"we can only do what it seems to us we were made for, look at this world with a happy eye but from a sober perspective.”

-W.H. Auden

Translations IV

Translations IV


Was ist also Wahrheit? EinbeweglichesHeer von Metaphern,

Metonymien, Anthropomorphismen . . . . *

            Nietzsche, "ÜberWahrheit und LügeimaussermoralischenSinne"


You have erased the queen’s face

            from the coins in your hand.

I have rubbed smooth the president’s head

            on the coins in my hand.


Give me your army of faceless women.

I will exchange them for my handful

            of shiny nosed men.


We will each take a hammer.

We will each hammer these many heads

            flat as wishes.


We will toss them between the ducks

            in this pond, like buckshot.

The birds should take to the sky, but someone, perhaps

            the pastor in your boyhood home has clipped their wings.


They fish and shit in their mud hole,

            noted nowhere on the German map.

They swim and sleep and become invisible

            outside a boy’s essay.

Like the Polish king, your father,

            the Polish queen, his wife, who lived in your pocket—

Like President Lincoln, my brother,

            Abraham, my brother--


They float for a time. They sink from view

            and confess to the mud their joy.


*What is truth? a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, anthropomorphisms, in short, a sum of human relations which were poetically and rhetorically heightened, transferred, and adorned, and after long use seem solid, canonical, and binding to a nation. Truths are illusions about which it has been forgotten that they are illusions, worn-out metaphors without sensory impact, coins which have lost their image and now can be used only as metal, and no longer as coins.

— "On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense, 1983." Gilman, et al., 246-57.


Gilman, Sander L., et al., eds. and trans. Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language. New York: Oxford UP, 1989.

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