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Translated by Joe Pryce



The sun descends the western skies.

It flames and flares far in the west,

And heaven, in that far-flung west,

Gleams clear and bright as crystal.

Blue, so blue, the deepest distance

Now intoxicates my senses,

Till my soul is trembling, reeling,

Sundered by a sudden yearning.

Beams of light assail my eyes:

They press against the moistened lashes,

Forcing out, with sudden instancy,

One unaccustomed tear.


O muffled echo of the bells. A shepherd

Leads his flock from off the hill.

Uncanny: from behind the woods, the west’ring sun

Shoots spears of flame through seas of mist.

Soon awkward gloaming abdicates,

And wilder weather takes the skies.

But where is now the flock, and where its shepherd?

Then—the rage of thunder in the night.


We’ve not the slightest yearning for the social world:

The storms and omens of the Cosmos will suffice.


Evening’s chill blows softly from the hills;

The sun declines towards the tree-tops.

From the shadowed valleys all sounds perish.

Bitter yearning! Giant clouds glide down the sky,

As night, in mourning garb, enshrouds a deeper sorrow

Under ebon wings.


Into the silence of the night,

There breaks the rushing, splashing stream;

Upon the purling waters

Breezes gently blow

And silver moonbeams dance.

Now wind-bowed poplars

Brew a sleepy potion in the depths.

Throughout the trees roar stabbing winds,

Until the swirling burden of the fallen leaves

At last can still the raging waters.


Massive and oppressive dome of heaven—

Timid glimmer from the cloudy vault—

O dark, close-woven web of night…

The deep-resounding clangor of the bells—

There lingers now in evening’s red,

And on the lofty battlements, a final gleam…

A groan emerges from the darkling woods.

The fog is near—the world is far.


The evening of my life is fading fast,

And on the long, dour street are cast—

In yellow gleam of candelabra—

Shapes long lost in time.

The melancholy and the misery of things…


And if it really was a dream,

Why should one suffer so?

As storm-winds roared,

The welkin raged

From sea to sea to sea;

And all the while 

The evening sun shed

Wretched rags of light.

We die, and are forgotten,

Even by the grandsons

Strolling on our graves.

And if it really was a dream,

Why should one suffer so?

The storms are roaring,

And above the lands

The gloomy clouds sail on.

Whole nations die, and are forgotten,

And above the wreckage

Time prepares the entry

Of the coming generation.

And if it really was a dream,

Why should one suffer so?

The storm-wind screams,

The welkin shrieks;

The very stars will die

And be forgotten.

Still, there’ll always be

Some novel bloom, which,

Nourished by the dust of the deceased,

Will one day wander far

On bright, celestial paths.


A damned soul, stripped by death, adorns

The ravaged field; tormented grasses moan.

The atmosphere soon fades to black,

As storm-winds wail in devastated forests.

Eyes stare, almost blinded, through the raging floods.

The night is raucous in its clamor.

Night looms high above your pallid captain—

Viking long-boats sail into the Nordic distance.


It is a colder, sadder morning;

Brazen clouds hang high up in the heavens;

There they want to stay. No rain is falling;

Not a breeze disturbs the rigid hedge-rows.

Morbid thoughts upon awakening…

As memories assume command,

The soul grows pale, its contours quake,

As if beneath a mountain made of steel and ice.

O night, break through! O sleep, descend!

Drown knowledge in a blacker flood!

From dream-tormented torture chambers,

Rouse yourself and radiate your eerie light.


At last the raging forces tremble;

Growing weary, soon they’ll slumber.

Storm-winds fade, and everywhere

Is night, so black, so cold.

The darkly massive clouds are surging,

Sleeping through the humid night.

Now here, now there, on heaven’s dome

A gentle star turns on its lamp.

Like buried slag aglow once more

When stirred to life by vagrant gusts,

My deep regrets take hold of me

When distant clocks toll out the hours.

Be still, my heart! Breathe easily;

The feeble clangor has been stilled,

And stars are shining silently

Above the quiet woods. 


The candles flicker. Midnight bellows

From the tower. As the storm

Goes rooting through the night,

It roars with laughter.

Tremble—you are but an atom

Shot into the raging flux,

Wherein the ages whirl and toss



Of what avail is all philosophy?

We’ll never solve the riddle of existence.

In the end, look where you will, our thought

Is nothing but a game we play with words.


