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To the German language

The Spanish language is my destiny,
Francisco de Quevedo's bronze,
but in the marches of the night
musics more intimate grab me.
Some came by blood—
Shakepeare's voice and Holy Scripture—
others by generous hazard,
but you, sweet German tongue,
I chose and sought alone.
Vigil and grammar and
the jungle of declensions,
dictionaries that never get it right
precisely, brought me near you.
My nights were full of Virgil
I said; I could have said
H÷lderlin and Angelus Silesius.
Heine gave me high nightingales;
Goethe tardy love
indulgent and mercenary;
Keller the rose of a hand
in the hand of a dead lover
who knows not if it be white or red.
You, tongue of Germany, are your masterpiece:
love in all your
compound voices, open
vowels, sounds allowing
Greek hexameter
and rumor of night in the forest.
You were mine. At the limit
of tired years, I espy you
far-off as algebra or moon.