Friday, June 23, 2006

JAMES MERRILL (1926 - 1995)

title or description

James Merrill (1926 - 1995) is "increasingly regarded as one of the most important 20th century poets in the English language" (1). In addition to the following excerpts, as well as hundreds of other poems of varying lengths, Merrill co-wrote "The Changing Light at Sandover", which is sometimes referred to as a "postmodern apocalyptic epic" of a poem.

The following excerpts are from Merrill's 1976 poem "Lost in Translation", which meditated on the governess who taught him French and German as a child. The poem is exploring much deeper themes.

(excerpt 1)
Diese Tage, die leer dir scheinen
und wertlos für das All,
haben Wurzeln zwischen den Steinen
und trinken dort überall.

(These days which, like yourself,
Seem empty and effaced
Have avid roots that delve
To work deep within the waste.)

(excerpt 2)
A card table in the library stands ready
To receive the puzzle which keeps never coming.
Daylight shines in or lamplight down
Upon the tense oasis of green felt.
Full of unfulfillment, life goes on,
Mirage arisen from time's trickling sands
Or fallen piecemeal into place:
German lesson, picnic, see-saw, walk
With the collie who "did everything but talk" —
Sour windfalls of the orchard back of us.
A summer without parents is the puzzle,
Or should be. But the boy, day after day,
Writes in his Line-a-Day No puzzle.

(excerpt 3)
But nothing's lost. Or else: all is translation
And every bit of us is lost in it...
And in that loss a self-effacing tree,
Color of context, imperceptibly
Rustling with its angel, turns the waste
To shade and fiber, milk and memory.

- James Merrill, 1976
full text of the poem


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