Hectic movement, harried haste—

No time to pause, no chance to rest—

A warm embrace, a fervent kiss—

And then divorce and flight afar—

Divorce, detest, and reconcile—

And then split up again—

That’s life! Yes, that is life.

It babbles in the rains; it riots in the clouds;

It flutters in the leaves, and sighs in winds of storm—

And all will be, is now, or was

And all once was and will return

As, without cease, life spins its whirling fabric

Through eternal aeons.

Gone forever—like the waves upon the shoreline—

Gone forever! Gone, but whence? And whither?

Life knows not the waves; it only knows the sea.

Life only knows the sea and will remain eternal and complete.

And yet it is the sun-glossed waves that murmur

As they storm the sandy shore.


Into the west, the distant west!

For that is where I long to be;

And if the clouds above were little skiffs,

They would descend and bear me off

On wondrous paths, towards

The purple-glowing sun

Within the distant west!

Is there a land, is there a life,

Where magic, flaming colors

Spark such scintillant reflections

On the gleaming waters?

Do you know? And nor do I!

Could earth afford a rapture more profound

Than that which floods the heart

When our world sinks and dives

Into those flaming, sparkling seas?

Into the west, the distant west!

I must go forth, I must depart!

The sun is sinking, now it’s gone.

My eyes but stare forlorn

Towards the fiery seas.

My yearning swells, I breathe so deeply 

As the darkness grows apace.

But solar splendor still irradiates

The distant cloud-bank:

Westward ho!


You awaken still within me,

Boundless cosmic soul!

And yet you hesitate, at first,

To loose me from the murk

Of mortal slumbers:

Then I am dissolved into

A million shining atoms;

Now the dull gray spider

Of deceit o’er-shadows all!

And still you would alert me,

For the onset of my madness is at hand.

I’m helpless, 

For the demon ego

Locks me in the dungeon

Of the day’s dim dream.

O sorrow, sorrow! Into lightless depths

You tumble downwards, cosmic soul!

The shadow of the ego thrashes wildly,

As it bursts forth from Lethean waters.

Hearken to the rush and roar!

The lying mask of life 

Erupts into the holy darkness,

And the feeble rays of dawn are weaving now

Deceiving webs of being!

Now my ear can tell the sighing

Of the cold winds through the tree-tops

From the crowing of the cock.

O cosmic soul, you plunge me

Into fatal slumbers, whirling me about

Within the frenzied waves.

Once more, I am condemned

To think the mad thought of existence,

Whilst I struggle like some banished being

In the storm-erected tidal waves

Of ancient strife.


Wilding winds groan loudly through the leafless boughs,

As storm-clouds fill the gloomy hours.

The weary day is drowsy as it sips

From misty goblets sweet forgetfulness.

The nature of the savior is forgotten,

So prepotent is that potion;

And the cold seems to have yielded 

To a reverie of sweetly-scented, rose-rich lands,

Where one delights to see the torches kindled,

There one still can feel secure at heart—

There spirit has no strength to bind one’s wings,

And storms are impotent to halt one’s flight.

All’s well! Unleash that flood of light,

Which wells forth like an indolent typhoon.

For he who feels this incandescent glow of life within,

Has naught to fear from phantoms born of madness.


O gloomy night—

O night high-vaulted—

What uproots these winter-knotted trees?

Through heaven’s cove

The predator is on the spoor,

And foam flies from the neighing chargers.

Gaping night—

Bright-glowing night—

A dazzling gleam lights up black hilltops.

Flickering and twisting—

Coldly sparkling—

Stars are shattered in a night of storm.

And time is rolling onwards,

Rumbling, roaring—

Hurricanes assail high crag and sodden woodland.

Cautious cries creep forth

From smoky trees,

And then drift to the heights

Where eagles sit on brood. 


Listen to the splashing rain

That purls and pours upon the roof.

O sleep, beloved child of mine,

Though howling storms sweep high

Above our twilit homeland.

Listen as the clock ticks out

The minutes and the seconds—

As the night is fading fast away

And dawn’s light adumbrates the day,

So too do you approach a life of sorrow now

With every step that you will take.

Yet sleep awhile, sleep long, beloved child.

Are you asleep, O heart of mine?

Or do you listen to the pouring, purling rain?

Attend to these great storm-winds whistling 

All around our safe and solid home.

You do not know that all these tears of heaven

Signify but care and sorrow, 

For with moaning and with lamentation

All the seconds of your life will throb:

Their shafts are aimed right at your heart,

To spill your scarlet blood in endless streams.

