Home Links The Poems Index - German Index - English Readings Essay

Nelly Sachs

Noch feiert Tod das Leben /

Death Still Celebrates Life

1961 - part 3

     For B. N. and J. M.

Grabschrift / Epitaph

O open wide the white gates  

for asylum

Silence – silence – silence –

Inwardness redeems:

no other victory counts –

So here we plant remembered self-abandon –

     11 April 1961

     in grief

Überall Jerusalem

Our arrows miss the mark,

the truth stays hidden in the quiver.

Darkness lingers where the sun should be.

The thirty-six are bowed in toil.

Yet here’s

a momentary

retrospect –

wildfire judgement, blazing

in the Judge’s absence –


clairvoyant sickness

issues in a revelation.

The crone, the prophetess,

is thumping with her staff.

Within her craziness lies hidden gold.

Ich kenne nicht den Raum

I do not know the fullness

of victorious


where utmost urgency

at last becomes reality  

nor do I comprehend how heaven holds the smiling play

of one who as a child was cast into the playing flames

And yet I know that it’s this knowing what I do not know

which gives my anguished thought its one true moment in the sun –

Die gekrümmte Linie des Leidens

Pain: a scribble

overlaid upon the pure geometry

of God’s creation

The gleaming tracer-paths of grace

fade into swoons and shiverings

I lack the ideal target’s stillness

Here in these four walls

there’s nothing but the painting hand of time

eternity in embryo

a shadowed brow

and the obsessive churnings of a soul

in flight from her vocation: as a wound –

Nacht der Nächte

Night fell: a coffin full of prayer

The burning-red amens were swiftly smothered

by the black

That purple mulch included teeth – and hair – and flesh –

It fed a tree which trembled in the ghostly breeze

That tree – it was a cherub

who then threw himself – appalled –

into the flames

The branches blazed prophetically

And other angels sang of resurrection

Diese Kette von Rätseln

This chain of riddles

hung upon the neck of night:

a king’s communication from afar


unless perhaps to comet-travellers

who sense the woundedness

of all that is


to a beggar

who has measured every road

in cost of blood

by crawling on his knees

For truly reading –

that means suffering-through

A discipline of patience

unto very death –

So einsam ist der Mensch

How lonely human life is

Look out east

where melancholia irradiates the face of dawn

Red is the east with cock-crow

O now hear me –

South: to perish

in the lion’s frenzy

and the whiplash equatorial lightning

O now hear me –

West: to fade into the cherub-choirs

of sunset

O now hear me –

North: to lie awake

the whole blue night

a first fresh bud of death upon the lidded eye

still striving on towards the source –

So steigt der Berg

The way a mountain fills

a window-frame

God’s love is dark-sublime

The vast receding vistas

of your dusty past my people

rend my granite heart

God’s love is dark-sublime

Night builds her citadel

against the propaganda of the day

“Observe”, says she, “these galaxies:

you would do well to honour

their Creator’s