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

Jetzt und jenseits / Now and Beyond

Jetzt und jenseits

In der Stille, in der Helle,
wo die Kerze steht und blüht
oder Welle über Welle,
Wolke über Wolke zieht,

in der Stille, in der Hülle
des Gewölbes oder Walds
quillt der Friede, quillt die Fülle
jetzt und jenseits unsres Alls.

Christina Egan © 2015

Shallow sandy beach and blue sea water filling lower half of picture, sky-blue sky with a few clouds above. Exudes tranquillity.

Now and Beyond

In the stillness, in the light,
where the candle blossoms bright
or where wave flows after wave,
cloud on cloud and breeze on breeze,

in the stillness, in the cave
of the vault or wooded pond
flows the fullness, flows the peace
of the now and the beyond.

Christina Egan © 2015


In the Hebrew bible, ‘peace’ (‘shalom’) is defined ex positivo, as it should be, not ex negativo: it means abundance and fulfilment, not absence of war or conflict.

Similarly, in the Christian tradition, ‘quiet’, ‘silence’, ‘solitude’ often imply awareness, peace of mind, presence of God, rather than absence of sound or lack of company.

Photograph: Beach of Wyk on Föhr, Germany. Christina Egan © 2014.

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.

Arles im Winter

Arles im Winter

Die Fensterläden wie ein Farbenkasten,
kornblumenblau und flieder und türkis;
die goldnen Wände, die im Wind verblaßten,
die Gasse, die den kurzen Schnee verschlief.

Die Bogengänge wie bestickte Bänder,
die Krippenbilder wie ein Glockenspiel…
Und das Theater wechselnder Gewänder,
wo nie – seit Rom – der letzte Vorhang fiel.

Die weiche Luft am weiten Strom von Norden,
wo beißendkalter Wind bis eben blies,–
er wälzt sich meerwärts, kostet wohl schon morgen
Kornblumenblau und Flieder und Türkis!

Christina Egan © 2016

Lane with old houses, window shutters in various shades of turquoise and green.The Old Town of Arles is huddled together within the precincts of the Roman city, next to the vast River Rhône  and close to its mouth into the Mediterranean Sea – with the churches built of the stones of the temples and the houses built with the stones of the theatre.

Down the funnel of the river valley, there is a forceful and often icy wind, the Mistral; but there is also a mild wind from south, the Wind from the Sea, which may warm up the city in the midst of winter, so that you can sit in the Roman ruins…

Model village on steep hills as backdrop to a nativity scene

There are exhibitions of nativity scenes and figurines in all styles, even contemporary, at Saint-Trophime; in another mediaeval church, a whole side-chapel is filled with a model village with rocks and trees, running water and flickering fire, and hundreds of tiny local people.

I have written another poem on Arles and the Vent de la mer  in French and English. This one here may work quite well in a translation software.

Photographs: Arles. Christina Egan © 2011.

Oktoberbilder

Oktoberbilder

I.

Die weiche Luft wie weißes Brot…
Das erste volle Herbstesrot
hängt überm frischgetränkten Gras.
Die Sonne bleibt durch Dunst versperrt,
doch Astern sprühn ihr Feuerwerk,
und Rosen quellen ohne Maß –
O erdgeborne Sternenpracht,
die uns am hellen Tage lacht,
o buntes Bild auf grauem Glas!

II.

Der Himmel ist mit Blau behaucht,
die Gärten neu in Gold getaucht,
mit Gelb getränkt schon manches Laub;
und selbst das Blatt, das sterbend schwebt,
ist kupferrot wie frischerregt.
Noch einmal kost das Licht die Haut…
Das Windrad saust, die Wolke fliegt,
ein weißer Blütenball zerstiebt –
Zuletzt wird jedes Ding zu Staub.

Christina Egan © 2015

This is the Northern Land

This is the Northern Land

This is the northern land
of loose and juicy ground
where fern and forest glow
and wheat and fruit abound.

This is the continent
where mound responds to mound
and wind resounds on rock –
this is the home we found.

This is the realm of dusk
and star-embroidered night,
of fog caressing lakes…
and then the roaring light!

Christina Egan © 2013

Mountain meadow filling lower half of picture, high trees right behing and mountain range in the distance along the middle, pale blue sky above.

Dammersfeld mountain ridge, Rhön (Central German Highlands).
Two of my great-grandparents grew up with precisely this view. —
Photograph
 by GerritR via Wikimedia Commons.


 

This poem was inspired by the Czech national anthem, Kde domov muj, which entirely refrains from politics and warfare and mainly describes the lush landscape of Central Europe. The Czech Republic abounds with hills and lakes, forests and fields.

My lines cover the whole of Central Europe or the whole continent (including the British Isles): my home is my region, or my country, or Central Europe, or all of Europe — none more so than the other.

The claim that even those who were born there ‘found’ their land may sound strange: yet their ancestors did immigrate one day, even if it was a thousand years or two thousand ago. No one just grew out of the ground. Moreover, most people are arguably of mixed ethnic origin, in our case, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Jewish, Hungarian, and more. No nation is an island.

Ich steh’ im Felde wie der Lindenbaum

Ich steh’ im Felde wie der Lindenbaum

Ich steh’ im Felde wie der Lindenbaum,
im Frühlingswind verloren und im Traum…

Ich schaue auf die blauen Höhn,
die kühn wie Vorzeitbauten stehn.
Ich lausche auf den Vogelsang,
in meinen Adern steigt ein Drang!
Ich schaue auf den Horizont,
von dem mir meine Hoffnung kommt.

Ich steh’ im Felde wie der Lindenbaum,
in Frühlingsnacht verloren und im Traum…

Ich schaue auf die Stadt im Tal
mit Erdensternen ohne Zahl.
In meinen Adern steigt der Saft,
ich streck’ mich mit versteckter Kraft!
Bevor noch süß die Linde blüht,
blüht früh und süß der Linde Lied.

Christina Egan © 2012

The mountain range on the horizon is the Rhön and the city in the valley is Fulda, Germany. There are more lines to this poem to make a song of it: part wistful and part hopeful, part heavy-hearted and part light-hearted!

The phrase ‘Town in the valley’ is echoed in the poem of the same name, Stadt im Tal.