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Largo desolato

Part of a series or song cycle:

Lyric Suite, for string quartet

Largo desolato

Zu dir, du einzig teure, dringt mein schrei
Aus tiefster schlucht darin mein herz gefallen,
Dort ist die gegend tot, die luft wie blei
Und in dem finstern fluch und schrecken wallen.
Sechs monde steht die sonne ohne warm,
In sechsen lagert dunkel auf der erde.
Sogar nicht das polarland ist so arm,
Nicht einmal bach und baum noch feld noch herde.
Erreicht doch keine schreckgeburt des hirnes
Das kalte grausen dieses eis-gestirnes
Und dieser nacht - o ein chaos riesengross!
Ich neide des gemeinsten tieres los
Das tauchen kann in stumpfen schlafes schwindel ...
So langsam rollt sich ab der zeiten spindel!

Largo desolato

To you, my only love, my cry rises
From the abyss where my heart has fallen.
All is lifeless there, the air like lead
And horrors and curses float in the dark.
For six months now the sun lacks warmth,
For the other six darkness covers the earth.
Even the polar regions are not as barren –
No brooks or trees even, no beasts, no fields.
No horror of the mind can surpass
The cold terror of this icy orb
And this night – colossal chaos!
I envy the fate of the basest animal
Who can plunge into the stupor of vertiginous sleep …
So slowly does the skein of time unwind!
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer of the Second Viennese School. His circle included the musicians Alexander von Zemlinsky and Franz Schreker, the painter Gustav Klimt, the writer and satirist Karl Kraus, the architect Adolf Loos, and the poet Peter Altenberg. 

Read more here.

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Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.

His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire's highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.

Read Les Fleurs du mal here.

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Stefan Anton George (12 July 1868 – 4 December 1933) was a German symbolist poet and a translator of Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, and Charles Baudelaire.

Read more about his life here.

Read some of his poetry here in the original German.


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