Everyday the yellow sun comes over the hill.
The forest, the dark beast, are beautiful
And mankind too; hunter or shepherd.
Reddish rises the fish in the green pond.
Under the round heavens
The fisherman moves gently in a blue boat.
Slowly ripen grape and grain.
When day dies away into silence
Something good and something evil is being prepared.
When night comes,
The wanderer gently opens heavy eyelids;
The sun breaks out from the dark abyss.
“Whoever could he have been?” the poet Rainer Maria Rilke asked this about Georg Trakl, the Austrian Expressionist poet who died at the beginning of the First World War.
Accounts of Georg Trakl’s life abound even though he left hardly any trace of his being here apart from his poems and a few begging, self-pitying letters. Although he was a friend of many of his Viennese artistic contemporaries, such as Oskar Kokoschka, Ludwig von Ficker, Karl Kraus and Else Lasker-Schule, Trakl was almost unrecognised in his lifetime. His fame has grown over the past fifty years and his work is now always in print and translated into many languages.
Set against the power and beauty of his mature work – mainly done in three short years! – the mundane facts of his rather miserable existence would appear to be of no interest nor add to any understanding of his opaque poetry. And yet, his short life, blighted by drink and drugs and a suspected incestuous relationship with his younger sister, Grete Trakl, draws us into his work even if superficially there is no connection between the two. Except that he lived, as he wrote, in uncertainty and darkness.
I read his work with awe and wonder, and feel a connection there as have the many others who have composed fiction, literary criticism, poems, music and films about his life and work. For myself, I find it inconceivable that only 37 years and 800 miles separated us.
My piece, “Sebastian In Dream” says who Georg Trakl was, and so answers Rilke’s question. It is available on Amazon Kindle at a very reasonable price.
Anyone who is interested in helping me put this into German or who’s got a few million euros spare to make the film, do get in touch!