To the Trees

Photo: Roberto May

Photo: Roberto May

by Heinrich Heine 1797-1856

A fir-tree stands in northern lands
Alone on barren height.
Fitful his slumber; snow and ice
Wrap him in coat of white. .

His dream is of a palm-tree
In distant lands of morning,
Silent, alone, and grieving,
Where headlong cliffs are burning.


by Ricarda Huch 1864-1947

You the transmuted,
Once a race of gods,
Trees, worthy of honour,
Do you return my love?
Do you observe me, the short-lived,
The slavishly fettered?
Deep-embedded in Earth
Your trunk stands like a tower,
In coats of mail, made stone,
Unconquerable as Behemoth.
Silver-girt poplars raise
To the clouds their glittering head.
The olive-grove age-old and gnarled
Wafts fragrance round you,
And like benumbed serpents
The oak’s branches claw each other
Fatefully: fates now far away
That you long since forgot,
But like august music
They sound through your holy crests.

(The original poems in German are here)


by ÁngelosSikelianós 1880-1951

Friendless in Florence at first light,
Slowly she strayed (she dreamed)
Through streets bereft, which all had left
Except herself, it seemed.

A silken bride, all lilified,
Through maze of ways she strays,
And in her dreams each through-route seems
A new route through the haze.

Like springtime thrum of bees that hum,
On heights that dawn bedews,
The belfries boom as slow as doom
From rustic shrines abstruse.

What’s this? She’s found a garden-ground,
With whiteness in the breeze:
It’s wedding-gowned, and crowned all round -
Orange and apple-trees.

Sweet-scented cup! A tree strolled up,
A bay-tree, vast, erect:
Towards the top, slow step by step,
A perfect peacock trekked.

The peacock pecked and flexed its neck
At berries bunched on bough,
And either sucked or plucked and chucked
The flesh to splash below.

Bewitched, she stretched her apron-stitch,
Not wishing, to the shade.
Full frontal weight of fruity freight
Those curly clusters weighed!

In morning mist a moment’s rest
Refreshed the one who toiled.
A band attends of woman-friends,
En suite to greet the child…!

(A similar story is told by Boccaccio in his Life of Dante)

© Thanks to Mr Kostas Bournazakis

Translation by Timothy Adès -

Photo: Roberto May

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