To the boy Elis
by Georg Trakl
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Elis, when the blackbird cries from the black forest,
it announces your downfall.
Your lips sip the rock-spring's blue coolness.
Your brow sweats blood
recalling ancient myths
and dark interpretations of birds' flight.
Yet you enter the night with soft footfalls;
the ripe purple grapes hang suspended
as you wave your arms more beautifully in the blueness.
A thornbush crackles;
where now are your moonlike eyes?
How long, oh Elis, have you been dead?
A monk dips waxed fingers
into your body's hyacinth;
Our silence is a black abyss
from which sometimes a docile animal emerges
slowly lowering its heavy lids.
A black dew drips from your temples:
the lost gold of vanished stars.
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: I believe that in the second stanza the blood on Elis's forehead may be a reference to the apprehensive ****** sweat of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. If my interpretation is correct, Elis hears the blackbird's cries, anticipates the danger represented by a harbinger of death, but elects to continue rather than turn back. From what I have been able to gather, the color blue had a special significance for Georg Trakl: it symbolized longing and perhaps a longing for death. The colors blue, purple and black may represent a progression toward death in the poem. Keywords/Tags: Georg Trakl, translation, German, Elis, blackbird, black forest, birds, brow, blood, grapes, monk, body, dew, stars