Annette von Droste-Hülshoff
For Eloi de R.
‘I am unable, yonder beggar cries,
To stand, or move; if he say true, he lies.’
A Lame Beggar
Yes, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff,
joy is ephemeral,
but at any moment it can return.
Nothing, Annette, is resurrected more quickly
than the will to hope, than illusion.
I think of your tender feelings for young Levin Schücking,
the adolescent poet,
although it makes me feel deliciously queasy.
Finally you knew the sweet scent of the forest of happiness,
finally you felt the stigmata that a word full of affection leaves on the heart,
the scar that one caress leaves on the skin,
finally you tasted the food of friendship!
Suddenly drunk with love, you threw off
the heavy veil of divine virtue
and your life of silent obscurity
below the horizon of green Westphalia.
Avidly you seized the smile of spring
so as to live,
to finally feel alive and happy.
You knew, Freilin Annette,
beyond the hesitant progress of time,
the subtle, sublime alchemy
of two souls
fulfilled as one.
Alas, why did I never study German!
I feel my future will be like Félix Vicq d’Azyr’s:
he had a terrible illness
and died, Freilin Annette,
like a beggar
without knowing your joys!
Translated from the French of Athanase Vantchev de Thracy by Norton Hodges