A doughty champion of his local culture.(Poet Tom Hubbard)Your performance at the city hall was soooooooooo good! Christoph thought it was excellent! (Carolyn)




THE YOUTH OF THE POET OF YOUTH - Die Jugend des Dichters der Jugend

(Hermann Hesse in Tuebingen, 1895-1899)

The sunflower opens as does my heart,
In love and hope.
Spring, what is your intent?
When will my thirst be quenched? ...

(Eduard Moerike)

Today a prayer
in my nervous heart,
starting the tasks of the day
at 7am
with the edge of a warm coffee
on my silent tongue.
Through the window,
people’s bodies stir
and beating birds
swim in the fresh daylight

‘My growing wings should carry the songs’
on my way to work
in the beautiful city,
smitten with melancholy,
no spring in my shoes,
back to the yawning books,
back to the cellar of Hades.
another stretch of a morning,
Carl August Sonnewald
and his Swabian breathing,
Henirich Hermes
and that cough thick with the phlegm 
of heavy tomes;
the ethic of work
eating away at joy,
sucking the melody
from the throats of songsters.

O painful youth
where will it all end?
Where in this cosmos
is the love?:
‘My gods are better and more faithful
than that Sunday God.’
I scramble up the hill 
for lunch
taking the air within Castle walls,
Father Goethe keeping me company,
clinging to the beauty
of butterflies
in the gardens,
something to hang onto
to get through the afternoon with
at the enduring bench,
overfowing with commerce
and the daily grind of monotonous money.

a swim in the Neckar
is the only way to cool off
and midnight walks on sleepless nights. 
Writing means singing,
poetry is song.
ripples in the trees
along Herrenberger Strasse,
dances in Lauscher the Listener’s
lonely little room.
A sip of Frau Leopold’s bitter cider
makes me drowsy,
ready to cave in,
looking for love
in the strings
of a violin.
Student suicides,
funereal music 
waft by,
a fraternity carousing
in the dirty street.

Half the night,
I lie at the window
reading Moerike
and Novalis,
surrounded by books
all the time;
and that bastard Herr Christaller upstairs
whistling at night,
bumping about
in his boots.
Swabian stories
at the Swabian Clerks’ Club,
startling misadventures
and fairy tales
keeping me awake in bed,
unused kisses on my bachelor pillow,
moths of poems
taunting me
down centuries.
And Otto and Ludwig and Carlo, Oskar and Wilhelm,
‘Le Petit Cenacle’,
surrounding me at another Last Supper,
sinking in the beer-soaked words
of this pissing city.
Life is so lonely for us all in the end
with only the glint of a smile on the face of Helene
or the hint of a tune in a line
to redeem it:
the smile on a mother’s glad face,
the grace of a feather in sunlight.

I am looking for a lake
to rest my Romantic Songs by;
I am looking for a cab
out of town,
a way of leaving Tuebingen
without ever leaving it.
Step out of my way,
a writer is coming.
Let me reach for the sky
with the fountain pen 
of a spirited man,
grown beautuful
from the twitching bones
of shy youth.

One day the stars above 
Shall flow in golden wine, 
We will enjoy it all, 
And as stars we will shine.




Oh, how soon
Beauty and form disappear.
You shine with your cheeks
Just like milk and purple shine.
Alas, the roses are withering.

(Wilhelm Hauff)

An ageing, independent scholar disturbed my musings - a dessicated, lonely and embittered bachelor known as ‘skullhead’. For years he has been living all alone. He injected his bitter mockery into the elegy I had just begun and walked around those paths with me for a whole hour, talking and grumbling. It was a strange thing to watch: he couldn't help making bitter and angry jokes, yet he needed so badly to talk about himself and be sociable that he thrust himself upon me in a manner I found almost moving.

(Hermann Hesse, letter from Tuebingen 2/10/1898)

I clocked him
a long and lonely Sunday,
falling out of the Boulanger
with the moon in his top pocket.
He’d had a schnapps too many
and it showed
on his slobbering tongue.
He was hanging round 
nooks and crannies,
last year’s stubble
on his crazed cranium.
He could have been Hermann Hesse
but he found himself 
in a rut,
got his heart broke too often
got his bones frozen
too many times,
brittle as old crumbs.
But his eyes
with knowledge
and foreboding,
his wiseness
bothered people
in their aimlessness:
folk growing kids
to make themselves feel useful.
Skullhead knew different,
he knew that the Neckar
was full of piss,
that the trees on the Platanenallee
had brains
and feelings,
that the sky screamed
and churches were awash 
with shit.
Young girls and boys
basking by the Cafe Piccolo Sole d’Oro,
eyes playing
with sunlight,
when they saw him.
They might just end up like him,
brilliant and unloved,
stuck in a town called Tuebingen,
shoelaces trailing 
down Hafengasse,
branches creaking,
river murmuring,
footsteps in the memory,
fallen leaves.
and the dull thud 
of spiritless music
no God,
no hope.
Only Skullhead
to remind us
that we’re going nowhere
but the graveyard,
like Hoelderlin
without the poetry.



‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’ (Oscar Wilde).

Headlong, headstrong
Hermann Hesse
fell, flat on his face, in the Tuebingen mud.
“That’s it! Get stuck into the shit!”,
an ageing Swabian yelled.
And the church-bells throbbed along Lange Gasse,
and the dust fell on Heckenhauer’s Bookshop.
And, as young Hermann slithered to his fumbling feet
and cleaned his shitty glasses,
his first poems
shone in the moonlit gutter.

                                                                               Keith Armstrong,

Note: The writer Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was born in Calw and, at the age of 19, began a four year period of work in Heckenhauer’s bookshop in Tuebingen. It was then that he began writing and, during this time,  he published his first poems as ‘Romantic Songs’.

the jingling geordie

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whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur