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.

Views of North Sea Islands

Views of North Sea Islands Ansichten von Nordseeinseln

White cottage, steep thatched roof, covered with moss

 

Thick patches of moss
clustering on rippled thatch
like verdant islands,
like the islands we stand on:
growing in the rough grey sea.

Diagonal horizon, entirely flat between green and blue, with house in middle

Dicke Moospolster
auf dem welligen Reetdach,
gleich grünen Inseln,
gleich diesen Inseln hier,
wachsend im wilden grauen Meer.

Thatched roof, covered with moss

Red clover blossom:
tiny magenta lanterns
in the green and blue,
feeding on the salty floods
across these flat floating disks.

Diagonal horizon, entirely flat between green and blue, with house in middle

 

Rosaroter Klee:
winzige Laternen
in all dem Grün und Blau,
genährt von Salzfluten
über schwebende Scheiben hin.

Thatched roof, covered with moss

 

Huge ships approaching,
or space-ships – or are they hills,
or houses on stilts?
They are houses, hamlets, islets…
a necklace of glass beads.

 

Satellite image of a cluster of small emerald green islands

 

Da – Riesenschiffe –
Raumschiffe – oder Hügel,
Häuser auf Stelzen?
Häuser, Dörfchen, Inselchen…
eine Glasperlenkette.

English texts: Christina Egan © 2015
German texts: Christina Egan ©2016

Photographs: Christina Egan © 2014
Galerie Nieblum on Föhr; Hallig Hooge.
Satellite picture: NASA via Wikimedia.


From the flat, small, oval island of Föhr, you spot the even flatter, even smaller islands known as ‘Halligen’: their clusters of houses and trees on little dells are visible on the horizon far across the ocean.

The Halligen still get regularly flooded and are occasionally menaced by devastation. All these islands change shape over time, when the forces of wind and water eat away at their edges or add new land.

I wrote about a similar phenomenon observed on the Baltic Sea island of the Darss in Schöpfung (Darß).

The Purple Sea / Das lila Meer

The Purple Sea

I’ve seen the sea turn indigo
and greyish green and brilliant blue:
the wine-red sea that Homer saw
was not a blind man’s dream — it’s true.

I’ve swum in waves of indigo,
I’ve swum in eyes of greenish grey:
the fair-eyed gods that Homer saw
may just for moments cross your way.

Christina Egan © 2015

Das lila Meer

Auch indigo färbt sich das Meer
wie gräulichgrün und leuchtendblau:
Wahr war das Weinrot des Homer –
nicht eines blinden Dichters Schau.

Im Indigo schwamm ich sogar
und auch in Augen von Grüngrau:
Ein göttlich lichtes Augenpaar,
das gibt es manchmal noch genau.

Christina Egan © 2015

The Wine-Dark Sea

Where sky and ocean form a line
of glassy indigo,
the water looks indeed like wine,
a strong and sweet Merlot.

This is the sea that heaped up rocks
and beckoned walls to rise,
the ageless mother of these flocks
of sun-enchanted isles.

This is the sea that brought the fleets
to Carthage and to Troy
on silver-green and bright-blue sheets
which wayward gods deploy.

Christina Egan © 2012

These poems refer to the debate around Homer’s strange colour names: e.g. ‘wine-coloured’ (‘oinops’) and ‘purple’ or ‘maroon’ (‘porphyreos’) for the sea; ‘green-eyed’ (‘glaukopis’) for a person or god with eyes of any fair colour.

While people in antiquity were not yet interested in describing colours and 
despite their sophisticated languages — had only very few words for them, I
believe that on occasion, these can be taken literally.

The first two poems are translations of each other. The colour adjectives oscillate between the languages, and within, just like the sea does…