Shadowlands: Selected Poems

Poetry

Johannes Bobrowski

Johannes Bobrowski is widely regarded as the most important German poet of this century. He began to write poetry on the Eastern Front in 1941 where, as a 24-year-old German soldier in Kaunas, he saw the "slavering wolves” of the SS drive the “grey processions" over a hill to death. A prisoner-of-war in Russia until 1949, he returned to Berlin to write with a purpose: to inform his countrymen of the history and myths of Eastern Europe and to preserve the memory of his childhood home. The poems in Shadow Lands reflect Bobrowski's hope, in the words of Michael Hamburger, "that he might succeed poetically in bearing witness to that vanished world," that is, the world of Eastern Germany before the war. With an almost real lyrical beauty, he evokes the pre-Christian era of the gods and heroes of the ancient Prussians. The poems also resonate with the most eloquent and picturesque descriptions of Bobrowski's homeland––its rivers, its forests and quiet villages––ultimately leaving us with a sense of "the hiddenness of all perfect things.”