Liebe blaue graue Nacht
Beloved blue-gray Night
By Wolfgang Borchert
Translated by Reed McGrew
Burris High School - Muncie, Indiana
It is not true that the night makes everything gloomy and gray. It is an indescribable, inimitable blue-gray (the gray for the cats and the blue for the women) which the Night exhales so hard, so sweetly, so intoxicatingly from dusk until dawn.
Softer than the impact of a baby’s gaze blows this blue-gray; it carries us away when we have a blind, clairaudient heart. In the evening our clairaudient heart can hear Night’s breath-- the flowery-blue, mouse-gray breath, always carrying us away on its sigh; can you smell the wonderful, opiate blue of the night, you in Mannahattan and you in Odessa?
Can you smell the snug gray that cats in Rotterdam and Frisco sensualize with their songs of yearning? Can you smell the gray-blue that turns the most corrupt of the young women* of Marseilles to saints? Can you smell it as it drifts under your eyes, through your hair, and on your lips? Can you smell the nebulous, fluidly damp blue-gray, which enshrouds yesterday and covers the morning? Can you smell it, you in Altona and you in Bombay? Can you smell the night? Does it not intoxicate you?
Tear out your heart; do it and throw it into the sweet, sensual lap of the Night. Her Breath is gentler than the flutter of a maiden’s eye and your heart will bloom as if under an intangible enchantment.
Still in their ignorance, the youth first distrust and hardly pursue anything having to do with darkness; they don’t afflict themselves. They walk through streets over brimming with night—aimless, wordless, timeless.
They walk perhaps only two or three
hours beside each other-- closely beside each other, totally close, until the
morning light begins. Here or there one
of them ventures a small, irrelevant word;
sometimes one answers, timid of so much nearness. Well,
not too much, in light of so much closeness! It can be, they come walking
again and again through the same streets and over the same desolate, cursed
places. These places contain so much more now, seeing as the day takes
away their face. It can be, the youths lose their way in the periphery of
the brutish stone city, where dew ceremoniously covers the gardens, avenues and
parks, uninhabited on Sundays.
They dreamed on the periphery of the unending waste of stone (oh, because of Waste!) and they now stand with shocked ears and wet shoe soles.
“Oh God, what is this?”
“Frogs? Do they really croak so loud?”
“They sing, Lisa – they are in love. So then they sing loudly.”
“Who cares, people sing?”
“Let them alone – I think it’s very nice.”
“Nice, yes – but singing? I think they’re laughing. Hey, they’re laughing about us!”
“How so? About us?”
“Because it has already been raining for a few minutes – and because we are standing in the middle of the rain and haven’t even mentioned it.”
“Summer rain is useful. It makes you taller if you’re not wearing a hat.”
“You want to grow taller? I’m still not that tall either…”
“That’s why I’m taller than you, Lisa.”
“Well, do you insist on being taller than me?”
“I don’t know. I think.”
Don’t anyone come to me and say that they don’t love rain! Without it, the sun would murder us all. No, don’t anyone say this – we all have reason to love it!
Is there any hymn so lovely as the night’s rain? Is anything else so homey and so easily understood, so mysterious and evoking of chatter as the rain in the night? Do we have such insensitive ears that we react only to the streetcars ringing, cannon thunder and symphony performances? Can we not anymore hear the symphony of the thousands of drops that chatter and ripple along the pavement and lewdly whisper against the window and roof tiles, the Million Gnats’ Fairy tails on the leaves, among which they have fallen, quietly pummeling and drumming? They knock and drop through the thin summer clothes or chortle in the storm with minute peels of a gong. Can we hear nothing more than our own loud fuss?
But the rain still tells tales to the half-awake children. For the children laugh and sometimes at night he cries against the windowpane – against her rosy ears. And in return he comforts her in her dreamland.
Do only the children still brighten at the site of puddles and over-flown gutters? Do only the children laugh about the thick, thick drops that splatter against the nose? Do only the children lie thoughtfully, fearfully awake when the rain outside whispers the most self-evident secret in the world? Does the rain make only children’s eyes silent and wide and white?
If so, then we want to doff the mindless, shabby, blasé grandeur of the adult existence like a moth-eaten wool jacket, throw it in a heap and burn it. To us run the heavenly rain, the son of the see and the Sun, by which the fibers in cloth are allowed to grow. Don’t anyone come to me and say this would be of no worth.
The vegetable man below sends no such demeaning look as the first legion of drops in closed formation swarm down the cellar steps and splash him in his sleep. He nudges his wife in her cushioned ribs until she opens her eyes and then without any complaint of the difficulty, they drag the full vegetable and fruit cases out of the shop into the narrow backyard. On the long and hot day everything had become limp and sad-looking. The night’s rain would be a good shower for the dusty contents of the cases until early in the morning.
The rain claps for another couple of hours with countless wet clouts against the wall of the house and in the yard. The vegetable people are long since asleep again. Their broad, apple-like faces look just as at peace next to one other on their pillow as the old petticoat the woman had lain to rest underneath the porch. Comfortable, sensual, blessed he lies in the legions of downward-fiddling drops that know the most excellent things of the out-doors. So eager is the blue wool petticoat on the true occurrences of the false world, that it soaks up the rain until it has lain itself dead. In the morning the steps are dry, but the old petticoat is thick and swollen as a big, great toad.
And in a front door:
“I find it glamorous that we have such a good excuse. Because of the rain we couldn’t have practically made it home on time. I find this heavenly – you too?”
“Where you are, it is always glamorous! But you are freezing – should I give you my jacket?”
“Of course, so that you are the one who is sick tomorrow. Come on, put it around both of us so that we can be warm on all sides.”
“The frogs are still ever singing – can you hear?”
“Do you think the rain has still not cooled your love?”
“Do you think rain can cool love?”
“Oh, I don’t know how honorable the frogs mean their song to be… they have patience in every case.”
“Ten rainfalls couldn’t cool my love.”
“Uh huh. Whom do you love so deeply, hm?”
“Oh, anyone with soft hair who shivers under my jacket.”
“Hey you, would prefer not to discuss that, not now, okay? It is so dark here and so solitary and we are standing so close together – isn’t that enough? Let’s just be quiet. The is much nicer, no?”
”It’s raining, it is dark and solitary and we’re standing close together – yes, clearly – this is nice!”
After twenty-seven minutes:
“Hey, the rain is an angel! My mother would have ranted mightily, if she noticed that I’m soaking wet. It’s been seventeen years and cute as a – as such a, you know mother says this. Now the rain has licked up everything and I need to not make my handkerchief so dirty. Isn’t the rain an angel?”
After 11 minutes:
“Do you want to go home Lisa?”
“Man, if only someone heard us: ‘we both don’t want to go home! Yes, you, the rain is an angel!’”