“Vergänglichkeit der Schönheit”
Es wird der bleiche Tod mit seiner kalten Hand
Dir endlich mit der Zeit um deine Brüste streichen,
Der liebliche Korall der Lippen wird verbleichen;
Der Schultern warmer Schnee wird werden kalter Sand,
Der Augen süsser Blitz, die Kräfte deiner Hand,
Für welchen solches fällt, die werden zeitlich weichen.
Das Haar, das izund kann des Goldes Glanz erreichen,
Tilgt endlich Tag and Jahr als ein gemeines Band.
Der wohlgesetzte Fuss, die lieblichen Gebärden,
Die werden teils zu Staub, teils nichts und nichtig werden,
Denn opfert keiner mehr der Gottheit deiner Pracht.
Dies and noch mehr als dies muss endlich untergehen.
Dein Herze kann allein zu aller Zeit bestehen,
Dieweil es die Natur aus Diamant gemacht.
—By Christian Hofmann von Hofmannswaldau
Cole kept the rhyme scheme and he did his best to keep most of the images, and as a translation for the common reader it does well. The poem by Christian Hofmann von Hofmannswaldau (1616–1679) fits the motifs and structures of the day. It's a rather typical sonnet on the poet's part—regular rhyme, regular meter, and a somewhat formulaic but still gifted set of images. And there is some complexity here. I chose Cole's translation over others, which also have some minor issues, because of how it translates a line I particularly like. At least in the German.
The fourth verse of the first stanza, “Der Schultern warmer Schnee wird werden kalter Sand” is given in what I would call an abbreviated form by Cole: “the warm snow of your shoulders turn to sand.” I say “abbreviated” because Cole leaves out the “cold” (kalter) of the original. Is this important? Regarding the effect the poet seeks, I think so, for what von Hofmannswaldau has done is oppose two images in that verse: warm snow and cold sand, not just snow and sand. The adjectives are curious because they are inappropriate in other contexts; to state the obvious, snow is cold, and sand is found either on warm beaches or in hot deserts. Von Hofmannswaldaus' verses split evenly in half and he puts one image in each half without fail; it is not the case, however, that the halves necessarily stand in opposition to one another. What Cole's translation lacks is this formal line splitting; “the warm snow of your shoulders” take up more than half the line, leaving a mere three syllables (of ten) for “turn to sand.” It's an added difficulty for Cole because he decides to transition the German hexameter to an English pentameter, traditional enough for sonnets, but in the process he loses a foot and loses the ability to break his verses in half, as is traditional for German Baroque poetry.
Finally—and this is only a comment, not a critique—I am interested in Cole's choice for the title, not because it is “wrong,” but because of the major changes it makes. The title of the original, “Vergänglichkeit der Schönheit” employs a genitive and might be given more literally as “Transience of Beauty.” “Vergehen” is an interesting verb, and as those around here know, I'm fond of ver- verbs; ver- functions as a perfective prefix, and think of it as taking the stem verb to the “nth degree,” to the point where the verb/activity is completed, brought to its final form. This is of course over-philsophizing an activity language speakers just do. But to continue, if “gehen” is to go, “vergehen” almost gives you the idea of being “gone” but still in the form of an active verb, not a participle, and not just gone, but gone so that it's not there anymore. From this we can get a notion of decay, something spoiled or past its prime, and perhaps for that reason these perfective ver- verbs tend toward the negative.
In the Baroque you'll find lots of poems along this line, such as Gryphius's famous “Es ist alles Eitel,” often rendered as “All is Vanity,” and taken from Ecclesiastes 1. I've mentioned this passage before; I still need to get to Gryhpius's poem on the matter, but this “vanitas” motif, and the “memento mori” pop up all over the place. What von Hofmannswaldau does is tie this concretely to a female “you,” even if it's only a lyrical, rhetorical “you.”
This is almost an inversion of a love poem, and it gets bleaker as the verses and stanzas progress. Not only will part of her body turn to dust (“Die werden teils zu Staub”), but that which is not turned to dust is not turned to the mere “nothingness itself” of Cole's translation, but rather to nothing and null, northing and void (“teils nichts und nichtig werden,”). And the one “redeeming” moment? It is not her eternal soul, not love or the memory of her that will remain; it is her heart, for nature made it of diamond.
Can I get an Emma Frost here?
On that note, over in Uncanny X-Men 487 Ed Brubaker begins his next story (“The Extremists,” in five parts). He makes reference to the team from Astonishing X-Men but only employs Hank for a few panels; over in Astonishing the team is off-world fighting aliens. Current continuity has some “issues,” and the delays in Astonishing are the reason. It appears that Brubaker is going the X-Factor route but perhaps doing Peter David one better—Brubaker has O.N.E. and the Morlocks, and there's clearly M-Day fallout to deal with. As Paul O'Brien has mentioned and complained about, Marvel went through the trouble of eliminating most of the world's mutants, and then most of the X-books decided to go on their merry way, ignoring this and related plot points. Space opera, post-mutants, and alien invasion—that's where the books went. But Brubaker's story here seems like it's perhaps really just a setup for Marvel's summer mutant event: X-Men: Endangered Species.
As for the issue itself, it's all exposition, with the X-Men doing very little. In a Claremont tribute Warpath and Hepzibah get chatty, get maudlin, and get in some “training.” Storm shows up (let's see, she's been written out of the X-books, has been spending time with her new husband, the Black Panther, and is now guest-starring here, with Wolverine, and with the Fantastic Four, where she and the Black Panther are members while the dust from the Civil War settles). The art (faces) is more photorealistic than usual for a book like this, and is actually a tad disturbing; it's what I expect from The Ultimates or Squadron Supreme.
In summary: we get exposition, Morlocks, Storm, a Magneto update, and a Val Cooper who looks too much like Senator Clinton.
Tonight: ballet and Cafe Mozart. But before that: laundry. Fun.
Update/Correction: I was wrong. My current pants are 38x38.
“Beauty Does Not Last”
Pale Death in time will come with his cold hand
and he'll caress your swelling breasts some day;
the coral of your lips will fade away,
the warm snow of your shoulders turn to sand.
Your eyes' sweet flush, the powers of your hand,
for him for whom all things fall, they too will fail.
The hair that now makes even gold look pale,
the days and years will rot like a ribbon band.
Your finely-chiselled foot, your charming smile,
will turn to dust or nothingness itself;
then none will worship at your beauty's shrine.
This and much more than this at last must die.
Your heart alone will have the power to last,
for Nature fashioned it of diamond fine.
—Translated by Brian Cole
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