Poetry: Reimagining Winterreise

This week, I was lucky to sit in on a chamber ensemble with Christoph Pregardien, who was performing Franz Schubert's Winterreise. A series of short songs sung in German by a tenor and accompanying musicians. The programme contained the English translation alongside the original poetry.

I sat in the dark concert hall charmed. A lot of the imagery was pretty evocative and mentally I started writing my own versions. By the end of the night, my words of genius were long lost to other thoughts and the noise of applause, so instead I took a copy of the programme home.

I cut each song up line by line and sat with a pile of paper on my desk, sifting through it like a jigsaw puzzle. Let's call it creative recycling. Written in 1827, the original songs follow the journey of a young man wandering the landscape after being rejected by his lover. I had a lot of dismal, wintery words to work with, as well as a lot of walking. Here are my creations; my “found poems” about leaving and love.

Today, Too, I Had To Walk

I should like to look back once more.
My journey has brought me
with weary steps, through
a bright, warm house.

Signposts stand on the roads,
I tripped on every stone
and stumble back
from the town.

It is nothing but winter -
Barefoot on the ice,
it was too cold to stand still
and I wander on, relentlessly.

I should feel happier in the dark;
the cold wind blew,
dogs bark, chains rattle;
A morning after my own heart.

I must travel a road.
My heart sees its own image
in this darkness;
I did not turn back.

I close my eyes again.
Every river will reach the sea,
even in the darkness.
Well, I do not have much further to walk.

The Girl Spoke Of Love

Gaze into other people’s faces!
Let stray dogs howl
as if they were calling to me!
Winter, cold and savage,
on your surface I carve
with numb fingers
many a word of love:
faithfulness unto the grave.

Between sunset and the light of morning
when storms were still raging,
I dreamt of mutual love.
And to this day,
I am used to straying,
if my heart ever melts again -
as it will -
my hopes fall with it.

He Should Have Noticed It Sooner

I cannot choose the time
when a faint breeze blows
in and out of bustling streets:
my heart still beats so warmly.

When that day comes to my mind;
the day of our first greeting,
how differently you received me.
I arrived a stranger,

Here, I thought to myself,
How still you have become
throughout this whole journey
as if unwilling to leave me.

It was cold and dark.
In my delusion I thought:
friend, your fate is sealed
to seize my body as prey.

What foolish yearning
that it lures the wandered
into the deepest rocky chasms.
I follow it gladly, knowing.

With it you flow through the town
and seek hidden paths painted in the sky.
And tomorrow morning all will have vanished;
in this calm you now feel the stirring.

My heart, do you now recognise
you have covered yourself;
a shadow thrown by the moon,
immovable before my eyes.

And he lets everything go on.
Shall I, then, take
the hour and the day
and hang my hopes upon it?