Context: The German writer and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is perhaps not known as any great poet in particular but he did compose a few ones. In this poem which I’ve translated from German we encounter a narrator with sleeping problems. Themes and motives in the poem are not uncommon for this period.
Themes: Sleep, the Night, Lucid dreaming, sleeplessness. Nietzsche had problems with not sleeping well and in 1882 he consumed a lot of Opium to get rid off his sleeping problems. The poem entitled “Das Nächtliche Geheimniss” comes also with the introductory line ‘Idyllen aus Messina’//idylls from Messina.
The Nightly Secret
Previous nights, when everyone slept,
scarcely the wind with uncertain
sighs through the streets,
Gave me peace not the pillow
Still poppy, still, what else make
a deep sleep – a good conscience.
Finally the sleep hit me
Senseless and ran to the beach
It was moonlight and mild – I met
A man and a rowing boat
Both sleepy, Herdsman and Sheep:
Sleepy pushed the rowing boat from land.
An hour, lightly two,
Or was it a year? – there sank
Suddenly my mind and thoughts
In an eternal simplicity,
And an abyss without barriers
Open up: – it was over! –
Tomorrow came: From the black depths
Stands a rowing boat and rests and rests
So shouts, so shouted
One hundred soon – what was it?
Nothing happened! We slept, slept
All – oh, so good, so good!
For the German version of this poem published in Der Spiegel, please visit this link.