Doctor Fausti Weheklag und Höllenfahrt

Das Habe-nun-Ach für Angewandte Poesie.

Impotence proved I’m superman

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Update for Letzte Hand:

This is not a kidding article, no satire, nor parody: Goethe’s poem Das Tagebuch (The Diary), finished by the author on April 30th, 1810, was first published in a translation from German language by John Frederick Nims, in December 1968 — in the US American Playboy magazine.

For centuries, the poem was concealed in Goethe’s complete work editions, including the popular Hamburger and Jubiläumsausgabe; only the legendary 143-volume Weimarer Ausgabe has it „secreted“ into the appendices, for being an „obscenity“. It was not before September 23rd, 1920 that Kurt Tucholsky made it more public in a broader essay named Iste Goethe in Die Weltbühne. Today, German texts can be found in Projekt Gutenberg or Wikisource. Most versions are still illegible and full of flaws. For intense history and interpretation, consult the Frankfurter Ausgabe by Karl Eibl, the only reasonable — and availbale — edition of all of Goethe’s poems. Deep in the 21st century, scholars still have to stumble across it in old boys‘ jokes webpages (see here), the Frankfurter Ausgabe, Tucholsky’s Iste Goethe essay, or the American Playboy magazine.

Germans traditionally tend to think of Americans as philistine.

——— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

The Diary

for the first time in English, a verse rendering
of a light yet tenderhearted poem
from the pen of Germany’s greatest writer
Ribald Classic

in: Playboy USA, December 1968, page 212 to 213,
collected in: John Frederick Nims: Sappho to Valéry: Poems in Translation, Rutgers University Press, 1971;
——— Translated by John Frederick Nims:

Goethe, The Diary, Playboy December 1968, page 212Goethe, The Diary, Playboy December 1968, page 213

[Motto, not translated for Playboy:]

— aliam tenui, sed iam quum gaudia adirem,
Admonuit dominae deseruitque Venus.

I had another girl, but as I was getting close to the blissful moment,
Venus reminded me about my true love, and went away.

Tibullus, I, 5, 39/40.

We’ve heard and heard, and finally believe:
There’s no enigma like the heart of man.
The things we do! No good to twist or weave —
We’re human yet, in Rome as Turkistan,
What’s my advice? Forget it. Maybe heave
One sigh, and then live with it if you can.
Also, when sins come nudging with that leer,
Count on some Sturdy Virtue to appear.

Once, when I left my love and had to travel
Off on affairs a traveling man transacts,
Collecting facts and figures to unravel
(Thinking of her, her figure and its facts),
As always, when the night spread, thick as gravel,
Its load of stars, my mind went starry. Stacks
Of paper (balanced on my solar plexus)
Told of the day, in mostly Os and Xs.

Finally I’m rolling homeward, when—you’d know it!—
Cru-ungk! and the axle goes. So one less night
Back in the bed I’m dreaming of—but stow it!
There’s work now. Cross your fingers and sit tight.
Two blacksmiths come. I’m grumpy, and I show it.
Shrugging, the one spits left, the other right.
„It’ll be done when done,“ they grunt, and batter.
Whang! at the wheel. Sparks flying. Clang and clatter.

Stuck in the sticks! With just an inn; The Star,
It says outside. Looks bearable. I’m glad
To see a girl with lantern there. So far
So good. She lifts it higher and—not bad!—
Beckons me in: nice lounge, a decent bar.
The bedroom’s cozy as a travel ad.
In such a place, where pleasant things all mingle,
A married man begins to dream he’s single.

I take the room, unpack, get candlelight
And start to bring my diary up to date.
I like to put my thoughts down every night:
Once home again, I share them with my mate.
But something makes me nervous, I can’t write.
Impressions of my day evaporate.
That girl again. She lays the table first,
Hands deft and cool, nice manner. I’m immersed

In studying her skirt, flung out and in,
I talk, she answers. What a lovely sight
To see her carve the chicken, slice the skin.
Her pretty hands and fingers are so light
I feel that certain sprouting up begin—
And sudden I’m dizzy, drunken, tight;
I’m up; I kick the chair; she’s in my arms,
Pressed hard against me all those bouncy charms.

She murmurs, „Mister, cut it out! My aunt,
Old hatchet face, is listening all the time.
She’s down there guessing what I can or can’t
Be up to every minute. Next she’ll climb
Up with that cane of hers, sniff, snuffle, pant!
But look, don’t lock your door. At midnight I’m
More on my own——“ Untwisting (it’s delicious!),
She hurries out. And hurries back with dishes.

Dishes—and warmer eyes. I’m in a blur,
The heavens open and the angels sing.
She sighs, and every sigh looks good on her:
It makes the heaving breast a pretty thing.
She loves me, I can tell: Such colors stir
Deeper on neck and ear—she’s crimsoning!
Then sad, „Well, dinner’s over, I suppose.“
She goes. She doesn’t want to, but she goes.

The chimes at midnight on the sleeping town!
My double bed looks wider by the minute.
„Leave half for her. That’s friendlier, you clown!“
I say, and squiggle over. To begin it,
We’ll leave the candles lit, I plan—when down
The hall a rustle! Slinky silk—she’s in it!
My eyes devour that fully blossomed flesh.
She settles by me and our fingers mesh.

