| Rosa Pflug: The Wind Sings of a day to Come
Rosa Pflug: Der Wind Singt vom Kommenden tag
Walker, Nelly. "Rosa Pflug: The Wind Sings of a day to Come." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2002, 31-33.
Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder,
Translator's Note: the following is a book review in the form
of a letter to the author of the book of poetry. Not being a poet
myself, I have made no attempt to keep in rhyme any translations
of poem passages that are cited herein ... A.H.
Greetings to my dear readers!
A very good, and one worth reading, has been published. I am pleased
to introduce you to: Rosa Pflug, "Der Wind singt vom kommenden
Tag," 12/95 euros, ISBN 3-935000-25-X, BMV Verlag Robert Burau,
Uekenpohl 31, 32791 Lage (available via the Landsmannschaft: cf.
our book offerings on p. 43 of this 12/02 issue [of VadW]. The editors.)
Dear Rosa Pflug:
For the selected poems, congratulations to you, who has dreamed
up, composed, and obstinately produced, and in the late autumn of
life, and has received a reward for courage and talent.
Thanks also for the excellent selection and for the preface by
our Prince of Poetry, Johann Warkentin, who was able to convince
you, who, though disappointed and insecure, to dig up your poems
that had been hidden deep in your desk drawers and to present them
under his "magnifying glass."
Thanks also to the skillful publisher, Robert Burau. For the German-Russian
library he has created a new example of excellence from his book
printing art. In comparison with your first publication "over
there," this represents a real book, not just a small booklet.
I have been reading in it for lengthy intervals, have been captivated
by "Geraschel der Jahre [Rustling of the Years]," by "Gedaechtnis
des Herzens [The Heart Remembers]," by "Gruebeleien am
Strand [Brooding at the Beach]," by "Melodie der Zukunft
[Song of the Future]," and by many more [of your poems].
There was a time when we lived hardly 900 paces from each other,
when we met often, and phoned each other almost daily. From your
own preface: "I recall the times when the two of us -- you
and I -- presented our verses to pupils, students, German teachers,
just plain readers, and always found a good response; which makes
me think that there must be something good in our poetry. Also that
your [poem] Komm mit! Mach mit! [Come along, go along!] was not
for naught." No, it was certainly not for naught. Did we not
have a sacred responsibility to fulfill toward our dying mother
Well, I should write a few things concerning your life, so that
VadW does not need to answer the question "Who is Rosa Pflug?"
Once, in the Moscow paper "Neues Leben [New Life]," two
of my contributions appeared, in honor of your "round-numbered"
birthdays: "Der Worte Klarheit [The Clarity of Words]"
(1979) and "Der Worte Wahrheit [The Truth in Words]" (1989).
Allow me to quote from them:
"Toward the end of the 60s, when the first poems of Rosa
Pflug began to appear in German newspapers, a woman reader said
to me: 'Listen to that sound! Pflug! Like a hammer thrust! And preceding
it, a contrasting word, Rosa!' " [Translator's note: Pflug
means Plow in English.]
Rosa Pflug was born on January 19, 1919 to a large and poor
farming family in Antonovka (near Saratov). She got acquainted with
heavy work early and often, losing her father even before she finished
7th grade. Her memories of him were and remain a bright spot of
her life. As one who never fails or loses heart -- that is the image
of him that she keeps. At the onset of the 20s, during the famine
in the Volga area, he made a quick decision to put his 9 children
onto a wagon, to make his way to the Ukraine, and thereby to save
them. Just as naturally, he later returned to his native village
and, when most were still afraid of the "devi'ls thing,"
he fearlessly climbed onto a tractor. Often times, little Rosa sneaked
after her father to the club where he would be practicing theater
pieces with the local youth or directing a small string orchestra.
Amateur art was his hobby, and it wasn't the only one he passed
on to his Rosa. Her dream was to become a teacher, so she attended
teacher's college, from which she was exiled, because someone had
designated her father as an enemy of the people and thereby destroyed
him. But when there was a need for a teacher in a neighboring village,
the girl decided to ... (end of citation).
Your poem entitled "Mein Beruf [My Vocation]" (p. 20)
describes your first day of teaching. The last verse reads as follows:
... "Yes, my occupation is filled with worries,/ yet
I love it and have no doubts about it:/ Even if I were not to start
my teaching career until tomorrow,/ I would be happy to begin it
in that village."
In those days you had much more courage and willpower than knowledge.
As of 1936 your studies took you almost uninterruptedly to remote
places: to the Marxstadt Pedagogical Technicum, to foreign language
courses in Moscow, to a correspondence course for reciters. And
when the magazine "Freundschaft [Friendship]" introduced
you as a poet, you were just taking the state examination as a correspondence
student with the Pedagogical University.
Once you grumbled, "My whole life I have had the desire to
write a beautiful poem. So far I have not succeeded ..." Well,
that's how you are, Rosa Pflug -- too modest, not satisfied with
yourself, even though readers have long accepted your poems with
understanding, even joy, because you always say precisely what comes
from the heart and what is close to the readers' hearts.
In 1977 the publisher "Kazakhstan" printed your first
small volume, entitled "Im Heimatsgefilde [In the Fields of
Home]." Small, yes, but full of a soul's depth and a heart's
warmth. Even then you did not write merely "pretty poems."
