Asphodels

The two of us walked
Across a meadow,
Annie Ventnor and I,
As we were climbing from
Mitromania up to Arco,
She had to rest there,
This slender English beauty,
She was thirty-four, hysterical
And badly, badly asthmatic.
Then we went up further
To Monte Tiberio
And then the two of us walked
Across a meadow of asphodels,
Lady Ventnor and I.

We walked over the meadow,
Walked toward the sea,
That surged deep below us,
Walked toward the sun,
The evening sun,
That was sinking there
Far behind Mallorca.
And we walked toward death,
Who had planted every where
His sacred perennial plants,
Asphodel plants,
— walked without speaking,
Silently toward death,
Annie Ventnor and I.

The outgoing evening sun
Sank into my eyes,
Sank into Annie Ventnor’s
Brown eyes,
Those tired, sick, pleading eyes.
And we felt:
— That now it might very well be!
Then I lifted her up in my arms
And jumped lightly
Down there,
Into the sea, into the sun,
Into the happiness they held!
A leap, a scream:
— Annie Ventnor and I!

And yet I knew:
That this evening
I would be down below
Sitting with the officers,
Would be playing Fly and Poker
And would be drinking absinthe,
Singing to the mandolin.
And would be laughing and
Dancing the tarantella
With the prostitutes —

And I also knew:
— This same Lady Annie Ventnor
Would be leaving for Naples
In the morning
To her lover.
He was a commissionaire
At the great
Clearing house of Mele,
And was an ugly Moor,
A dirty, stupid, ugly Moor,
That laughed over his hysterical
Countess . . .
And for new embraces
Always give her more
New, beautiful money.

I knew all that.
— And still the two of us walked,
Annie Ventnor and I,
In wonderful, Corinthian silence
Over asphodel meadows . . .

-Hanns Heinz Ewers
translated by Joe Bandel

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