Da ich so unsicher bin und die Vergleichung mit der Vergangenheit gleich die Gegenwart durchsichtig macht, da ich beim alleinsein mich von den Strahlen der Sterne getroffen fühle und mich im Dunklen von Muscheln verliere, und unter vielen fürchte verschlungen zu werden weil es einen nach dem andern gelüstet, da ein Wort mich verdüstert wie Rauch aus Zauberkräutern meine Gedichte aber unheimlicher sind als der Wald offener als ein Schiff, so denk ich dein und deiner Küsse wie ein Hauchgewordener, Baumgewordener des Augenblicks wo er in den Armen eines Mädchens lag. Wenn ich dich küsse zieht mein schwankend selbst, ganz Auge, sich in einen Edelstein zusammen.
Since I am so insecure and any comparison with the past immediately makes the present transparent;
since, when I am by myself, I feel touched by the rays of the stars and lose myself in the darkness of mussels where, being one among many, I fear I will be devoured because one lusts after another;
since a single word darkens me like smoke from magic herbs
but my poems are eerier than the forest and more open than a ship,
I think of you and your kisses as one turned into a mere breath of air, as one who has become a tree the moment that found him in the arms of a girl.
When I kiss you, my swaying self, all eye, contracts in a precious stone.

~ Hugo von Hofmannsthal



Moonlit Lake Landscape - Sold

Wo ist das Entzücken des Ruderers auf dem dunklen See? In ihm oder in dem Beschauer – dem Wanderer der die Gewitterwolke sieht und den Gischt aufbrausen hört oder in dem Falken der nichtachtend dahinstürmt? In dem Fischer der seine Netze hereinnimmt und sein Herdfeuer sieht zwischen den Netzstangen? In dem Knaben der eine ins Schilf gelegte Tonne zunagelt und durch Gitter hineinspäht?


Where is the rower’s delight on the dark lake? In him or in the viewer the wanderer who sees the storm cloud coming and hears the spray surge, or in the falcon carelessly storming ahead? In the fisherman pulling in his net and seeing the glow of his hearth fire between the rods of the net? In the boy hidden in the reeds, nailing a barrel shut and peering in through the grating?

~ Hugo von Hofmannsthal





Daliborka:  The Tale

Dalibor of Kozojedy was a knight who owned an estate in the Litomerice region. who was sentenced to death and imprisoned in the Prague Castle tower’s dungeon. What was his misdeed? Well, the crime he committed was to shelter some rebellious serfs. Such an act could not be pardoned and had to be paid for dearly. Dalibor could thus be seen as a kind of Robin Hood for the Czech kingdom under Vladislav Jagiello.

He waited for his sentence for a very long time and passed it playing the “violin”, which he supposedly built out of matches.

According to the legend he learnt to play the violin whilst waiting for his death in the dark inhospitable prison dungeon. Prague people heard him and his touching music awoke in them sympathy. They came to listen to his sad tones, took mercy on him and gave him food and drink. Some say that he was so popular that the authorities feared to announce the date of his execution. Either way one day the violin fell silent… You may have heard that famous Czech composer Smetana turned the idealised story into a famous opera.

For those, who do not believe in legends, there is a “logical” but rather dark explanation about the reasons, why Dalibor became to be associated with the play of the violin. The word violin had also another medieval meaning – it was a torturing device. It was called violin because of its shape with holes for head and arms. Once the procedures started, there was “music” produced by the prisoners. Nevertheless, it was hardly harmonious and miles away from the gentle soft sounds produced by the violin.

A couple snippets on the tower:

  • The tower was built in 1496 at the command of Vladislav Jagellon(czech: Vladislav Jagellonský) as a part of the fortification of the castle premises. In 1781 the tower burned down and due to fire damages it was reduced by one floor the following year. Since 1883 the tower has been open to public.
  • The tower was used as a prison from its very establishment. The area designed for cells was separated by wooden partitionsand even heated. Less serious culprits were imprisoned on higher floors. The prison also had a dungeon for especially tough criminals, which was situated in the basement. Another famous prisoner was the zealous patron of art, the Count Franz Anton from Sporck who had, among others, a merit in the introduction of French horn in Bohemia.


Farewell Dark Gaol


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Farewell, dark gaol. You hold some better hearts
Than in this savage world I thought to find.
I do not love you nor the fraudulent arts
By which men tutor men to ways unkind.
Your law is not my law, and yet my mind
Remains your debtor. It has learned to see
How dark a thing the earth would be and blind
But for the light of human charity.

I am your debtor thus and for the pang
Which touched and chastened, and the nights of thought
Which were my years of learning. See I hang
Your image here, a glory all unsought,
About my neck. Thus saints in symbol hold
Their tools of death and darings manifold.


Love as a Spiraling Chrysalis


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But Love truly becomes love only when, no longer an embryo developing painfully in the darkness of the body, it ventures to confess itself with lips and breath.  However hard it tries to remain a chrysalis, a time comes when the intricate tissue of the cocoon tears, and out it falls, dropping from the heights to the farthest depths, falling with redoubled force into the startled heart.

~ SZ