Berlin 1913

The last days of the Belle Époque, before the alliance system collapsed and sent Europe tumbling into the Great War. These were the world’s last days. This is my English translation of another poem by the Polish poet Julian Tuwim.



Oh, dismal, snowy nevermore!
Days lost and adored!
I see you again in the Café du Nord
On a frosty, foggy morn.

Fear, sweet fear from head to toe,
The quiver of blue and tender nerves,
A dream came so, and a letter came so:
Fog of legendary perfumes.

Though I am not and I am not,
And I will never be.
In a letter caught; in a dream, caught
In a gentle, snowy mythology.

You know not of this. Only wait, trembling.
As the day sleepily spills and whispers.
Oh, this heart of mine, this youth,
You carry with you in your silver purse.

Yesterday? But what was that?
Carmen, coaches, wine, and waltzes…
Flash before my eyes. No—a bird,
Sewn onto the veil around your hat.

It’s empty and warm in this café.
Winter frosts the glass like skin,
I won’t come. You won’t see me. Go away.
…Great, great is the city of Berlin.

—Julian Tuwim
(Translation by me)


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