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Georg Trakl: December’s mood over meaning

Poems set in the evening and the autumn and winter

  • December Sonnet
  • At evening jugglers travel through the forest
  • On quaint wagons, small steeds.
  • A golden stash seems locked in clouds.
  • In the dark plain villages are painted.
  • The red wind billows linen black and cold.
  • A dog rots, a shrub smokes blood-doused.
  • The reed is flown through by yellow horror
  • And placidly a funeral procession pilgrimages to the cemetery.
  • The old man’s hut dwindles nearby in the gray,
  • In the pond a brilliance of old treasures glistens;
  • The farmers sit down in the tavern for wine.
  • A boy glides shyly to a woman.
  • A monk fades in the darkness soft and dark.
  • A bleak tree is a sleeper’s sexton
  • Evening Walk
  • I go into the evening, 
  • The wind jogs along and sings: 
  • You are bewitched by every light, 
  • O feel, what struggles with you!
  • A dead woman’s voice that I loved
  • Speaks: poor is the fools’ heart! 
  • Forget, forget what clouds the soul! 
  • The becoming shall be your pain!
  • Season
  • Ruby-veins crept into the foliage.
  • Then the pond was calm and wide.
  • By the forest’s edge brightly scattered
  • Bluish speckles and brown dust lay.
  • A fisherman drew in his nets.
  • Then dusk came over the field.
  • But, a yard shined still palely illuminated
  • And maids brought fruit and wine.
  • Distantly a shepherd’s song died after.
  • Then huts stood bleak and strange.
  • The forest in gray shroud
  • Evoked sad memory.
  • And overnight time became quiet
  • And an army of ravens flew
  • As if in black holes in the forest and moved
  • Toward the town’s very distant ringing.
  • Winter Walk in A-Minor
  • Red spheres often emerge from branches,
  • Snowed under softly and black by a long snowfall.
  • The priest escorts the dead person.
  • The nights are fulfilled by celebrations of masks.
  • Then tousled crows glide over the village;
  • In books fairy tales are written miraculously.
  • At the window an old man’s hair flutters.
  • Demons go through the ill soul.
  • The well freezes in the courtyard. Decayed stairs fall
  • In the darkness and a wind blows
  • Through old shafts which are buried.
  • The palate tastes the frost’s strong spices.
Georg Trakl

Georg Trakl (1887-1914) was an Austrian poet, and one of the most important proponents of the Expressionist movement in poetry, which sought to present art and literature from a subjective viewpoint in order to evoke a particular mood rather than overall meaning. Trakl suffered from depression and became a pharmacist to gain easy access to drugs (particularly cocaine) as a way to alleviate his malady. As his poetry began to gain attention, he was befriended by some prominent members of the German and Austrian literati, including philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who provided anonymous financial support to the poet. Trakl’s poetic output reflected his state of mind as many of his poems were set in the evening and the autumn and winter, and often took up silence and death as recurring themes.

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  • December Sonnet
  • At evening jugglers travel through the forest
  • On quaint wagons, small steeds.
  • A golden stash seems locked in clouds.
  • In the dark plain villages are painted.
  • The red wind billows linen black and cold.
  • A dog rots, a shrub smokes blood-doused.
  • The reed is flown through by yellow horror
  • And placidly a funeral procession pilgrimages to the cemetery.
  • The old man’s hut dwindles nearby in the gray,
  • In the pond a brilliance of old treasures glistens;
  • The farmers sit down in the tavern for wine.
  • A boy glides shyly to a woman.
  • A monk fades in the darkness soft and dark.
  • A bleak tree is a sleeper’s sexton
  • Evening Walk
  • I go into the evening, 
  • The wind jogs along and sings: 
  • You are bewitched by every light, 
  • O feel, what struggles with you!
  • A dead woman’s voice that I loved
  • Speaks: poor is the fools’ heart! 
  • Forget, forget what clouds the soul! 
  • The becoming shall be your pain!
  • Season
  • Ruby-veins crept into the foliage.
  • Then the pond was calm and wide.
  • By the forest’s edge brightly scattered
  • Bluish speckles and brown dust lay.
  • A fisherman drew in his nets.
  • Then dusk came over the field.
  • But, a yard shined still palely illuminated
  • And maids brought fruit and wine.
  • Distantly a shepherd’s song died after.
  • Then huts stood bleak and strange.
  • The forest in gray shroud
  • Evoked sad memory.
  • And overnight time became quiet
  • And an army of ravens flew
  • As if in black holes in the forest and moved
  • Toward the town’s very distant ringing.
  • Winter Walk in A-Minor
  • Red spheres often emerge from branches,
  • Snowed under softly and black by a long snowfall.
  • The priest escorts the dead person.
  • The nights are fulfilled by celebrations of masks.
  • Then tousled crows glide over the village;
  • In books fairy tales are written miraculously.
  • At the window an old man’s hair flutters.
  • Demons go through the ill soul.
  • The well freezes in the courtyard. Decayed stairs fall
  • In the darkness and a wind blows
  • Through old shafts which are buried.
  • The palate tastes the frost’s strong spices.
Georg Trakl

Georg Trakl (1887-1914) was an Austrian poet, and one of the most important proponents of the Expressionist movement in poetry, which sought to present art and literature from a subjective viewpoint in order to evoke a particular mood rather than overall meaning. Trakl suffered from depression and became a pharmacist to gain easy access to drugs (particularly cocaine) as a way to alleviate his malady. As his poetry began to gain attention, he was befriended by some prominent members of the German and Austrian literati, including philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who provided anonymous financial support to the poet. Trakl’s poetic output reflected his state of mind as many of his poems were set in the evening and the autumn and winter, and often took up silence and death as recurring themes.

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