Then sweet and low: „First tell me once or twice
You love me as a person? Say you do.
As girls around here go, I’m rather nice.
Said no to every man, till I saw you.
Why do you think they call me ‚Piece of Ice‘?
Of ice, indeed! Feel here: I’m melting through,
You did it to me, darling. So be good.
And let’s be lovers, do as lovers should.

„It’s my First time, remember. Make it sweet.
Do anything you want to—I don’t care.“
She pressed her cooler breasts against my heat
As if she liked it and felt safer there.
Lips linger on her lips; toes reach and meet,
But—something funny happening elsewhere.
What always used to play the conquering hero
Now shrank like some beginner, down to zero,

The girl seemed happy with a kiss, a word,
Smiling as if she couldn’t ask for more.
So pure a gaze—yet every limb concurred.
So sweet a blossom, and not picked before.
Oh, but she looked ecstatic when she stirred!
And then lay back relaxing, to adore.
Me, I lay back a bit and … beamed away.
Nagged at my dragging actor, „Do the play!“

I cursed the coward, cursed the situation,
Raged at myself (but all this silently),
Laughed like an idiot, without elation,
And almost wept to watch how, sleeping, she
Lay lovelier yet, a gilt-edged invitation.
The lusty candle burned derisively.
Girls who work hard to earn their little pay
Bed down to sleep more often than to play.

She dreamed—I’d swear, an angel—flushed and snug;
Breathed easily, as if the bed were hers.
I’m scrunched up by the wall—there’s that to hug!
Can’t lift a finger. It’s like what occurs
To thirsty travelers in the sands when—glug!—
There’s water bubbling. But a rattler whirs!
Her lips stir softly, talking to a dream.
I hold my breath: O honeychild! And beam.

Detached—for you couId call it that—I say.
Well, it’s a new experience. Now you know
Why bridegrooms in a panic start to pray
They won’t get spooked and see their chances go.
I’d rather be cut up in saberplay
Than in a bind like this. It wasn’t so
When first I saw my real love: from the gloom
Stared at her, brilliant in the brilliant room.

Ah, but my heart leaped then, and every sense,
My whole man’s-shape a pulsing of delight.
Lord, how I swept her off in a wild dance
Light in my arms, her weight against me tight.
You’d think I fought myself for her. One glance
Would tell how I grew greater, gathered might
For her sake, mind and body, heart and soul.
That was the day my actor lived his role!

Worship and lovely lust—with both in view
I wooed her all that year, until the spring
{Violins, maestro!), when the world was new
And she outflowered, in June, the floweriest thing,
The date was set. So great our passion grew
That even in church (I blush) with heaven’s King
Racked on His cross, before the priest and all,
My impudent hero made his curtain call!

And you, four-posters of the wedding night,
You pillows, that were tossed and rumpled soon,
You blankets, drawn around so our delight
Was ours alone, through morning, afternoon;
You parakeets in cages, rose and white,
Whose twitter music perked our deeper tune—
Could even you, who played your minor part,
Tell which of us was which? Or end from start?

The days of make-believe! The „Let’s pretend,
Honey, we’re sexy tramps!“ I’d toss her there
Laughing, among the cornstalks, or we’d band
Reeds by the river, threshing who knows where?
In public places, nearly. What a friend
My sturdy plowboy then! He wouldn’t scare!
But now, with all the virgin field to reap,
Look at the lousy helper sound asleep.

Or was. But now he’s rousing. Here’s the one!
You can’t ignore him, and you can’t command.
He’s suddenly himself. And like the sun,
Is soaring full of splendor, Suave and bland.
You mean the long thirst’s over with and done?
The desert traveler’s at the promised land?
I lean across to kiss my sleeping girl
And—hey!—the glorious banner starts to furl!

What made him tough and proud a moment? She,
His only idol now, as long ago;
The one he took in marriage fervidly.
From worlds away it comes, that rosy glow,
And, as before it worried him to be
Meager, so now he’s vexed at swelling so
With her afar. Soft, soft, he shrinks away
Out of that magic circle, all dismay.

That’s that. I’m up and scribbling, „Close to home,
I almost thought I wouldn’t make it there.
Honey, I’m yours, in Turkistan or Rome.
I’m writing you in bed, and by a bare
Chance—never mind. A riddle, honeycomb:
Impotence proved I’m superman. I swear
This diary says a lot you’ll reckon good.
The best I wouldn’t tell you. If I could.“

Then cock-a-doodle-doo! At once the girl’s
Thrown off a bed sheet and thrown on a slip;
She rubs her eyes, shakes out her tousled curls,
Looks blushing at bare feet and bites her lip.
Without a word she’s vanishing in swirls
Of underpretties over breast and hip.
She’s dear, I murmur—rushing from above
Down to my coach. And on the road for love!

I’ll tell you what, we writers like to bumble
Onto a moral somewhere, ahing, ohing
Over a Noble Truth. Some readers grumble
Unless they feel improved, My moral’s showing:
Look, it’s a crazy world. We slip and stumble,
But two things, Love and Duty, keep us going.
I couldn’t rightly call them hand in glove.
Duty?—who really needs it? Trust your Love.

US-Playboy December 1968, cover

Soundtrack: Green Day: Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), from: Nimrod, 1997:

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right —
I hope you had the time of your life.

Written by Wolf

25. November 2016 um 00:01

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