When the journey involves Steps

It is not often that I find an English translation to a German poem that I am satisfied with, but in the case of Hermann Hesse´s Stufen, many concur that the translation by Walter A. Aue is one, if not THE best translation thus far. Here the original Stufen

Stairs into the blue ©FrogDiva Photography

Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.

Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,
Der Weltgeist will nicht fesseln uns und engen,
Er will uns Stuf’ um Stufe heben, weiten.
Kaum sind wir heimisch einem Lebenskreise
Und traulich eingewohnt, so droht Erschlaffen,
Nur wer bereit zu Aufbruch ist und Reise,
Mag lähmender Gewöhnung sich entraffen.

Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
Uns neuen Räumen jung entgegen senden,
Des Lebens Ruf an uns wird niemals enden…
Wohlan denn, Herz, nimm Abschied und gesunde!

and here Aue´s translation

Dimensions of life ©FrogDiva Photography

Like ev’ry flower wilts, like youth is fading 
and turns to age, so also one’s achieving: 
Each virtue and each wisdom needs parading 
in one’s own time, and must not last forever. 
The heart must be, at each new call for leaving,
prepared to part and start without the tragic, 
without the grief – with courage to endeavor 
a novel bond, a disparate connection: 
for each beginning bears a special magic 
that nurtures living and bestows protection
.

We’ll walk from space to space in glad progression 
and should not cling to one as homestead for us. 
The cosmic spirit will not bind nor bore us; 
it lifts and widens us in ev’ry session: 
for hardly set in one of life’s expanses 
we make it home, and apathy commences. 
But only he, who travels and takes chances, 
can break the habits’ paralyzing stances.

It might be, even, that the last of hours 
will make us once again a youthful lover: 
The call of life to us forever flowers… 
Anon, my heart: Say farewell and recover! 

When we set out to follow a dream and pursue a passion, we unknowingly embark on an adventure filled with unexpected twists and turns, triumphs and failures, and even a few monsters of doubt along the way.

The writing journey is anything but smooth and flat. Experience has shown me that it is more like Frodo’s journey to Mordor, wherein the words “one does not simply walk into Mordor” keeps ringing in my ears. There are many under the mistaken illusion that they can write a book simply because they can string two sentences together. Sorry folks, but knowing your grammar inside out is one thing, being able to weave a good tale, tell a story that will keep your reader hanging on every page, and convince a publisher to put it out in the market are but some of the steep stairs to climb in this journey – after you fall into the abyss!

The cosmic spirit will not bind nor bore us

In the same manner, a life that has been truly lived is one that resembles a game of Snakes and Ladders – full of ups and downs, triumphs and defeats. It is not a calculated game like bridge or full of bluff and risks like poker, but rather a path where courage, endeavour, dreams, and grief are regular companions you will either catch up with or they with you.

What is my mantra for 2020? Embrace each set of stairs, yes, it is important to emphasise that they are a set, and climb those damned things all the way out of the pothole or onto the next part of the road. Remember, steps are finite.

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