Kurt Müller sen.

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born on 8th  August 1904 in Elberfeld (Wuppertal), Germany
died on 23rd December 1982 in Gütersloh, Germany
 
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©   Kurt Müller 2014
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It was in the second half of the sixties in my parents' home, he visited me, his son, in my room, saw me try one of those cassette recorders which then were still quite new, and recited the following poem spontaneously from his memory into the microphone:

Family history Müller - Humphreys

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Verlorener Posten in dem Freiheitskriege,
Hielt ich seit dreißig Jahren treulich aus.
Ich kämpfte ohne Hoffnung, daß ich siege
,Ich wußte, nie komm ich gesund nach Haus.
 
Ich wachte Tag und Nacht - Ich konnt nicht schlafen,
Wie in dem Lagerzelt der Freunde Schar
(Auch hielt das laute Schnarchen dieser Braven
Mich wach, wenn ich ein bißchen schlummrig war).

In jenen Nächten hat Langweil ergriffen
Mich oft, auch Furcht -(nur Narren fürchten nichts )-
Sie zu verscheuchen, hab ich dann gepfiffen
Die frechen Reime eines Spottgedichts.
 
Ja, wachsam stand ich, das Gewehr im Arme,
Und nahte irgend ein verdächtger Gauch,
So schoß ich gut und jagt ihm eine warme
Brühwarme Kugel in den schnöden Bauch.
 
Mitunter freilich mocht es sich ereignen,
Daß solch ein schlechter Gauch gleichfalls sehr gut
Zu schießen wußte - ach, ich kanns nicht leugnen -
Die Wunden klaffen - es verströmt mein Blut.
 
Ein Posten ist vakant! - Die Wunden klaffen -
Der Eine fällt, die Andern rücken nach -
Doch fall ich unbesiegt, und meine Waffen
Sind nicht gebrochen - Nur mein Herze brach.
In Freedom's War, of "Thirty Years" and more,
   A lonely outpost have I held--in vain!
 With no triumphant hope or prize in store,
   Without a thought to see my home again.
 
 I watched both day and night; I could not sleep
   Like my well-tented comrades far behind,
 Though near enough to let their snoring keep
   A friend awake, if e'er to doze inclined.
 
 And thus, when solitude my spirits shook,
   Or fear--for all but fools know fear sometimes--
 To rouse myself and them, I piped and took
   A gay revenge in all my wanton rhymes.
 
 Yes! there I stood, my musket always ready,
   And when some sneaking rascal showed his head,
 My eye was vigilant, my aim was steady,
   And gave his brains an extra dose of lead.
 
 But war and justice have far different laws,
   And worthless acts are often done right well;
 The rascals' shots were better than their cause,
   And I was hit--and hit again, and fell!
 
 That outpost is abandoned; while the one
   Lies in the dust, the rest in troops depart;
 Unconquered--I have done what could be done,
   With sword unbroken, and with broken heart.
 
Translated
by
Lord Houghton
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For more than thirty years I've been defending,
In Freedom's struggle, many a desperate post.
I knew the fight was hopeless, never-ending;
But still I fought, wounded and battle-tossed.
 
Waking through nights and days, no peaceful slumbers
Were mine while all the others slept their fill.
(The mighty snoring of these valiant numbers
Kept me awake when I was tired or ill.)
 
In those long nights I have been often frightened
(For only fools are not afraid of fear),
But I would whistle till the terror lightened,
And sing my mocking rhymes to give me cheer.
 
Yes, I have stood, my musket primed and ready,
On guard; and when some rascal raised his head
I took good aim (my arm was always steady)
And let him have a bellyful of lead.
 
And yet those knaves I may as well admit it
Could shoot quite well; the rascals often chose
A splendid mark, and, what is more, they hit it !
My wounds are gaping . . . and my blood still flows.
 
One post is vacant ! As a bloody token
I wear my wounds . . . another takes my part.
But, though I fall, my sword is still unbroken;
The only thing that's broken is my heart.
 
Translated by
Louis Untermeyer

Heinrich Heine:  Enfant Perdu

Heinrich Heine was one of Kurt Müller's favourite poets. From the ruins of his and his wife's

flat

(destroyed by an air raid in the night from the 20th to the 21st April 1944) nothing, at all, was saved except for two half-destroyed books (of more than a thousand), and one these two books was, almost symbolically, a

volume of Heine's works

.