Poem: Mondnacht

Very seldom do I stumble across poetry that really touches me. Mondnacht (moon night) is one such poem. I saw it as a youth, memorized it, thanks to a persistent, and at the time loathed, German teacher. I wrote it into the cover of a book some time later. Then I completely forgot about it. Last week, I happened upon the book that lay dormant in a box for 40 years, opened the cover, and there it was. It touched me deeply once again.

[I cannot convey this in English. If you can read German, may it lift your soul and fly away with you.]


Es war, als hätt’ der Himmel
Die Erde still geküsst,
Dass sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nun träumen müsst’.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder,
Die Ähren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis’ die Wälder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte
Weit ihre Flügel aus,
Flog durch die stillen Lande,
Als flöge sie nach Haus.

–Josef von Eichendorff

Addendum Jan 8, 2017 – a German friend, whom I shared this post with (WI), reminded me that there was a musical version by Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856). I found this excellent 1974 recording by baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925 – 2012), who passed away in 2012 at age 86.

I have, in these pages, often decried Germans and the harm and hurt they have collectively caused the world in the 20th century. To be fair, they have also immensely contributed to the world’s treasures in literature, poetry and music. All three are represented in the musical rendition of Mondnacht above. Enjoy!

5 thoughts on “Poem: Mondnacht

  1. Himmler? Hmmm.

    The second rendition is excellent. It conveys some of the imagery, but as always in poems, the sound of words, the subtle meanings do not come across – let alone the rhyme and cadence.

    This is true in the reverse, too. Search this blog for “Stopping by Woods”:

    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep….

    The above lines would not work in German – but they are perfect here.

  2. Eric Petrie

    Yeah, you know, as soon as I saw “war” and “Himmel” together, I got confused with all the WWII movies I saw as a kid. Ha ha.

    Anyway, in fact it is a beautiful poem, especially now that I can read it to myself in German with the imagery from the translation.

    I especially like the sound of: “Dass sie im Blütenschimmer
    Von ihm nun träumen müsst’”. Thanks as always.

  3. Eric Petrie

    Norbert, I took German in college, so I tried to translate it. Here is my draft:

    The war that hated Himmler
    the earth coldly cooked
    that left a bloody shimmer
    on a traumatized nun

    The airforce went through the fields,
    the air wore a sack
    it rustled late the water
    so stern the war sound made

    And my seal wagged its tail
    with its white flipper out
    flogging the cold landing
    as if it flogged the house next door.

    Now I think I made a mistake, because the poem translated this way is so awful. How could you like it? And there is nothing about a moon. So I asked a German scholar friend of mine to translate, and this is what he came up with:

    Night Moon

    It was as though the sky
    quietly kissed the earth, so that she,
    in the shimmer of blossoms
    need now only dream of him.

    The air went through the fields,
    the stalks gently bowed,
    the woods rushing softly,
    the night was so starry clear.

    And my soul stretched
    Its wings out wide,
    Flew through the quiet land
    As though it flew home.

  4. Reblogged this on Norbert Haupt and commented:

    Stumbling across a five-year-old post about a beautiful German poem, I added an Addendum today highlighting a musical rendition that is as powerful as the poem itself. My friend Eric, in the comments below in 2011, was helpful with translations that will give the English reader some sense of the content. I will not even try this, I won’t be able to do it justice. But listen to the music. It needs no words.

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