Saturday, February 27, 2010

In the Graveyard

A lot of mystery and drama is buried in Olmsted's Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. A number of the rich and famous of their times have been buried here in large mausoleums, most notably in Millionaire's row. More interesting stories might be hidden behind the withered gravestones, gnarly trees, and overgrown graves tell stories of the forgotten inhabitants. The graveyard reminds me of Brahms' song "Auf dem Kirchhofe", based on a poem from Gustav von Liliencron, which has always been one of my favorite Brahms songs:
Liliencron: Auf dem Kirchhofe
Der Tag ging regenschwer und sturmbewegt,
Ich war an manch vergessnem Grab gewesen,
verwittert Stein und Kreuz, die Kränze alt,
die Namen überwachsen, kaum zu lesen.

Der Tag ging sturmbewegt und regenschwer,
auf allen Gräbern fror das Wort: Gewesen.
Wie sturmestot die Särge schlummerten,
auf allen Gräbern taute still: Genesen.

I'll attempt a translation:
The day was heavy of rain, and moved by storms,
To some forgotten grave I had gone. 
Withered stone and cross, with aged wreaths,
The names overgrown, barely to read. 

The day was moved by storms, heavy of rain,
On all the graves the frozen word: all over.
How dead of storms the graves were slumbering,
On all the graves it melted quietly: all healed. 

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