What secret breath
Of melancholy just fled
Nestles into the soul?
Stefan George is in the habit of writing all words with small initials* except those at the beginning of the lines. But in this poem there is a single capitalized word, almost at the center of the poem at the end of the middle stanza. The word is: Saying. The poet could have chosen this word for the poem's title, with the hidden allusion that Saying, as the tale of the fairy tale garden, tells of the origin of the word.
The first stanza sings of the step as the journey through the realm of Saying. The second stanza sings of the call that awakens Saying. The third stanza sings of the breath that nestles into the soul. Step (that is, way) and call and breath hover around the rule of the word. Its mystery has not only disturbed the soul that formerly was secure. It has also taken away the soul's melancholy which threatened to drag it down. Thus, sadness has vanished from the poet's relation to the word. This sadness concerned only his learning of renunciation. All this would be true if sadness were the mere opposite to joy, if melancholy and sadness were identical.
But the more joyful the joy, the more pure the sadness slumbering within it. The deeper the sadness, the more summoning the joy resting within it. Sadness and joy play into each other, The play itself which attunes the two by letting the remote be near and the near be remote is pain. This is why both, highest joy and deepest sadness, are painful each in its way. But pain so touches the spirit of mortals that the spirit receives its gravity from pain. That gravity keeps mortals with all their wavering at rest in their being. The spirit which answers to pain. the spirit attuned by pain and to pain, is melancholy. It can depress the spirit, but it can also lose its burdensomeness and let its "secret breath" nestle into the soul, bestow upon it the jewel which arrays it in the precious relation to the word, and with this raiment shelters it.
This, presumably, is what the third stanza of our last poem
* The numbers in parentheses are the page numbers in the volume Georg Trakl, Die Dichtungen, published by Otto Muller Verlag, Salzburg, twelfth edition (no date). They differ from those cited in Heidegger's published text, which refers to an earlier edition. (Tr.)