Franz Werfel: To a Lark in War-Time
Translated by Edith Abercrombie Snow
The First Transport of Wounded
Careful! No outburst now! Tremble! Hush!
You people, you folk, it is true! Yes, it is true!
Do not sob out, you people!
Hold the scream tight in your throat!
Still! Lower your head
That now is bowed down forever, you women!
Your kerchief, your hand hold to your mouth! Hush!
People, you folk, it is true!
Not a word more, no more wailing!
Quietly pass on that horror-stricken look,
And touch each other, oppressed ones, with a gentle touch!
Look there, over there, where now I point with my hand!
Bow down lower, sleep-walkers, pain-begotten ones,
You wretched, oh you lamentable age!
To a Lark in War-Time
Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert SHELLEY
Thou heavenly quivering beneath the deathlike above!
Thou ethereal whirring above the deadly beneath!
Thou ever prolific, prolific soul!
Oh hope, not ours,
In the midst of this tearless abyss!
We lift our hardened feet
To drums and convicts’ march.
Trumpets, whips on the open flesh
Flog us and force us ahead.
Still we can feel thee aloft
Over our slavish necks,
Thee, little ardent one,
Thee, God’s flamelet of song.
Oh thou life, thou innocent speck,
Thou art not of us!
Because we lie,
We bellow and glare
When the guard herds us to soup.
We fear just one thing,
Our master, the whip.
And so we are not what we are.
But thou, tiny lark,
Thou unblemished, exquisite truth,
Thou doest thy life,
Thou livest thy song, and
Thou art what thou art.