notion presents the earth to us as earthly in the sense of transitory. The soul, by contrast, is regarded aa imperishable, supraterrestrial. Beginning with Plato's doctrine, the soul is part of the suprasensuous. If it appears within the sensible world, it does so only as a castaway. Here on earth the soul is miscast. It does not belong on earth. Here, the soul is something strange. The body is the soul's prison, if nothing worse. The soul, then, apparently has nothing else to look forward to except to leave as soon as possible the sensuous realm which, seen in Platonic terms, has no true being and is merely decay.
And yet—how remarkable: the sentence
Something strange is the soul on the earth
speaks from within a poem entitled "Springtime of the Soul" (142).* And there is in that poem not one word about a supraterrestrial home of the immortal soul. The matter gives us food for thought; we will do well to pay heed to the poet's language. The soul: "something strange." Trakl frequently uses the same construction in other poems: "something mortal" (51), "something dark" (72, 164, 170, 187), "something solitary" (72), "something spent" (95), "something sick" (107, 165), "something human" (108), "something pale" (132), "something dead" (165), "something silent" (188). Apart from its varying content, this construction does not always carry the same sense. Something "solitary," "something strange" could mean a singular something that in the given case is "solitary," or by chance is in a special and limited sense "strange." "Something strange" of that sort can be classified as belonging to the order of the strange in general, and can thus be disposed of. So understood, the soul would be merely one instance of strangeness among many.
But what does "strange" mean? By strange we usually understand something that is not familiar, does not appeal to us—
* 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.)