Peter Rühmkorf
translation by Henry Holland


Song of unification for instant singing

To the tune of: “Ich will euch singen und will nicht lügen.”

Ah’ll clype yi a clash an ah’ll nae whid,
Ah wance seed twa auld shuins fochten –
the Gerries agin the Gerrie.
They’d ettled it a’, jist wan thing not,
Thi sclidders that came, the Freudyin skites,

Cause on their first anniversary
the bells dirled for post-history
for its historical novelty –
but without the needed equality
unity faws tae duality.

Twee-deedel-dum-twa, the dishort comes awa,
we’re in sore need o’ a joining quair
for winners and for losers.
Itherwise instead o’ “We are wan folk”
“Folk and Reich and Führer” you’ll hear –

Shite-mucky-dumb-shee, the sharn comes up,
Oor name abroad is in the muck,
“Shite Gerries!”, “bebe”, “merda!”
Control in Rostock, who gave it up?
And in Mölln and Hoyerswerda?!
Wae, o wae is we!

O German brithers, German titties,
we’re harling yestreen’s deviltries
towards us as guid patriots.
An’ the blows we missed tae the Nazi’s heads
we’ll be upsides wi’ in the hunt for Reds –

Hi-demagogy, car skew intae richt,
look up fascism in thi wark o Bertold Brecht
(Ails ye whit? – Oot wi’ it!)
Twa fronts hae fashed us auld lang syne,
we’ll knuse thegither whit thegither belongs:
thi nationalee middlin.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

An whit shuid ah clype yous wi’oot a wid?
A seed a folk bashin’ intae itself:
x – / to thole the truth.
x – / x – / and I gie you ma hand
in this “wonderful”, “birling” and “radgie” land:
ruled over by Meenister Hintze(1).

(1) Peter Hintze is a former protestant minister, still active anti-communist, and professional politician for the CDU (centre-right) party.


Scots glossary

to clype – tell tales
clash – gossip
whid – v. and n. to lie, a lie jo – lover
fochtyn – fighting to ettle – plan slidders + skites – slips which go off at a tangent
to dirl – ring
to faw – fall
dishort – rupture
quair – song
sharn – dung

titties– sisters
to harl – throw
to be upsides wi' – be quits with
to skew – distort
car – left
to fash – bother
to knuse – squeeze and pummel
birlin – twirlin
radgie – crazy
Meenister – vicar


“Einheitslied zum Fertigsingen” by Peter Rühmkorf in Wenn – aber dann (© Rowohlt 1999). Translation © Henry Holland.


Peter Rühmkorf (1929 - 2008) was a writer on the edge of the German literary establishment, titled as the “greatest living German poet” by the conservative daily Frankfurt Allgemeiner Zeitung in 2005. Aside from his poetry, he is acclaimed as an essayist and as a diaryist. Rühmkorf was awarded every important German literary prize – including the Georg Büchner Prize – and he loved to publish under pseudonyms, including Leslie Maier and Hans Hingst.

Henry Holland (1975 - ) lives and works in Neugraben, Hamburg, right beside an old heather-heath landscape of Manley-Hopkin-esque standards of beauty, and pretty near a big rusty-fat belt of provinicial suburbia. After growing up in the New Town in Edinburgh and realising that most other urban places just won't do it, he began contenting himself with contemporary German literature and other secondary pleasures. While waiting for a contract to work as a translator on the first ever complete edition of the works of Rosa Luxemburg – which is being published right now, in fifteen volumes by Verso (details here) - to get going, he writes his blog, Goethe's Gonna Getya, about the mechanisms through which literature gets at us, transforms and inspires us. He's already had short translations of works by Uwe Tellkamp and Peter Rühmkorf published. All of which distracts from his kids & his wife Rebekka, who are, no jokes, the real apples of his eye.

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MadHat, Issue 14, Spring 2013