Monday, September 12, 2016
His 1832 novel, Nolten the Painter, first brought him attention as a writer. He is also remembered for his humour—such as in Mozart on the Way to Prague—and his fairy tales—such as The Little Dried-Up Man. His poems, however, are his greatest literary contribution. Mörike's lyrics have been set to music as folk tunes, and for opera.
Ludwig Wittgenstein described Mörike to his teacher Bertrand Russell as, "really a great poet and his poems are among the best things we have..."
The following poem is translated by David Luke.
All things were made by him
I saw a painting once, a wondrous work it was,
In a Carthusian monastery I know well.
Today again, my solitary mountain walk
High among rigid scattered rubble of wild rocks
Has brought its lively colours back before my mind.
Beside a stony chasm, edged with scanty green
Where, shaded by two palm-trees, goats that graze on this
Precipitous slope enjoy a meagre nourishment,
It shows the Christ-Child, seated there on barren stone;
A soft white fleece is cushion for his tender limbs.
A little less than childlike looks this lovely boy;
Hot summers (five of them he must have seen by now)
Have gently browned his healthy skin, his delicate cheeks,
His arms and legs which to the knees are covered by
A little yellow tunic, purple at the hem.
Out of his dark eyes glows a quiet inward fire,
Yet a strange nameless charm hovers about his lips.
An aged friendly shepherd, stooping over him,
Has given him a plaything curiously shaped,
A petrifact from the sea's depths. The boy has held
This wonder in his hand and looked at it,
And now his gaze seems startled, widened into thought,
Staring at me, yet actually objectless,
Piercing eternal distances of infinite time:
As if there flickered on his clouded brow a flash
of divine consciousness, an inkling that must fade,
In the same instant; and the Maker of the worlds,
The Word in the Beginning, as an earthly child at play,
Smiling and all unwitting, shows me His own work.
Thanks again to Burl Horniachek for suggesting this post.
Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.