Monday 3 November 2014

Death of a Poet: We Will Remember Them Georg Trakl 3 November 2014

Georg Trakl was an Austrian pharmacist, poet and playwright who spent the first 21 years of his life in the home town of Mozart, before moving to Vienna. Despite his parents being protestants he was sent the the Catholic elementary school and started writing poetry from the age of 13.

After quitting high school he worked in a pharmacy and pursued this as a career as well as writing two short plays All Soul's Day and Fata Morgana but neither was a success. His move to Vienna in 1908 was so he could study pharmacy. But also brought him to the attention of Ludwig von Ficker the editor of the journal Der Brenner who became his patron. He approached Ludwig Wittgenstein the philosopher who provided a stipend anonymously so that Trakl could write full time in 1913.

At the outbreak of war he was sent to the Eastern Front as a medical official to treat soldiers in Galicia (which is parts of Ukraine and Poland today). But he suffered bouts of depression treating so many victims of the war. During a serious bout of depression Trakl wrote to Ficker for advise who suggested he communicate with Wittgenstein. Upon received the note from Trakl, Wittgenstein headed to the hospital in which Trakl was stationed only to find he had died of a cocaine overdose.

While not the victim of a bullet, mortar or bombing Trakl is neither the less a victim of the war. He is also the first of the poets in the series to have died on the Eastern Front and therefore his poem about that front is the one that I shall use to mark his memory.

On the Eastern Front
The winter storm's mad organ playing
is like the Volk's dark fury,
the black-red tidal wave of onslaught,
defoliated stars.
Her features smashed, her arms silver,
night calls to the dying men,
beneath shadows of November's ash,
ghost casualties heave.
A spiky no-man's-land encloses the town.
The moon hunts petrified women
from their blood-spattered doorsteps.
Grey wolves have forced the gates.
Im Osten
Den wilden Orgeln des Wintersturms
Gleicht des Volkes finstrer Zorn,
Die purpurne Woge der Schlacht,
Entlaubter Sterne.
Mit zerbrochnen Brauen, silbernen Armen
Winkt sterbenden Soldaten die Nacht.
Im Schatten der herbstlichen Esche
Seufzen die Geister der Erschlagenen.
Dornige Wildnis umgürtet die Stadt.
Von blutenden Stufen jagt der Mond
Die erschrockenen Frauen.
Wilde Wölfe brachen durchs Tor.

Georg Trakl 3 Feb 1887 Salzburg, Cisleithania, Austria-Hungary - 3 Nov 1914 Krákow, Austria-Hungary (now Poland)See also: The other poets who died in the war.

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