Offnen Augs

Offnen Augs

View down a cliff, with trees felled by the elements lying across the path beneath; the water is calm and turquoise.

Dem unverhofften
Verwitterten Warnschild
„Steile Klippen,
Hohe Brandung“
Folgte ich eilends.

Und stand da und schaute
Und wusste: Ich war.
Alles Blaugrüngrau
Saugte ich ein
Offnen Augs.

Christina Egan © 2003

 Couple holding on to a warning sign above the sea (which is calm and bluish).

Brodtener Ufer, near Travemünde on the Baltic Sea. Photographs: Christina Egan © 2014.

The couple are holding on to a sign warning of the cliff; the view downwards proves how dangerous the lower path is, where hikers have indeed got killed.

This is not a poem about Nature alone, though: it could be about life, about love, about faith… The colours of the sea, for instance, could also refer to a pair of eyes. I do not think I had seen such a sign when I wrote the poem!

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The Ship’s Spirit

The Ship’s Spirit

*

A sail,
out in the wind,
white, vast, and fast,
like a cloud in the currents
of the sky and the sea, flowing,
fluttering, flying – what could be better
than being a sail? I will tell you: being a flag! I
bear the colours and I bear the crown,
the crescent, the dragon, the skull;
I dance more nimbly; I spy,
I spot the lands, I am
the ship’s spirit:
a flag!

*

The Ship’s Servant

*

High
above me
the bright dot
of the flag laughs,
while I unfurl, white
and wide like the dawn,
I hurl myself into the wind,
the world, pulling the mighty
ship along!          When it is calm,
I drift… watch…        let the sky smile
through the window in my midst; I swap
stories with my mates, you hear us whisper,
hear us rustle if you listen; and sometimes I rest,
I sleep curled up, in the sweet sleep of a proud sail!

*

Christina Egan © 2016

La Mer, enfin

La Mer, enfin
(Cimetière marin, Sète)

Ô vagues de vers sincères et idolâtres…
Ce vaste pan de verre d’un vert bleuâtre
Entre cieux et ombres suspendu,
Et cet essaim neigeux de tombes en marbre
Parmi les flammes géantes noires des arbres :
La Mer, enfin. J’ai vu et j’ai vécu.

Ces fleurs en bas, comme lèvres entrouvertes,
Impérissables certes, mais inertes,
Moulues de cet argile du Midi ;
Ces fleurs en haut, rosées et scintillantes,
Ces tressaillantes et minces, mais vivantes !
Le Cimetière. J’ai vu et j’ai écrit.

Christina Egan © 2016

Light-blue sky and light-green ocean in the background, white tombs in the foregrund; in the front, a flat marble slabs decorated with two large pink flowers, one in clay and one in plastic.

 

Paul Valéry’s tomb on the Cimetière marin, which has become famous through his poem. It is shown and played all day in the neighbouring art museum erected as a homage to him.

These lines are closely related to Valéry’s. The durable but lifeless flowers are of clay and plastic; the perishable but living ones blossom on the bushes around. My picture and poem were created in early January!

An automatic translation into English may convey the meaning of  my French homage to Valéry quite well — but not the music of the words!

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2016

Moment dans la mare

Moment dans la mare
(Boulogne-sur-Mer)

À la plage immense, vidée de la mer,
le vent est trempé du soleil et du sel :
caresse chanceuse de l’univers,
regard maternel rempli d’étincelles.

La mare autour des chevilles surprises,
le sable mouillé, moulé de soleil :
tout ça – l’océan et la boue et la brise –
tout est mêlé et tout est pareil.

Tout est tiède et tout est limpide,
tout est liquide autour des doigts…
Tout est un rêve réel, et le vide
commence à se combler de joie.

Il n’y a pas de bataille, il n’y a pas de triage
de quatre ou cinq éléments lumineux :
plutôt une étreinte éternelle, mariage
de plage et marée, bénit des cieux.

Christina Egan © 2016


The poem refers to the four or five elements which make up the universe, an ancient philosophical concept found in variations in many civilisations.

Greek philosophers held that war, or conflict, between the forces of nature generate everything and challenge us to greatness. I propose that the Greek elements of fire, air, water, earth — and spirit — exist, but work through interaction and union, and that humans grow most when working within and with nature.

This makes harmony instead of conflict the driving force of the universe. It is also a female philosophical approach rather than a traditional male one.

