Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
An Old Woman Passes
By Franz Werfel
 
From “Modern German Poems”
Translated by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky

AN OLD woman passes like a rotund tower
Down the street, stormed by a leafy shower.
Soon she disappears, and panting, trots
Where black mists in gusty nooks are blowing.
Now she’ll find a doorway, and be going        5
Slowly up the creaking steps, where glowing
Sluggish pools of lamplight lie in blots.
 
Now she goes into her room: no stir,
No one takes her jacket off for her.
Shaking hands and legs are cold as stone.        10
Fluttering, weary, she begins to putter
With her saved-up victuals and stale butter,
While the fire lifts its feeble mutter.
With her body she remains alone.
 
She forgets, while gulping down her buns,        15
That in her old frame there once grew—sons.
(Ah, the joy in slippers to be shod!)
Now her own with strangers she is sharing—
She forgets the cry when she was bearing.
Rarely, in a press of people faring,        20
A man calls her “mother” with a nod.
 
Think of her, O man, and think how we
In this world remain a prodigy,
Since we humans into time have hurled!
How in the Unknown we dangle, gasping,        25
Looming shadows all about us grasping
Soul and body, crushed in their strange clasping.
This world cannot be the only world.
 
When she glides, so grizzled, through the room,
Oh, perhaps she feels it in the gloom.        30
Sight is fading in her dim old eyes.
Yes, she feels herself in all things growing,
On her groaning knees she sinks down, glowing.
As in a lamp’s little flicker showing,
The vast face of God begins to rise.        35
 
 
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