sichtbar Einzelnes erblitzen
Ach! Auch das Dein’ge, das mich schwer verletzt!

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Kimberly Gladman Jackson is the author of Materfamilias (Tandeta Books, 2018) and Tesseract (Finishing Line Press, 2016).
You can connect with her on her website.

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