Thursday, June 01, 2006

Upon going to sleep

Made tired by the day now,
my passionate longing
shall welcome the starry night
like a tired child.

Hands, leave all your activity,
brow, forget all thought,
for all my senses
are about to go to sleep.

And my soul, unguarded,
will float freely
into the magic circle of the night -
deeply and a thousand times alive.

The third of Strauss's Four Last Songs: one of the most emotionally powerful - and yet peaceful - pieces of music I have ever heard. And I have heard it a lot of times. The poem ('Beim Schlafengehen') is by Herman Hesse. Strauss's setting is certainly not a numbing drift into sleep: nope, we're talking serious yearning and ecstatic flight of the soul treatment here.

This is my favourite translation - I'm afraid I don't know who it's by. I've adulterated it a little at the end (before I messed with it, the above translation ended in order to live in the magic circle of the night/ deep and a thousand fold.) because I wanted to accommodate a different version of the last, ecstatic line that thrilled me in a subtitled performance on the tv several years ago. Apologies to those with a better grasp of poetic coherence than me.


Jonathan said...

My last thought upon going to sleep yesterday:

"Doggy go bow-wow".

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