»It was dark, the moon was shining bright« – a German poem

old-book_198x198There is a German poem called »Dunkel war’s, der Mond schien helle«, in which the first line has been dedicated to the Moon and which boasts special features. For one thing, nobody knows who wrote the poem, which is quite unusual coming from the »land of poets and thinkers«. For another thing, it is based on the principle of the »oxymoron«. This is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that are contradictory or that are created from terms which are mutually exclusive. Straight away, the first line reveals this principle, because it cannot be »dark«, when the Moon is shining »bright«.

Here are the first two verses with the intention of a free translation, where we especially tried to restore the alternate rhyme (please forgive us the lack of poetic meter):

Dunkel war’s, der Mond schien helle,
schneebedeckt die grüne Flur,
als ein Wagen blitzeschnelle,
langsam um die Ecke fuhr.

Drinnen saßen stehend Leute,
schweigend ins Gespräch vertieft,
Als ein totgeschoss’ner Hase
Auf der Sandbank Schlittschuh lief.

[...]

It was dark, the moon was shining bright,
the green countryside covered with snow,
when a car as fast as light,
drove around the corner – so slow.

Standing people were sitting inside a bit,
engrossed in silent conversation,
when a shot dead hare or rabbit,
ice skated on a sand bank with caution.

[...]

Maybe someone knows an »oxymoron« from an English poem and can add it into our comment section below? The Moon will certainly read it with a big grin, if he can find his glasses …

Column: Worth loving, Worth reading, Worth smiling | 5 comments | Leave a comment
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Comments

  • Just for fun…

    The Moon was waning
    Fading away faiding away
    The stars grew brighter without complaining
    It’s just a game they play.

    Inside the candle waxing
    Hid bubbles of gum
    All the people were relaxing
    Whispering hum, whispering hum

  • I remember one the Kids used to say about two dead men came out to fight,back to back they faced each other etc. , wish I could remember the whole verse

  • :)

  • Happy Third Quarter moon! :) This is a famous “oxymoron” ditty which my father often recited:

    Ladies and Gentlemen, skinny and stout,
    I’ll tell you a tale I know nothing about;
    The Admission is free, so pay at the door,
    Now pull up a chair and sit on the floor.

    One fine day in the middle of the night,
    Two dead boys got up to fight;
    Back to back they faced each other,
    Drew their swords and shot each other.

    A blind man came to watch fair play,
    A mute man came to shout “Horray!”
    A deaf policeman heard the noise and
    Came to stop those two dead boys.

    He lived on the corner in the middle of the block,
    In a two-story house on a vacant lot;
    A man with no legs came walking by,
    and kicked the lawman in his thigh.

    He crashed through a wall without making a sound,
    into a dry creek bed and suddenly drowned;
    The long black hearse came to cart him away,
    But he ran for his life and is still gone today.

    I watched from the corner of the big round table,
    The only eyewitness to facts of my fable;
    But if you doubt my lies are true,
    Just ask the blind man, she saw it too.

    -Anonymous

    • This is great!!! Thank you! :-)

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