Generations on generations of German sound
Engineers have taken you at your word.
Here are the dials they use: Play, Record,
And Fast Reverse. Here are their wires
(And what a tangle they are in). Time—
That is the thread we must cling to
As it unwinds behind us. Time:
Remember it. Remember its glints
Of meaning, its hints of how we might simply
Think our way out of the maze. Ach, what a world,
Where wistful words so easily betray us.
Is not the folly of the wish—verweile doch
Transparent? There will never be
A record that cannot be scratched.
You were ironic, Meister. Now even your language
Lies broken, unspoken, a classic bust
On a schoolroom shelf. Now your children,
Guilty of their history, cower within their algebras,
While stern Herr Zeitgeist, patrols the aisles,
Rapping knuckles, plotting, on the blackboard,
On a graph, the facts of life.
There was a beginning, then, briefly,
A middle, and now we are reaching the end.

Tom Disch, “To Goethe.”
Art Credit Jaak Kaevats.

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