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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Before the Storm

By Richard Dehmel (1863–1920)

Translation of Ludwig Lewisohn

THE SKY grew darker with each minute

Outside my room, I felt within it

The clouds, disconsolate and gray.

The ash-tree yonder moved its crown

With heavy creaking up and down,

The dead leaves whirled across the way.

Then ticked, through the close room, unhurried,

(As in still vaults where men are buried

The woodworm gnaws and ticks), my watch.

And through the open door close by

Wailed the piano, thin and shy,

Beneath her touch.

Slate-like upon us weighed the heaven,

Her playing grew more sorrow-riven,

I saw her form.

Sharp gusts upon the ash-tree beat,

The air, aflame with dust and heat,

Sighed for the storm.

Pale through the walls the sounds came sobbing,

Her blind, tear-wasted hands passed throbbing

Across the keys.

Crouching she sang that song of May

That once had sung my heart away,

She panted lest the song should cease.

In the dull clouds no shadow shivered,

The aching music moaned and quivered

Like dull knives in me, stroke on stroke—

And in that song of love was blent

Two children’s voices’ loud lament—

Then first the lightning broke.