Tuesday, September 12, 2006

From the city you will conquer the earth

Here is a poem from René Schickele, Großstadtvolk (City Folk), that I translated for my dissertation. Like many of the Alsatian expressionists, Schickele resituated Heimat in order to arrest the power that it had defining the nation as an artifact of völkisch culture. Here, Schickele rebukes the urbanites who fly off in search of the sources of culture, reminding them that the city pulses with the traditions of ritual and the modernity of technology, combining both while dominating the countryside where they vacation.

No, here should you remain!
In these oppressed Mays, dull Octobers.
Here should you remain, because it is the city
That celebrates desirable festivals
Of power and that promulgates numbing edicts
Of power that like machines, whether we like it or not, drive us.
Because from here armed trains burst forth
On death-dulled rails
That conquer the countryside
Each and every day.
Because here is the source of desire
Bubbling in waves that press on the napes of millions,
Source that beats on the backs of millions,
In the comings and goings of the millions
Up to the most distant shores.
Here should you remain!
In those oppressed Mays, dull Octobers.
No one should drive you out!
From the city you will conquer the earth.


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