In French literature, the ‘void’ is essential, marking loneliness, mortality, and the pointlessness of life; I want to hold up the ‘void’ or ‘silence’ as an experience of peace and fulfilment, communion with the universe, and a foretaste of eternal life.

When I stood on the beach of Boulogne at sunset, the sky and the sea and the sand were gleaming in streaks of otherworldly purple and orange.

An automatic translation into English may convey the sense of these lines well, but in the original French, they are conceived to sound like music… like waves.

Acherons Mund

Acherons Mund
(São Miguel, Azoren)

Das Inselreich spricht
in zitterndem Licht,
in zischenden Quellen,
in schwefligen Schwaden,
in schlaflosem Raunen
aus rissigem Grund
am Unterweltsschlund.

Vast surface of rough black rock to the left, gleaming pools of water and steam rising up to the right, mountains in the far background.Das Erdreich bestellt
am Rande der Welt
dem arglosen Wandrer
die Botschaft der Flammen,
die Mahnung der Schatten
aus Phlegetons und
aus Acherons Mund.

Christina Egan © 2016

Hot springs in Furnas, Sao Miguel Island, Azores.
Photograph
by Henryk Kotowski via Wikimedia.

Acheron is the River of Pain and Phlegeton the River of Fire around Hades.

I believe that some Greeks or Phoenicians sailed to the Canary Islands and others may have reached the Azores; this might have influenced their mythology, describing the realms of the dead as a cave of shadows and as a blissful archipelago. More of the latter at Sonett der drei Seen!

Sonett der drei Seen

Sonett der drei Seen
(São Miguel, Azoren)

Der Teich war gelb, und gelbe Dämpfe stiegen
ins heiße Blau, umringt von dunklen Ranken,
als müde Glieder sich im Gelb entspannten
mit Blättern, die wie Schlick im Strudel trieben.
Der See war grün, und grüne Schimmer hingen
in steilen Hängen und in flachen Tiefen,
worunter ungeheure Feuer schliefen,–
zur rechten grün und himmelblau zur linken.
Und um die gelben, grünen, blauen Kessel
und buntbestickten Ufer lief ein Band
von schwarzen Felsen und von schwarzem Sand;
und darum – ohne Grenze, ohne Fessel
und ohne Form – das Meer, das Element…
O selig, wer die sanften Inseln kennt!

Christina Egan © 2016

Sete_cidades_(14267780070)

 

Sete Cidades, (São Miguel, Azores). Photograph by Aires Almeida from Portimão, Portugal, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

The colours of the water are really like in the photo! See also my verse Acherons Mund  for the darker aspects of these isles.

These poems may work in a translation software, although you only get the meaning, not the sounds, which are like music and like the sounds of nature itself!

Ein Muster aus Muscheln / Greek Islands

Ein Muster aus Muscheln

Ein Muster aus Muscheln und Bernstein und Bein,
mit Karneol und Koralle durchsetzt,
auf lapislazuliblauem Grund:
So leuchten die Inseln im Sonnenschein,
vor dreitausend Jahren… und letzthin… und jetzt:
ein Mosaik, ein vollendeter Fund.

Vors Fenster des sinkenden Flugzeugs gespannt,
vom Guckloch des finsteren Turmes gerahmt
– nur einen Moment – nur einen Moment –
das Muster aufs wartende Auge gebannt,
die Farben ins wache Gedächtnis gemalt:
ein Bild, das nach dreißig Jahren noch brennt.

Christina Egan © 2016

Standard_of_Ur_BM_121201

Standard of Ur (2500 BC). – Photograph© The Trustees of the British Museum.

I am showing this ancient object – twice as old as our classical antiquity – because it must have inspired my poem about Greece. The images on the box are made of shell, lapis lazuli, and red limestone, but I did not remember those details or  even think of the thing. When you have the chance to go to London, do not miss out on the Sumerian galleries of the British Museum!

The longing for a return to Greece, both for the Mediterranean environment and for the ancient civilisation, is also expressed in On Eating Olives / Beim Olivenessen  and in Greek Islands  (below). There are a number of poems about Crete in German and English on this website.


Greek Islands

There is more blue in the air
between here and the horizon,
between morning and evening,
than the cup of the eye can hold.

So my soul may flow over
into the sky,
into the sea,
into this scattered paradise…

Christina Egan © 2012 


On the topic of the blue Mediterranean Sea, see also Meine blaue Mauer  and O Heimatland aus Stein und Licht. On the manifold colours of the same sea, see The Purple Sea / Das lila Meer.