Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964-2001 : Selected Poems, 1964-2001
A publishing landmark--the first major collection of poems by one of the late twentieth century's literary masters
German-born W. G. Sebald is best known as the innovative author of Austerlitz, the prose classic of World War II culpability and conscience that The Guardian called "a new literary form, part hybrid novel, part memoir, part travelogue." Its publication put Sebald in the company of Nabokov, Calvino, and Borges. Yet Sebald's brilliance as a poet has been largely unacknowledged--until now.
Skillfully translated by Iain Galbraith, the nearly one hundred poems in Across the Land and the Water range from those Sebald wrote as a student in the sixties to those completed right before his untimely death in 2001. Featuring eighty-eight poems published in English for the first time and thirty-three from unpublished manuscripts, this collection also brings together all the verse he placed in books and journals during his lifetime.
Here are Sebald's trademark themes--from nature and history ("Events of war within/a life cracks/across the Order of the World/spreading from Cassiopeia/a diffuse pain reaching into/the upturned leaves on the trees"), to wandering and wondering ("I have even begun/to speak in foreign tongues/roaming like a nomad in my own/town . . ."), to oblivion and memory ("If you knew every cranny/of my heart/you would yet be ignorant/of the pain my happy/memories bring").
Soaring and searing, the poetry of W. G. Sebald is an indelible addition to his superb body of work, and this unique collection is bound to become a classic in its own right.
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March 27, 2012
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Excerpt from Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964-2001 by W. G. Sebald
For how hard it is to understand the landscape as you pass in a train from here to there and mutely it watches you vanish.
A colony of allotments uphill into the fall. Dead leaves swept into heaps. Soon--on Saturday-- a man will set them alight.
Smoke will stir no more, no more the trees, now evening closes on the colors of the village. An end is come to the workings of shadow. The response of the landscape expects no answer.
The intention is sealed of preserved signs. Come through rain the address has smudged. Suppose the "return" at the end of the letter! Sometimes, held to the light, it reads: "of the soul."
Hedges have grown over palace and court. A forgotten era of fountains and chandeliers behind fa�ades, serenades and strings, the colors of the mauves. The guides mutter through sandalwood halls of the Wishing Table in the libraries of princes past.
On duty on a stretch in the Alpine foothills the railway clerk considers the essence of the tear-off calendar.
With bowed back Rosary Hour waits outside for admittance to the house
The clerk knows: he must take home this interval without delay
Schattwald in Tyrol
The signs are gathered settled at dusk's edge carved in wood bled and blackened printed on the mountain
Hawthorn in the hedgerow along a length of path black against winter's papyrus the Rosetta stone
In the house of shadows where the legend rises the deciphering begins Things are different from the way they seem Confusion among fellow travelers was ever the norm
Hang up your hat in the halfway house
Remembered Triptych of a Journey from Brussels
White over the vineyard by Sankt Georgen white falls the snow across the courtyard and on the label of an orange-crate from Palestine. White over black is the blossom of the trees near Meran in Ezra's hanging garden. Autumn in mind April waits in the memory painted on walnut like the life of Francis of Assisi.
At the end of September on the battlefield at Waterloo fallow grass grows over the blood of the lost Marie-Louises of Empereur Bonaparte you can get there by bus at the Petite-Espinette stop change for Huizingen a stately home, sheltered by ivy, transformed into the Belgian Royal Ornithological Research and Observation Unit of the University of Brussels.
On the steps I met Monsieur Serge Creuve, painter, and his wife Dunja-- he does portraits in red chalk on rough paper of rich people's children from Genesius-Rhode.--Lures them into the house with the unique WC, well-known to neighbors.--One does like to visit an artist. "Shall we buy the ferme in Genappe?"
In the evening at Rhode-St. Gen�se a timid vegetable man carries his wares up garden paths past savage dogs to the gate, for instance, of the Marquise of O.'s villa. A woman's mouth is always killed by roses.
As a lodger on the third floor-- the red sisal only goes up to the second-- of Mme. Muller's Cafeteria five minutes' walk from the Bois de la Cambre I'm the successor to Robert Stehmer student from Marshall Missouri. Gold-rimmed jug-and-bowl on the dresser a hunting scene over the Vertiko cabinet door to an east-facing balcony.--At night noises on the road to Charleroi.
Chestnuts fell from their husks in the rain. I saw them in the morning glossy on the sand of the patio. I saw them in the morning-- taking tea and Cook Swiss to be eaten with a knife and fork. I saw them in the morning waiting behind the curtain for a trip to town in quest of Brueghel at the Musee Royal.
Depart quai huit minuit seize le train pour Milan via St. Gotthard I recognized Luxemburg by the leaves on its trees then came industrie chimique near Thionville, light above the heavenly vaults Bahnhof von Metz, Strasbourg Cathedral bien eclairee.--Between thresholds lines from Gregorius, the guote sundaere, from Au near Freiburg, rechtsrheinisch, not visible from Colmar--Haut Rhin. Early morning in Basel, printed on hand-made Rhine-washed lumpy paper under the supervision of Erasmus of Rotterdam by Froben & Company, fifteen hundred and six. Men on military service bound for Balsthal in the Jura shaved and cropped, several smoking, outside all changed.
Route of all images light gray river-sand ruddy hair minding swollen shadows lances and willows White leaf, you Green leaf, me Rafael, Yoknapatawpha, Light in August between leaves anxious mellowing before birth as a shadow over the sunny road
Go to the Aegean to Santorini Land of basalt phosphorescence on the rudder Hold the water in your hand: it glows--at night-- aubergines in front of the house shadowy in the dark against the whitewashed wall bright green in daytime purple raffia-threaded in the sun.
Life Is Beautiful
Days when At the crack of dawn The early bird Squats in my kitchen. It shows me the worm Which sooner than later Will lead me up the garden path. I've already bought My pig in a poke It's all Tom or dick Kids or caboodle In the home and castle. My day is truly Wrecked.
Matins for G.
There he stood In the early morn And wanted in. It's warm In front of the fire. Lug a-cock The man waited For some response To his knock. Came a bawl from within: Jesus Mary A pain in the neck In the early morn. Where no kitchen There no cook. We don't need no King. The man has heard As much before. He has heard enough. Right then: all or nothing.