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"Song of Childhood" by Peter Handke

Lied Vom Kindsein – Peter Handke

Als das Kind Kind war,
ging es mit hängenden Armen,
wollte der Bach sei ein Fluß,
der Fluß sei ein Strom,
und diese Pfütze das Meer.

Als das Kind Kind war,
wußte es nicht, daß es Kind war,
alles war ihm beseelt,
und alle Seelen waren eins.

Als das Kind Kind war,
hatte es von nichts eine Meinung,
hatte keine Gewohnheit,
saß oft im Schneidersitz,
lief aus dem Stand,
hatte einen Wirbel im Haar
und machte kein Gesicht beim fotografieren.

Als das Kind Kind war,
war es die Zeit der folgenden Fragen:
Warum bin ich ich und warum nicht du?
Warum bin ich hier und warum nicht dort?
Wann begann die Zeit und wo endet der Raum?
Ist das Leben unter der Sonne nicht bloß ein Traum?
Ist was ich sehe und höre und rieche
nicht bloß der Schein einer Welt vor der Welt?
Gibt es tatsächlich das Böse und Leute,
die wirklich die Bösen sind?
Wie kann es sein, daß ich, der ich bin,
bevor ich wurde, nicht war,
und daß einmal ich, der ich bin,
nicht mehr der ich bin, sein werde?

Als das Kind Kind war,
würgte es am Spinat, an den Erbsen, am Milchreis,
und am gedünsteten Blumenkohl.
und ißt jetzt das alles und nicht nur zur Not.

Als das Kind Kind war,
erwachte es einmal in einem fremden Bett
und jetzt immer wieder,
erschienen ihm viele Menschen schön
und jetzt nur noch im Glücksfall,
stellte es sich klar ein Paradies vor
und kann es jetzt höchstens ahnen,
konnte es sich Nichts nicht denken
und schaudert heute davor.

Als das Kind Kind war,
spielte es mit Begeisterung
und jetzt, so ganz bei der Sache wie damals, nur noch,
wenn diese Sache seine Arbeit ist.

Als das Kind Kind war,
genügten ihm als Nahrung Apfel, Brot,
und so ist es immer noch.

Als das Kind Kind war,
fielen ihm die Beeren wie nur Beeren in die Hand
und jetzt immer noch,
machten ihm die frischen Walnüsse eine rauhe Zunge
und jetzt immer noch,
hatte es auf jedem Berg
die Sehnsucht nach dem immer höheren Berg,
und in jeder Stadt
die Sehnsucht nach der noch größeren Stadt,
und das ist immer noch so,
griff im Wipfel eines Baums nach dem Kirschen in einemHochgefühl
wie auch heute noch,
eine Scheu vor jedem Fremden
und hat sie immer noch,
wartete es auf den ersten Schnee,
und wartet so immer noch.

Als das Kind Kind war,
warf es einen Stock als Lanze gegen den Baum,
und sie zittert da heute noch.

Song of Childhood – Peter Handke

When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.

When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.

When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.

When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?

When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.

When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.

It had visualized a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.

When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.

When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
And so it is even now.

When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,
it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,
It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.

When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.

And this is the poem spoken aloud in its original language by a native speaker. It means nothing to look at the words if one does not know how to read or pronounce German, but to hear them -- even if you do not know what they mean -- you can understand that the words are placed the way they are with the intention to create something beautiful.

German, to me, is a very naturally beautiful language. I can actually remember the first time I ever heard it spoken by people who had come from Germany. Oddly, it was at a rummage sale where my sister and I had reserved a space on the lot and were sitting there on a blanket with boxes of old books and toys we were selling. A man came by with his two sons and spoke to them in a language I did not recognize but thought was just LOVELY to listen to. Mopreover, I couldn't guess by their appearance what nationality they were, though in retrospect this is a bit ironic because the man and his sons all looked as if they had been genetically engineered to be examples of a perfect Aryan -- pale skin, blonde hair so bright it almost glowed, blue eyes, all of them looking fit and well-dressed... Mythical beings, really. I have only ever come across those traits before or since in Russians, only they all still had a distinctly Russian appearance somehow. There is a kind of appearance I associate with Germans, but it's less distinct, not all Germans seem to have it, and it's so vaguely-defined as to be close to impossible for me to identify it in women. At any rate, these three boys did not have it. I found it shocking when I asked if the gentleman would please tell me what language he and his sons had been speaking and he said they were from Germany. I had always thought that German was supposed to be a very harsh, guttural language -- something that is snarled more than spoken. It is so very much the opposite of that.

I urge you to listen to just a little of that video, just to get a sense of what this poem sounds like. Because that is as important as what the words mean sometimes. "Als das Kind Kind war" is a beautiful phrase. I get it stuck in my head the same way I get songs playing over and over. It's simply gorgeous.

This entry was crossposted from http://gethenian.dreamwidth.org/14053.html by means of a complex system of gears and levers run by a squirrel-powered perpetual motion machine and operated by volunteer Buddhist robots. The establishment thanks you for leaving all lolcat-themed items with the attendant dressed as a mince pie in the lobby before commenting. Ovaltine. Burma-Shave.
Tags: other people's poetry, videos
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