Requiem for the Dead of Europe [1915]

Let me lament the exodus of so many men from their time;
Let me lament the women whose warbling hearts now scream;
Every lament let me note and add to the list,
When young widows sit by lamplight mourning for husbands lost;
I hear the blonde-voiced children crying for God their father at bedtime;
On every mantelpiece stand photographs wreathed with ivy, smiling, true to the past;
At every window stand lonely girls whose burning eyes are bright with tears;
In every garden lilies are growing, as though there’s a grave to prepare;
In every street the cars are moving more slowly, as though to a funeral;
In every city of every land you can hear the passing-bell;
In every heart there’s a single plaint,
I hear it more clearly every day.

Yvan Goll

The poet Yvan Goll was born Isaac Lang, a German citizen with Jewish antecedents, in 1891in Alsace-Lorraine – the borderland disputed between France and Germany. His wandering life as an exile was to reflect the turmoil in Europe in the first half of the century.After studying law and philosophy he identified himself with the new wave of German expressionism that flourished in Berlin before the First World War.Goll, like Kathe Kollwitz was a socialist pacifist and in 1914, to escape conscription into the German army, he took refuge in Switzerland. There he published poems and articles critical of the war – including Requiem.During the inter-war years, Goll published several collections of poetry, dividing his time between Berlin and Paris.In 1939, to escape Nazi persecution, he emigrated to the USA, where he continued to write and produced the first English translations of Aimé Césaire. 

[Translated from the German]