“The End of the World”, Richard Huelsenbeck

wood s lot wishes happy birthday to dada-ist Richard Huelsenbeck, and so do I. The passages he quotes give a good sense of the anger underneath the nonsense and free association, but my favorite poem of his is the moving “The End of the World”. Here’s the whole thing:

The cows sit on the telegraph poles and play chess
The cockatoo under the skirts of the Spanish dancer
Sings as sadly as a headquaters bugler and the cannon lament all day
That is the lavender landscape Herr Mayer was talking about
when he lost his eye
Only the fire department can drive the nightmare from the drawing-
room but all the hoses are broken
Ah yes Sonya they all take the celluloid doll for a changeling
and shout: God save the King
The whole Monist Club is gathered on the steamship Meyerbeer
But only the pilot has any conception of high C
I pull the anatomical atlas out of my toe
a serious study begins
Have you seen the fish that have been standing in front of the
opera in cutaways
for the last two days and nights…?
Ah ah ye great devils – ah ah ye keepers of bees and commandments
With a bow wow wow with a bow woe woe who does today not know
what our Father Homer wrote
I hold peace and war in my toga but I’ll take a cherry flip
Today nobody knows whether he was tomorrow
They beat time with a coffin lid
If somebody had the nerve to rip the tail feathers
out of the trolley car it’s a great age
The professors of zoology gather in the meadows
With the palms of their hands they turn back the rainbows
the great magician sets the tomatoes on his forehead
Again thou hauntest castle and grounds
The roebuck whistles the stallion bounds
(And this is how the world is this is all that’s ahead of us).

It’s very different from Hugo Ball and Kurt Schwitters, closer to Mayakovsky, but less dogmatic. It was given an appropriately earnest reading by Peter Blegvad, who has taken one or to things from Huelsenbeckas well, on the impossibly rare Dr. Huelsenbeck’s Mentale Heilmethode.

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