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From 'After Nature'

From "After Nature," by W.G. Sebald, translated from the German by Michael Hamburger (Random House: 120 pp., $21.95)

October 26, 2003|W.G. Sebald

When the ship sailed out of Danzig Bay,

Steller, who had never yet confronted

the sea, stood on the deck for a while,

wondering at the passage

over water, at power and weight,

at the salt in the air and

the darkness pushed down to the deep

under the keel. To the left,

the outermost point of the Putzig spit,

to the right, the headland

fronting the Frische Haff,

a pale grey streak endlessly

merging into a still paler grey.

This behind him had been Germany,

it occurred to him, his childhood,

the woods of Windsheim;

the learning of ancient languages,

protracted throughout his youth

perscrutamini scripturas,

shouldn't that read,

perscrutamini naturas rerum?

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