Death Poems - Poems For Death - Death Fugue

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Death Fugue - Poem by Paul Celan

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden
hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are
flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a
grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at
sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair
Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith we dig a grave in the breezes
there one lies unconfined

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you
others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his
eyes are blue
jab deper you lot with your spades you others play
on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at at noon in the morning we drink you
at sundown
we drink and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith he plays with the serpents
He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master
from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then
as smoke you will rise into air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one
lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink
and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in
the air
He plays with the serpents and daydreams death is
a master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith


Translated by Michael Hamburger


Comments about Death Fugue by Paul Celan

  • Gold Star - 146,123 Points Fabrizio Frosini (2/25/2016 8:23:00 AM)

    Celan's Todesfuge should be revered by all those who call themselves 'poets' and by all those who have a heart still capable to quiver! (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 146,123 Points Fabrizio Frosini (5/20/2015 6:45:00 AM)

    Deathfugue

    '' Hamburger’s translation of ''man'' into ''one'' provides an uncomfortable answer to this question. By differentiating the ''one'' from the ''you'' early in the poem, Hamburger makes it even more clear in the latter parts of the poem that there is a distinction between what could happen to anyone versus what is happening to the we, the speakers, the labor camp prisoners.

    ''Then a grave you will have in the clouds'' Hamburger translates, the ''you'' spoken to the Jews by the camp guard, ''there one lies unconfined''. A crucial placement of ''one'' Hamburger creates a distance between the grave that ''you'' are digging and the instruction that anyone can lie in it, unconfined. This leaves room in the sky not only for the Jewish prisoners who are digging the grave —their grave— but for the guard, for his serpents, for Margarete, for Shulamith, for Celan, for his readers. Because the grave has been dug by the Jews, with day after day of forced labor, then it should belong to the Jews, and they should find the comfort of lying there no longer chained, imprisoned, or confined.
    However, the discomfort rooted so deeply in this ''one'' little word is that Hamburger suggests they might inevitably share this grave, this death, with those experiencing the Holocaust opposing them, whether through action or through written word.
    Uncomfortably, unconventionally, Hamburger lets ''der Mann'' lie beside ''seine Juden'' even in the afterlife. ''
    [Goodrich, J., Rhyme or Reason? : Successfully Translating the Poetry of Paul Celan,2008] (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 146,123 Points Fabrizio Frosini (5/20/2015 6:33:00 AM)

    Deathfugue
    In Celan’s ''Todesfuge'', Celan presents his readers in his opening two lines with four different times of the day. A reader understands that this 'black milk' is forcefully constant yet darkly discomforting, and its repetition scores the image of black milk into nearly every stanza.

    Though they might come across as merely subtle differences, the translations of these pairs —''evening'' and ''midday''; ''sundown'' and ''noon''— structure the time and place around which the poem centers.
    Felstiner’s translations suggest general times. Evening and midday blend ranges of hours together, without specificity.
    Oppositely, Hamburger’s translations are more definite. His ''sundown'' and ''noon'' provide exact times in the day in which ''we'' drink the black milk, almost like clockwork. Rather than the hours that pass through the evening, Hamburger’s ''we'' drinks the black milk at precisely sundown; rather than the hours surrounding midday, Hamburger’s ''we'' drinks the black milk at precisely noon. The rigidity, the exactness, of Hamburger’s word choices hint at the structure present in the camp system —the wake up call, the evening roll call, and the slim rationings of food at specific times during the day— and therefore offer the reader a more uncomfortable, somewhat tangible sense of the activities of the camp and of the Jewish experiences there.
    [Goodrich, J., Rhyme or Reason? : Successfully Translating the Poetry of Paul Celan,2008] (Report) Reply

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Poems About Death

  1. 1. Let Me Die A Youngman's Death , Roger McGough
  2. 2. And Death Shall Have No Dominion , Dylan Thomas
  3. 3. Death Be Not Proud , John Donne
  4. 4. Death Is Nothing At All , Henry Scott Holland
  5. 5. Because I Could Not Stop For Death , Emily Dickinson
  6. 6. A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, O.. , Dylan Thomas
  7. 7. Nothing But Death , Pablo Neruda
  8. 8. Father Death Blues , Allen Ginsberg
  9. 9. A Dream Of Death , William Butler Yeats
  10. 10. Angel Of Death (Death Death Death Dea.. , Udiah (witness to Yah)
  11. 11. A Death Blow Is A Life Blow To Some , Emily Dickinson
  12. 12. Death Wants More Death , Charles Bukowski
  13. 13. A Poet's Death Is His Life Iv , Khalil Gibran
  14. 14. An Irish Airman Forsees His Death , William Butler Yeats
  15. 15. Death Xxvii , Khalil Gibran
  16. 16. A Funeral Poem On The Death Of C. E. An .. , Phillis Wheatley
  17. 17. The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner , Randall Jarrell
  18. 18. The Beauty Of Death Xiv , Khalil Gibran
  19. 19. After Death , Sara Teasdale
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  21. 21. A City's Death By Fire , Derek Walcott
  22. 22. Death , Rainer Maria Rilke
  23. 23. Death Leaves Us Homesick, Who Behind , Emily Dickinson
  24. 24. First Death In Nova Scotia , Elizabeth Bishop
  25. 25. A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed , Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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  27. 27. On The Death Of That Most Excellent Lady, , Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
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  30. 30. Go Down, Death , James Weldon Johnson
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  32. 32. Death &Amp; Fame , Allen Ginsberg
  33. 33. On The Death Of Anne Brontë , Charlotte Brontë
  34. 34. The Death Of The Hired Man , Robert Frost
  35. 35. Love &Amp; Fame &Amp; Death , Charles Bukowski
  36. 36. Death Fugue , Paul Celan
  37. 37. For The Anniversary Of My Death , William Stanley Merwin
  38. 38. On Death , Anne Killigrew
  39. 39. All But Death, Can Be Adjusted , Emily Dickinson
  40. 40. Don'T Fear Death , Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok
  41. 41. As At Thy Portals Also Death , Walt Whitman
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  47. 47. On The Death Of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield , Phillis Wheatley
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  50. 50. If Death Is Kind , Sara Teasdale
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