Blaue Stunde by Gottfried Benn (1886-1956), translated by Ursula Ziaja

Ursula Ziaja completed her doctoral thesis on creative poetry translation at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. She studied creative writing class at University College Dublin and translated poetry for the project Journeys in Translation.

Blaue Stunde (Gottfried Benn)

Ich trete in die dunkelblaue Stunde –
da ist der Flur, die Kette schließt sich zu
und nun im Raum ein Rot auf einem Munde
und eine Schale später Rosen – Du.

Wir wissen beide, jene Worte,
die jeder oft zu anderen sprach und trug,
sind zwischen uns wie nichts und fehl am Orte:
dies ist das Ganze und der letzte Zug.

Das Schweigende ist so weit fortgeschritten
und füllt den Raum und denkt sich selber zu
die Stunde – nichts gehofft und nichts gelitten –
mit ihrer Schale später Rosen – Du.

Dein Haupt verfließt, ist weiß und will sich hüten,
indessen sammelt sich auf deinem Mund
die ganze Lust, der Purpur und die Blüten
aus deinem angeströmten Ahnengrund.

Du bist so weiß, man denkt, du wirst zerfallen
vor lauter Schnee, vor lauter Blütenlos,
todweiße Rosen, Glied für Glied – Korallen
nur auf den Lippen, schwer und wundengroß.

Du bist so weich, du gibst von etwas Kunde,
von einem Glück aus Sinken und Gefahr
in einer blauen, dunkelblauen Stunde
und wenn sie ging, weiß keiner, ob sie war.

Ich frage dich, du bist doch eines andern,
was trägst du mir die späten Rosen zu?
Du sagst, die Träume gehn, die Stunden wandern,
was ist das alles: er und ich und du?

„Was sich erhebt, das will auch wieder enden,
was sich erlebt – wer weiß denn das genau,
die Kette schließt, man schweigt in diesen Wänden
und dort die Weite, hoch und dunkelblau.“

Twilight Hour


I enter into the dark-blue twilight hour,

The safety chain encloses both us two,

There lingers in the room a fading power,

There is a bowl of late red roses – you.

The words we used to say and lie to lovers,

Both of us know you mean the world to me,

Between us they lie idle, misplaced covers,

This is the last train and entirety.

The silence in the meantime kept on growing,

It fills the room already through and through,

This hour – nothing hoped and nothing knowing

Within its bowl of late red roses – you.


Your shape dissolves, you seem to seek for shelter,

Your head is white and white your skin and brow,

Meanwhile, however, on your mouth there gathers

Intensive lust of purple blossoms now.

You are so white, it seems you want to crumble,

To trickle down like petals or like snow,

Death-white the roses, piece by piece they tumble

But on your lips, I see the red still glow.

You are so soft, foreboding is your flower

Of happiness in falling danger’s cause

Within a blue, a dark-blue twilight hour

And when she goes, nobody knows she was.


Aren’t you another man’s, I ponder,

Why do you offer me late roses, too?

You say the dreams they flow, the hours wander,

What does it mean, this he and I and you?

The things that rise, they want to find their ending,

Where do they go, I do not know, do you?

The safety chain is shut, the voice descending,

And there is vastness, large and dark and blue.

Gottfried Benn (1886-1956) was a German poet, essayist and physician nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature five times. He is an ambivalent figure who supported the Nazi system, attacked by it for his degenerate expressionist work. Ambivalence of simultaneous conflicting feelings often figures prominently, as it does in Blaue Stunde.

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