Monday, May 7, 2012

Tuesday Poem - Gottfried Benn

Der einsame Backzahn einer Dirne, / die unbekannt verstorben war, / trug eine Goldplombe. / Die übrigen waren wie auf stille Verabredung / ausgegangen. / Den schlug der Leichendiener sich heraus, / versetzte ihn und ging für tanzen. / Denn, sagte er, / nur Erde solle zur Erde werden.
                                                                                                                              Gottfried Benn

The lonesome molar of a love-maid, / who had died unknown, / wore a gold filling. / As if by silent agreement the leftovers / had gone out. / The mortician knocked out the filling, / pawned it and went dancing for. / Because, he said, / only earth should return to earth.


The solitary molar of a whore
who had died without a name
wore a gold filling.
The other teeth, as if by silent agreement,
had already left.
The mortician smacked the filling loose,
removed it, and left to go dancing.
‘Only earth,’ he said,
‘should return to earth.’

I came by chance recently upon the German poet Gottfried Benn 1886-1956.  I read a translation of this little poem which appeared in his five poem chapbook Morgue und andere Gedichte [Morgue and other Poems] (Berlin, 1912).
I had no idea of its provenance but out of curiosity, because I have a little German, I went onto google to see if I could find the original and check it out at the source. I must say I was fascinated by the poet's life, and by the shock and revulsion this little book caused. You see I didn't find the poem shocking at all. It seemed, if anything, quite like a lot of other poems I have read.
Times have changed. I wonder how much these little poems were instrumental in that change.


  1. Yes it's not shocking though it might be if it was one's relation.:-)Otherwise it's delightful! Hmm
    Is the second one the translation? and if so who is Zach Gomes and why is he taking credit?

  2. What's a Tuesday without a little Gottfried Benn?

    Thanks for this one -- grauenhaft, und cool.