Monday, May 01, 2006

Song of Childhood

Peter Handke

(trans CRM)

As the child was a child,
it went with arms hanging,
Willing the brook into a stream,
the stream into a torrent,
and these puddles to be the ocean.

As the child was a child,
it didn't know it was a child,
everything had a soul,
and all souls were One.

As the child was a child,
it gave nothing a meaning,
had no habits,
sat often cross-legged,
ran in the exhibition,
had a cowlick in its hair
and made no faces when photographed.

As the child was a child,
it was the time for the consequential questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here -- and why not over there?
When did Time start, and where does Space end?
Is the life under the Sun not merely a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not merely an apparent World that hides the World?
Does Evil truly exist, and are there people
who truly are evil?
Can it be that I, the one that's me,
before I was, was nothing?
... and that someday I, me,
will no longer be me?

As the child was a child,
it choked on spinach, and peas, and rice pudding,
and especially on steamed cauliflower,
and now eats them all, and by choice.

As the child was a child,
it awoke, once, in a strange bed,
and now does so always,
it saw many people as beautiful,
and now sees only by chance,
imagined a Paradise clearly,
and now its greatest fear
-- can't think itself Not --
and shudders at the thought.

As the child was a child,
it played with enthusiasm,
and now, if it feels the same way,
only feels so about its work.

As the child was a child,
a meal of apples and bread was enough --
and so is it still!

As the child was a child,
it felt berries were only berries if they could be held,
and so is it still;
its tongue was made raw by fresh walnuts,
and so is it still.
It had, with every mountain, the longing for a higher mountain,
with every city, the longing for an even greater city,
and thus is it always so;
snatched at cherries in the treetops in exaltation,
just as it does today;
is shy with strangers,
and thus is it always so;
awaited the first snowfall,
and waits for it, even now.

As the child was a child,
it threw a stick, like a lance, against a tree;
and it shivers there yet today.

(A translation of Lied Vom Kindsein, by Peter Handke, in Wim Wender's Wings of Desire.)


MeaninglessHotAir said...

Nice poem, thanks. Nice translation too.