Thursday, November 2, 2017

Allerseelen

Four Trees / Vier Baume, 1917 ~ Egon Schiele, 1890 - 1980

From Missouri Photographer Jay Beets:
"Trees in the Sunrise two mornings ago . . .
the painting reminded me of them . . . "


All Souls' Day / Allerseelen

Place on the table the fragrant mignonettes,
Bring in the last red asters,
and let us talk of love again,
as once we did in May.

Give me your hand, so that I may secretly press it;
and if someone sees, it's all one to me.
Just give me one of your sweet glances,
as once you did in May.

Flowers bloom and spread their fragrance today on every grave;
one day in the year is sacred for the dead.
Come close to my heart, so that I can have you again,
as once I did in May.


by the Austrian poet Hermann von Gilm (1812 - 1864)
set to music in 1885 by Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949)

This beautiful song for The Day of All Souls first came to may attention in the 1984 film of Malcolm Lowry's novel Under the Volcano, which takes place in Mexico on November 2nd, aka: All Souls Day or Allerseelen; The Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos.

Alternate translation for stanzas 1 & 3:

Place on the mound sweet mignonette before us,
The last red blooming asters hither bring
Let memr'y's charm our early love restore us
As once in Spring.

How sweetly blooms each grave with fragrant flowers
Sacred to all souls of our dead, this day,
Come to my heart, through all the blessed hours
As once in May

In his eerie "November" dirge, contemporary American Tom Waits provides an interesting comparison to the German love song. As von Gilm hearkens back to May at the conclusion of each stanza, so Waits calls out to April for rescue from bleak November's skeletal imagery:


November

No shadow
No stars
No moon
No care
November
It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That's the color of bone

No prayers for November
To linger longer
Stick your spoon in the wall
We'll slaughter them all

November has tied me
To an old dead tree
Get word to April
To rescue me
November's cold chain

Made of wet boots and rain
And shiny black ravens
On chimney smoke lanes
November seems odd
You're my firing squad
November

With my hair slicked back
With carrion shellac
With the blood from a pheasant
And the bone from a hare

Tied to the branches
Of a roebuck stag
Left to wave in the timber
Like a buck shot flag

Go away you rainsnout
Go away, blow your brains out
November


Tom Waits, b 1949
Singer-songwriter, composer, actor, poet

Related Article for
Día de los Muertos:
"A Brief History of the ‘Danse Macabre’"

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