Poems in the Language of Death

Paul Celan’s truest homeland, paradoxically, was the German language — the language of the Nazis who imprisoned him in a forced labor camp and murdered his parents.

Source: Poems in the Language of Death

  1. Shine, Perishing Republic

    While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening
    to empire
    And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the
    mass hardens,
    I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots
    to make earth.
    Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and deca-
    dence; and home to the mother.

    You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stub-
    bornly long or suddenly
    A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
    shine, perishing republic.
    But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thick-
    ening center; corruption
    Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s feet there
    are left the mountains.
    And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant,
    insufferable master.
    There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught–they say–
    God, when he walked on earth.

    Robinson Jeffers

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