“Mondnacht” — Joseph Freiherr Von Eichendorff

“Mondnacht” — Joseph Freiherr Von Eichendorff

I definitely go through phases of poetic imagery. It may or may not be forcibly imprinted on your very consciousness I had quite a prolonged ‘water’ phase, my ‘spiritual vs. physical love’ phase is pretty much unabating, but ATTENTION. New phavourite phase (geddit?) is that of ‘moon’. It’s feminine. It’s mysterious. It looks decent from a distance but is grotesquely pockmarked and deformed if you look too closely. Yes, I like to think that the Moon and I have a few things in common.

P.S. “Mondnacht” under no circumstances means ‘Monday night’, apparently. Which means that there is still a gap in the market for a gloomy piece of unparalleled despondence about that all-too-familiar anxiety as Sunday evening draws to a close and the first morning of the working week becomes a dreary reality. In German, natürlich.

Es war, als hätt’ der Himmel
Die Erde still geküsst
Dass sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nun träumen müsst

(stanza one)

The Big (or slightly reduced depending on how eager you are) Scoop

Before you get all excited about the fluency of my German knowledge, I thought I would swiftly mention that I am possibly going to use the aid of a translation and/or a good old internet resource oh-so-familiar from my GCSE days that rhymes with Froogle Franslate. Let this not reduce the significance of the poem, but INSTEAD increase its significance tenfold; language that transcends the schism of language itself must be pretty awesome, right?

Joseph’s chosen title of the poem, in spite of its extremely upsetting lack of reference to Mondays, does have some good qualities as it immediately brings with it those connotations of the moon that I’ve been banging on about for a while: the female element, a mother-protector, a light in the darkness. Hope, then, is the theme here, and the lexis of otherworldly power — “träumen” (to dream), “Flügel” (wings), “flog […] flöge” (fly) — underlines this and extends it right up until the final word: “Haus” (no prizes for guessing this translation: home). Suddenly, there is a paradox; the ethereal tone has been tarnished by the wholly human abstraction of ‘home’.

Of course, especially in conjunction with references to one’s “Seele” (soul), this ‘home’ doesn’t necessarily have to be an earthly one, but to compare the elevated (…literally) notion of Heaven with one as ordinary and everyday as the place where you live is slightly unusual. I mean, home for me entails the pile of dirty mugs that I’m busily ignoring or a mob of small, furry creatures constantly demanding attention (I do mean dogs and not a pack of uncommonly high-maintenance rats here); hardly a place where the Holy Spirit hangs out to help with the washing up, surely?

But Joseph, though probably not accustomed to a divine presence popping round to scrub the dishes –or not every week anyway– is making precisely this point; there is no need to divide the flowers from the sky just because one must die and fade and the other is eternal. The sky has “still geküsst” (silently kissed) the earth to show its wordless, boundless love for it, no matter how muddy, dirty, or flagrantly unworthy that earth may be: and this is where the Moon comes in (woo!). That unquestioning love that a mother feels for her child,  we are told, exactly encompasses how God feels for us. And whatever you personally believe, the surefire knowledge that someone cares for you no matter WHAT is a very nice confidence booster indeed. Lucky Joe.


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