Verse > Anthologies > Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans. > A Harvest of German Verse
Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans.  A Harvest of German Verse.  1916.
Talk in a Gondola
By Hermann Hesse (1877–1962)
WHAT I dream, you ask? That yesterday
We had died, we two. In fair array—
Clad in white, our hair with flowers wound—
In our gondola we’re seaward bound.
Bells from yonder campanile peal,        5
But the water gurgles round the keel,
Drowns the distant toll that’s gently failing.
Onward, onward to the sea we’re sailing,
Where the ships with masts that tower high,
Sombre shadows, rest against the sky,        10
Where on fishing-boats there gleam the moist,
Deep-stained red and yellow sails they hoist,
Where the roaring mighty waves are swelling,
Where the sailors lurid tales are telling.
Through a gate of bluest water, deeply        15
Downward now our boat is gliding steeply.
In the depths we find a widening range
Filled with many trees of coral strange,
Where in lustrous shells that hidden gleam
Pale gigantic pearls alluring beam.        20
Silvery fishes pass us, glistening, shy,
Leaving tinted trails as they flit by,
In whose furrows other fish instead
Gleam with slender tails of golden red.
At the bottom, fathoms deeps, we dream:        25
As if bells were calling, it will seem,
Now and then, as if from some far land
Winds sang songs we cannot understand,
Songs of narrow streets we long ago
Left behind, of things we used to know—        30
Songs so far, far off about the ways
That we trod in long forgotten days.
And with wonder we’ll remember slowly
Now a street, now some cathedral holy,
Or the shouting of a gondolier—        35
Many names that once we used to hear.
Smiling then, as children smile in sleep,
We our silent lips still moving keep,
And the word will, ere it spoken seems,
Fall into oblivion, death in dreams.        40
Over us the mighty vessels float,
Sails are bright on many a sombre boat,
Snow-white birds in gleaming sunshine fly,
Glist’ning nets upon the water lie;
Spanning all, with arches high and true        45
Glows the heavens’ vault of sunlit blue.

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