Poetry by Alexander Lernet-Holenia

translated by Johannes Beilharz



Delicious shimmer shining on lamb clouds, then
on the lake's ripple, or on the fallen
cemetery wall, how on a shepherdess'
satin dress silver
flowers stir, here and there!

Where in the rushing wheat you cohabited
now falls dew in an Indian summer night,
and the treacherous gleam
covers your bright stars...



Beau sire Bedevere, once I had come
with him, who is nobody's son, to a
lake from which we, far away still,
had seen black swans rise.
It was noon. A white thunderstorm rose.
A silent thunder, the leaf storm
bent over the waters. The sword lily
leaves trembled from the soundless echo.
On the shore walked the lake nymph,
her wet dress beating her
naked feet. From the waters emerged
a hand and help up a sword,
its sheath wound with white strap,
whose ends were numberless like
ribbons crossed in the mane hair
of a horse, like in the hair of one
going to a dance, a farm maid.
I could not see whose arm carried
the hand, I could not see the man
who held his naked hand out of the water.
I swear, messire, it was only a hand.
And I took the sword, and the hand sank into the lake.

I know I'm going to Avalun...
Beau sire Bedevere, I order you
to return the sword Excalibur
to the lake, to wade into the water
up to your hips and to throw the sword.
The hand will reappear
to seize the sword, and the lake, again,
will be still, and nothing will stir but
the lily leaves under the leaf storm's
inaudible thunder.

Original titles An den Mond and Der Tod Arthurs, both from Die Trophae. Copyright 1946/56 by Alexander Lernet-Holenia / Paul Zsolnay Verlag. English translation Copyright 1981 / 2000 by Johannes Beilharz.

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