White Dog Roses
Behind the monastery lies a garden,
That belongs to the old, noble family
Of Capri, to Nikola Vuoto.
And you must go through his garden,
If you want to get to the Saracen tower,
The Marelatto, that clings to the side of a cliff.
But if you are careful, stranger, you can climb up
On a steep goat path that leads down to the sea:
And throw heavy stones at Vuoto.
Be careful as well in the rock tower,
If you step on the wrong flagstone,
You will plummet down into the blue waves.
—Until you are there take off your shoes, stranger,
Lay your stockings aside and take your knife,
Scratch your soles and heals,
So that the blood lightly oozes:
The blood will cling to your feet
And to the smooth stones of the Castiglione.
You only need to climb a little higher
And you will see growing on the steep cliff walls
A bush of white dog roses.
Stick to it, stranger, look only at the roses,
Don’t cast one look down below,
Where the blue sea temptingly cavorts,
Where many blonde German youth have already
Dashed out their brains on the salty rocks,
Mixing red blood with deep blue.
—Oh, I lift my clear headed gaze,
To greet the sun in the sea, rejoicing,
Rejoicing, as I pluck my white roses!
If you climb up a few steps from the piazza,
You can see Santa Teresa,
The palace of Bourbon times.
Just ask there for the Signore,
And they will lead you into a cool hall,
Everyone knows the invalid Herrn of the Villa.
In earlier days he rode on fast horses,
A leader of one of the lusty dragoons
That rushed charging through the fields of France.
In earlier times he fought well with a sharp saber,
Which he waved in front of his squadron
Of Italians, giving the order to attack—
But today he goes on his way sedately,
In the most beautiful place on this beautiful earth,
Living for his art and for his dreams.
Stranger, if you see his pale cheeks,
Greet him from a German poet,
Whom he once led through his hall,
Who loved the fine features of his head,
His long narrow hands,
And the deep silence of his villa.
Slowly I went back to Santa Teresa,
I carried my white dog roses
Into the coolest of its cool halls.
I carried water in a polished lava vase,
In the deep silence of this villa
And sat alone with my white roses.
Strange!—my dog roses laughed,
In the wondrous deep silence
They chuckled in exalted innocence!
But this laugher sounded like crying,
—crying without tears, foolish crying,
Like the sounds of silly children’s songs,
Silly songs, like the “Five Barrisons”
Had once sung, at the winter garden
In Berlin in front of witty Berliners.
The same way Salome danced in the Pomare:
—for the head of John the Baptist!—
This exalted innocence was cruel!
She was cruel, as if even her nerves
Felt the sweet tickle of desire,
Of wanton thirst, this woman of antiquity,
Even though no surge of blood
Raced through her thin arms
And no light flickered in her eyes.
Her cruelty was white as marble,
White, like her silky baby soft clothing,
White, like my dog roses are!
And she shook her alluring little head,
Clasped her hands together, leaped, curtsied,
And her narrow, pale lips smiled:
“Daddy wouldn’t buy me a Bow, Wow, Wow,
Daddy wouldn’t buy me a Bow, Wow, Wow.
So I’ve got a little cat
And I’m very fond of that,
But I’d rather have a Bow, Wow, Wow!”
—Yes, she sang and her lips smiled,
But her laughter sounded like crying,
Like the crying of my dog roses.
Ask, why are you crying?—then the roses laugh.
Through the wondrous deep silence
They chuckle in exalted innocence.
Laughter without desire and crying without
Tears.—their song echoes strangely,
Their silly foolish children’s song,
Through the cool halls, these thin,
Pale dog roses strangely sway,
In white exalted innocence.
—tell me, why are they laughing?