O hearken! Through the roaring storm

The watchman on the tower blows the warning blast.

How swiftly midnight comes to call.

But sleep, my little one: your mother shall stand guard!


Into uncanny loneliness

We’re one and all expelled

From nowhere.

Yet within each mortal

Dwells his god.

The world must always master man:

But help me conquer loneliness!

That’s all I ask of you, of you my god!


In my darkest depths, the atom clouds

Recall a dreamily unconscious era,

When they rested in the hearts

Of flowers of the fields.

They yearn for swift release 

Into the stream of life,

Once more to flood the world with sweet aromas—

Where they might ban utterly 

All fraudulent display,

Companioned by most secret consubstantial powers,

Scattering their congregated throng unto 

The infinite celestial vault.

And that which, deep within me,

Yet participates in waves ethereal

Hath intermingled with the heaven’s blue.

The earthly portion yet residing in my frame,

Is incarnated as a clotted mist 

That blots all distance out;

And what has most intensely pulsed

And throbbed within me

Shrieks and hisses like great leaping flares

Upon the surface of the sun.


When I recall you, silent nature,

Deep within me magic pictures coalesce;

And that which rules me from without,

The merely melancholy satisfaction of my longing,

Lures me on to follow to the end

The dark, enduring traces of a world

That fades to nothingness whilst yet I gaze.

But is it just my own desire

That splits my heart in twain?

Two stressors drive the creature netherwards:

The one will drag him down

Into a boundless waste of dust;

The other rolls and tumbles him unto the void.

And carnal pleasure—as it will be, not as it is now!—

Disintegrates the creature’s form.

Yet that which liberates, evokes no will in him

To brave the raging of the storms.

Instead, the creature merely craves

The clutching talons that imprison him.


The rabid mongrel rotates in tight circles,

Straining to devour the raven.

Yet the cur achieves no purchase on the wings,

And all that’s left him is a hollow boast.

The clumsy wretch is waterlogged without 

And hot with rage within:

Since he himself can’t fly at all,

His envy roasts his soul alive.

We humans also saw the bird,

Although we did not crave its wings.

We know: whatever soars so high above

Must ultimately crash into the dust.

The art of flight has also left us listless;

But the thought of our mortality 

Comes in a blinding flash

As buckshot blasts the bird apart.


Danger lurks within the surges 

That divide him from the island of the yet unborn,

Till breakers toss him down upon

The ragged coastline of a storm-tossed realm.

The lamentation of the waves

Dissolves into the powdered stones.

Alone with his great love,

Not knowing his true name or nature,

He must prowl dark roads;

Must gaze upon bright-burning deserts

And at shadow-shedding welkin high above;

Must stand amid the strafing whirlwind

Whilst his love is stunned, 

Constrained by outer darkness,

And his life’s own inner fire incinerates 

The noontide of his days.

But where his flawless flame extends,

All distances are glossed with gold;

And every dull gray land of storm

Is soon made lustrous at the sound

Of his tormented song.


Translated by Joe Pryce from the original sources. For reference, notes refer to the more easily obtainable texts:

AC=Klages, L. Zur Ausdruckslehre und Charakterkunde. Heidelberg. 1926. 

AG=Klages, L. Ausdrucksbewegung und Gestaltungskraft. Munich. 1968.

LK GL=Schroeder, H. E. Ludwig Klages Die Geschichte Seines Lebens. Bonn. 1966-1992. 

PEN=Klages, L. Die psychologischen Errungenschaften Nietzsches. Leipzig. 1926

RR=Klages, L. Rhythmen und Runen. Leipzig. 1944. 

SW=Klages, L. Sämtliche Werke. Bonn. 1965-92.

NEW  The Biocentric Metaphysics of Ludwig Klages | Introduction to Cosmogonic Reflections | Aphorisms 1-100 | Aphorisms 101-200 | Aphorisms 201-300 | Aphorisms 301-400 | Aphorisms 401-515 | A Letter On Ethics and Imagination and the Images | The Problem of Socrates and Images and their Messages | Reflections on "Psychoanalysis" | Man and Earth | Soul and Spirit | Selected Poetry | Consciousness and Life | Rosenberg contra Klages | Webmaster: Kevin Alfred Strom | Kevin Alfred Strom Historical Archive

Translation by Joe Pryce ©2001, all rights reserved. HTML ©2001 Kevin Alfred Strom. Webspace provided by