Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A famous poem by Stefan George

In the library at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge - turn right half way up the staircase to Hall (the old library that is, the books are all elsewhere now) - there was what must now be a very valuable complete collection of the poetry of Stefan George, bound in deep indigo volumes and done in a most unusual typescript. Here is one of them:
Even more unusual is the calligraphy of the author:
Over fifty years later, I have come across it again. Here is an attempt to translate it:

Enter the park which they call dead and gaze:
The shimmering of smiling shores beyond ·
The unexpected blue of pure clouds’ haze
Illuminates the patchwork paths and pond.

Take there the deep-toned yellow · the soft grey
Of birch and boxwood · where but warm winds stray ·
The final roses aren’t quite wilted still ·
Select and kiss them, braid the wreath at will.

And these last asters you must not forget ·
The purple round the straying stems of vine
That too which might remain of green life twine
In what is autumn’s countenance as yet.

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