Take, for example, "Poesie [Poetry]" (p. 19):
"Groundless depths,/ dizzying heights,/ senseless joy,/
meaningful sorrow.Naivete and wisdom,/ freezing cold and glowing
heat,/ delusion and truth,/ ebb and flood. Agonizing searching,/
stormy heart,/ shame and despair,/ piercing pain,/ unrest and love,/
worries and toil -- all these together denote POETRY."
How many of our generations have been touched to the depths of
their souls by your poem "Im Hintergrund [In the Background]"
"You, like me, must be thinking of those years,/ of that
forest and that snow,/ of the polar light above us .../../ ... Many
a breeze/ will yet blow over me/ and gift us with many a falling
leaf .../../ Yes, the memory / of those times will remain forever,
[The book] "Heimatlichen Weiten [Homey Expanse]" (Number
1, 1985) contained your contribution entitled "Der gluecklichste
Tag [The happiest day]," in which you named many names of gravely
affected girls and women, among them the names of your sisters,
Agnes, Ella, Katya, Ida. Five sisters and one brother of the Pflug
family carried on, in the Far North, their daily struggle against
hunger and cold in those years between 1942 and 1950. You were forced
to work in virgin forests and in the Archangelsk Paper Combine.
Yet, youth will be youth! You fought scurvy, planted vegetables
even in the Far North, and still found time for amateur art. You
were always there with your poems, which you all sang. No wonder
that even your later poems sounded song-like, that many composers
set them to music (F. Dortmann, E. Schmidt, A. Dietrich, E. Jungmann,
H. EIsenbraun, A. Lang)! So many songs came of that, they would
make up a thick book of songs!
Your second little book, "Unausloeschliche Sterne [Stars that
will not be darkened]," was published in 1985. Again, only
46 poems and 16 translations. Here, too, highly variable themes,
some (in the form of common tribute to the State!) tinted with patriotic
pathos -- e.g., Confessions, Reminiscences. Yet most sound lyrical,
In your recently published volume of poetry entitle "Der Wind
singt vom kommenden Tag" [see the tile of this article] the
musical aspect of your poetry seems to stand out. On page 202, for
example, you say:
"Wagon rolling onward,/ wagon rolling onward./ The wheels
of fate clattering on./ Tears flowing, involuntarily,/ and letters
of yearning, fluttering."
"The soul freezing,/ the soul freezing./ Feeling insecure./
A Home beign lost,/ not to be found by tomorrow."
The many repetitions sound beautiful and intimate, reminding us
of folk songs. You have made as part of you a wonderful artful mechanism
which I would call "embracing refrains." A line repeats
itself again and again, makes the text looser, more penetrating,
implants itself in one's memory. Examples? Well, here are some:
"Leaves are falling form the trees ... leaves falling
"The cherry tree is in bloom ... cherry tree in bloom."
"Today there is no end to my sorrow ... today I feel endlessly
"It was in July, in July ... it was in July, in the month of
Often times the first stanza repeats at the end, but with two or
three new words to make the meaning ever more precise (p. 115).
"During those heavily clouded, sad days/ I hear the thrush
in the woods asking: 'Who are you? And where do you wish to go?'
And at the end you repeat that first stanza, but now the question
is; "Where are [all of] you? Where are you all going? [plurals]"
It is in reference to us, the Volk auf dem Weg [People on a Sojourn].
Without worrying about reactions, you go on writing your verses.
Constantly longing for human understanding, you come to a "Bittere
Ansicht [Bitter Realization] (p. 99): "Yet, all those/ for
whom I have written/ pass up my verses."
You exclaim (p. 90): "Oh, you unfulfilled, spent dream .../../ Between my lines / there lies empty space." I would look
at this differently: That "space" will not remain empty,
because the reader will fill it with his or her own thoughts."
Your lack of being satisfied with yourself makes the following
"Vorwurf [Accusation] to you (p. 54): "The most significant
things you have never expressed,/ that which is most appropriate
you have never done."
But, Rosa, you have done it! Do not be so strict with your father's
Your richness of feeling, striking self-characterization, the closeness
to the people that so many lines express will, hopefully, find a
reader. You longing for your family home, your dreams work in an
infectious way, so that only those with total lack of feeling can
pass them up. And if someone should as you fear, actually turn up
his or her nose, branding you a "voice from the 18th Century,"
then we shall simply direct him or her toward the "false prophet"
who, in a "large volume," once said such ruinous words
about the poetry by German-Russian women.
"Wind, of Wind!" (p. 79) you exclaim. "Ceaselessly,
my thoughts run toward/ the house with the blue shutters."
And "An einem stillen Morgen .. [During a quiet morning]"
(p. 191): "May you find joy in wide and broad paths in foreign
lands/ ... Yet you will always long/ for the strong smoke of your
home." You dedicate many poems to the love of your youth. The
sad, cloyingly touching melody of an entire generation of women
resounds in it, which the war covered even more with terrible loneliness.
In closing I would like to thank you also for your witty three-liners.
A more extensive discussion of them is overdue.
Finally, one more quote from your new book "Vor Sonnenuntergang
[Before Sundown]" (p. 220): At first your thoughts concentrate
on the Volga, then on the Northern Dvina, and then -- the Irtytch.
It seems that was your entire life. And now, today? "How often/
do I stand today/ on the shore of the Spree/ and feel so good,/
the way I haven't felt in a very long time./ I feel at home ..."
Yours with friendly greetings,
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.