Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Fugue of Death

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at nightfall
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it
we are digging a grave in the sky it is ample to lie there
A man in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
he writes when the night falls to Germany your golden
	hair Margarete
he writes it and walks from the house the stars glitter he 
	whistles his dogs up
he whistles his Jews out and orders a grave to be dug in
	the earth
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at
	nightfall
drink you and drink you
A man in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
he writes when the night falls to Germany your golden 
	hair Margarete
Your ashen hair Shulamith we are digging a grave in the
	sky it is
ample to lie there

He shouts stab deeper in earth you there and you others
	you sing and you play
he grabs at the iron in his belt and swings it and blue are 
	his eyes
stab deeper your spades you there and you others play on
	for the dancing

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at nightfall 
we drink you at noon in the mornings we drink you at
	nightfall
drink you and drink you
a man in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with the serpents

He shouts play sweeter death's music death comes as a
	master from Germany
he shouts stroke darker the strings and as smoke you 
	shall climb to the sky
then you'll have a grave in the clouds it is ample to lie
	there

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death comes as a master from 
	Germany
we drink you at nightfall and morning we drink you and 
	drink you
a master from Germany death comes with eyes that are 
	blue
with a bullet of lead he will hit in the mark he will hit 
	you
a man in the house your golden hair Margarete
he hunts us down with his dogs in the sky he gives us a
	grave
he plays with the serpents and dreams death comes as a 
	master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith.		

Credit


By Paul Celan, translated by Christopher Middleton, and published by HarperCollins in The Poetry of Our Own World, edited by Jeffrey Pain. © 2000 by Christopher Middleton. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Author


Paul Celan

Paul Antschel, who wrote under the pseudonym Paul Celan, was born in Czernovitz, in Romania, on November 23, 1920. The son of German-speaking Jews, Celan grew up speaking several languages, including Romanian, Russian, and French. 

Date Published: 2000-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/fugue-death