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(03/09/2015) Songs From the Gallows/Galgenlieder by Christian Morgenstern. New Haven. 1993. Yale University Press. Translated from the German by Walter Arndt. 137 pages. hardcover. Jacket illustration Luft-Leone Design. 0300052782

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   Christina Morgenstern (1871-1914) was a German poet, theosophist, and translator whose nonsense poems have been among the best-known and best-loved works in Germany throughout this century. Often compared to the drolleries of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, Morgenstern’s poems are whimsical yet haunting, a rare blend of humor and odd metaphysical intimations. Morgenstern wrote the first of his Galgenlieder after he and some friends had returned from a carefree outing past Gallows Hill near Potsdam and formed a ‘fraternal order of the gallows.’ His collection, published in Germany between 1905 and 1916, eventually comprised 286 poems. This new edition is a bilingual selection of some 90 poems from the original work. The reader is introduced to inventions like the clock that moves slowly or quickly as its sympathy for the clock watcher dictates; the luncheon newspaper that, when read, also satisfies one’s hunger; the mail that is sent from a vacation retreat on the antlers or tails of bucks. To translate Morgenstern is a daunting task, and Walter Arndt has succeeded brilliantly, following the poet’s verbal acrobatics, his phonetic, semantic, and syntactic play with words and clauses, and, where possible, his trick of stripping discourse of conventions and pretensions by a bizarre literal interpretation of conventional phrases and metaphors. His translation of Morgenstern’s poems of nonsense, or ‘supersense,’ will be treasured by scholars of the German lyric and by children of all ages.

 

Morgenstern Christian  Christian Otto Josef Wolfgang Morgenstern (6 May 1871 – 31 March 1914) was a German author and poet from Munich. Morgenstern married Margareta Gosebruch von Liechtenstern on 7 March 1910. He worked for a while as a journalist in Berlin, but spent much of his life traveling through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, primarily in a vain attempt to recover his health. His travels, though they failed to restore him to health, allowed him to meet many of the foremost literary and philosophical figures of his time in central Europe. Morgenstern's poetry, much of which was inspired by English literary nonsense, is immensely popular, even though he enjoyed very little success during his lifetime. He made fun of scholasticism, e.g. literary criticism in "Drei Hasen", grammar in "Der Werwolf", narrow-mindedness in "Der Gaul", and symbolism in "Der Wasseresel". In “Scholastikerprobleme" he discussed how many angels could sit on a needle. Embedded in his humorous poetry is a subtle metaphysical streak. Gerolf Steiner's mock-scientific book about the fictitious animal order Rhinogradentia (1961), inspired by Morgenstern's nonsense poem Das Nasobēm, is testament to his enduring popularity. Morgenstern was a member of the General Anthroposophical Society. Dr. Rudolf Steiner called him 'a true representative of Anthroposophy'. Morgenstern died in 1914 of tuberculosis, which he had contracted from his mother, who died in 1881. Walter Arndt, Sherman Fairchild Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Dartmouth College, is also a distinguished and prize-winning translator of Pushkin, Rilke, Goethe, Wilhelm Busch, and other poets.

 

 

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