hawaiian poems

German poet, orientalist, and polyglot Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866) wrote a series of more than 400 of these Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) after two of his own children, among them his only daughter, died within two weeks from scarlet fever. A few of these poems were later set to music by Gustav Mahler. Many of them resemble oriental poetic forms; this one follows the layout of the persian Ghasel. This is because besides being a poet, Rückert was also one of the founders of oriental studies in Germany. Apart from German, Rückert knew the amazing number of 44 languages, including such diverse as Swedish, Italian, Arabic, Telugu, and Hawaiian.

Mother Pele

The Earth gave birth
Forged in fire-sent fury
A molten maiden
Island maker
Where she walks
Water to rock
Her smoke-choked hair
Billows red-lit black
No sacrifice soothes
She melts mountains
Her might is dynamite
A billion cannons
Her tenderness
A precious steam-bath
Where lava meets sea
Sowing the seeds of life
Owing Mother Pele
All we know

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