Angelus Silesius, whose birth name was Johann Scheffler, was born in 1624 in Silesia (Germany) and raised as a Lutheran. He converted to Catholicism in 1653, later entered the Franciscan order, and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1661. He was known as a mystic and a religious poet. He died in 1677.
His most famous work is a collection of two-line poems entitled Der Cherubinischer Wandersmann, literally “The Cherubic Pilgrim”. I have preferred to translate this as “The Angelic Pilgrim”. The great 20th Century Swiss Catholic theologian and humanist, Hans Urs von Balthasar, wrote of him (see the “Epilogue” on this site): “ Certainly Scheffler is in this work one of the greatest poets of the West.”
Fr. von Balthasar, who founded his own publishing house, Johannesverlag, in Switzerland, published a small volume of selected poems from Der Cherubinisher Wandersmann.
I have found these poems so rich, so deeply theological, and so inspiring, that I decided to create a blog as a kind of “anti-blog”, and even more as an “anti-Tweet” site. Cyberspace overflows with trivialities. And they are often “pushed” onto our smartphones or computers. (Often enough people seek this.) These poems take you into the depths and up to the heights. They are solid and nourishing. But they won’t come to you. You have to come to them.
I will post poems frequently. And when all the poems from Fr. von Balthasar’s little book have been posted, Ignatius Press will publish them together.
The beautiful, concise, German poetry cannot be reproduced in English without more losses than any possible gains. So I have posted the German original with a very literal English, word for word, translation. This translation is meant to help the reader read and understand the poems in German, enjoying the sonority, rhythm, and rhyme of the original.
Some of the words are archaic. And there are poetic contractions. But the German is quite simple. It is the content which is profound.
I have provided a sound clip for each poem. I make no pretense of having a perfect German accent. But you will be able to experience the poetry of the original German. For a German pronunciation guide, cf. http://www.pronunciationguide.info/German.html
Note that German ordinarily puts the verb, or part of a compound verb, at the end of a clause sentence. I have followed the German word order in the interlinear, literal translation, to make it easier to see what each German word means. It is up to the reader to make the necessary transpositions, which will not be difficult.
Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Editor, Ignatius Press