You are currently viewing my lips, and all you’d loved them for
Max Klinger, Adam from Eva und die Zukunft (Rad.-Werk III), 1898, public domain.

Language: German
Poet: Lou Andreas-Salomé
Translator: Sofija Popovska
Region: Germany / Russia

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my lips, and all you’d loved them for

Three poems by Lou Andreas-Salomé, translated from German by Sofija Popovska

Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861–1937) was a writer and psychoanalyst of Russian and German descent. Her intellectual curiosity and achievements, combined with her unconventional approach to relationships, earned Salomé both fame and infamy among her peers. Salomé was an elusive and complex figure; most of what is known about her originates from a volume of her memoirs, Lebensrückblick (Looking Back), as well as mentions of her in the writing and letters of influential thinkers of the time, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Rainer Maria Rilke. It is difficult to form a clear-cut picture of a figure so fraught with contradictions. She announced that she was no longer religious at 16, yet admitted in her memoir to being fascinated with the concept of God and carried it with her throughout her life; she was notorious for being a seductress yet rejected sexual relations and refused to consummate her marriage; she believed freedom to be the only thing deserving of struggle, yet described her life as an act of reverence. 

Her poetry offers a key to the enigmatic mind of a thinker who was both eagerly discussed and misunderstood. Included in her memoir, it offers a raw, intuitive expression of her thoughts. Salomé used poetry as a means to understand and explain her state of mind; it also served as a means of communication and figured heavily in her correspondence with Nietzsche and Rilke. Perhaps her most famous poem, “Prayer to Life,” was a favorite of Nietzsche’s, who later transformed it into a musical composition. 

Sofija popovska is a Russian-Macedonian poet and translator currently based in Germany. Her first published work is the poetry collection Faces in the Crowd, published in 2021 by Дијалог Press. Some of her work has been featured in the literary magazine Expat Press and the Albanian print magazine ExLibris.

I. From “The Experience of God”

*

Du heller Himmel über mir,
Dir will ich mich vertrauen:
Laß nicht von Lust und Leiden hier
Den Aufblick mir verbauen!

Du, der sich über alles dehnt,
Durch Weiten und durch Winde,
Zeig mir den Weg, so heiß ersehnt,
Wo ich Dich wiederfinde.

Von Lust will ich ein Endchen kaum
Und will kein Leiden fliehen;
Ich will nur eins: nur Raum – nur Raum,
Um unter Dir zu knieen.

*

You vivid firmament above,
I give myself into Your hands,
May neither grief, nor longing love,
Conceal You from my searching glance!

You, who unfolds over all things,
Who spans expanse and bounding wind,
Show me the way to which I strain,
So I might find You once again.

My longing I will not efface,
Nor flee from grief when it is due.
I want but this: just space – just space,
Just space – to bow to You.

II. From “The Experience of Love”

Lebensgebet

Gewiß, so liebt ein Freund den Freund
Wie ich dich liebe, Rätselleben –
Ob ich in Dir gejauchzt, geweint,
Ob du mir Glück, ob Schmerz gegeben.

Ich liebe Dich samt deinem Harme,
Und wenn du mich vernichten mußt,
Entreiße ich mich Deinem Arme,
Wie Freund sich reißt von Freundesbrust.

Mit ganzer Kraft umfaß ich Dich!
Laß Deine Flammen mich entzünden,
Laß noch in Glut des Kampfes mich
Dein Rätsel tiefer nur ergründen.

Jahrtausende zu sein! zu denken!
Schließ mich in beide Arme ein:
Hast Du kein Glück mehr mir zu schenken –
Wohlan – noch hast Du Deine Pein.

Prayer to Life

Surely, a friend may love a friend,
As I love You, my riddling life,
In blissful mirth, in tearful end,
And days with luck or torment rife.

I love You – You, with all Your harm;
And when You snuff me out at last,
I’ll wrest myself out of Your arms,
As one tears from a comrade’s breast.

I hold You close with all my might!
And may Your fire set me alight,
Into the battle’s roaring flame
Your secret casts me once again.

Millenia – to think! To be!
Embrace me in Your arms – remain –
And when You have no joy for me –
So be it – I will have Your pain.

III. From “The Experience of Love”

Todesbitte

Lieg ich einst auf der Totenbahr
– ein Funke, der verbrannt –,
Streich mir noch einmal übers Haar
Mit der geliebten Hand.

Eh’ man der Erde wiedergibt,
Was Erde werden muß,
Auf meinen Mund, den Du geliebt,
Gib mir noch Deinen Kuß.

Doch denke auch: im fremden Sarg
Steck ich ja nur zum Schein,
Weil sich in Dir mein Leben barg!
Und ganz bin ich nun Dein.

Dying Wish

When I lie upon the bier
– an ember, going out –
Caress, one final time, my hair,
With your hand, beloved.

When one revests the soil with that
Which with it must unite,
My lips, and all you’d loved them for,
With one last kiss requite.

In distant grave – consider this –
I only seem to be,
In you my true life will persist,
Now – yours, eternally.