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English translation © Richard Stokes

You are welcome, good friend, to our samite-soft lands,
great proud handsome dolphin, princely rose of your ocean!
He lies as though dead, stretched out on the naked sand,
a ladies’ man, laid low by the long sea voyage.

No halo shall ever encircle this head.
Sea water seeps from skeins full of shells and wrack.
The salt dries stiff on peach-soft skin.

Now he leaps up:
Where am I? asks the rough voice,
whose roar tells of storm tides,
liqueur and mortal sin.
Here he stands and gleams as pomegranates bloom,
as stars, with their writing, sparkle in the firmament.

My thoughts follow the lines inscribed by God in his network of veins –
are they secret signs?
I think of runes,
or of infinity and the majesty of creation.

And something stirs within me,
it could be longing – then I hear
inside me the bight child-like sound of two flutes,
as though carved by an expert artist’s hand
from Caesarion’s clavicle:
two bright little flutes of ivory,
from which the notes are about to leap –
a chirping, whimpering sound, the ring-ousel’s song,
the cicadas’ song, the screech of owls –
which, who knows, will sound so lovely and heavenly
that it will confuse even cold Death
and cause him to dance, if only for a short time.


Hans Werner Henze

Hans Werner Henze (1926 – 2012) was a German composer. His large oeuvre of works is extremely varied in style, having been influenced by serialism, atonality, Stravinsky, Italian music, Arabic music and jazz, as well as traditional schools of German…


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