Austrian Heads

Austrian Heads

Captain Franciscus Trakl, the favorite of the 6th hill regiment, came to the mountain plateau first early in the morning of that day. The soldiers who followed him at the head of the stretched row of 162 men, at a distance of fifty steps, thought that their Franzi, that figure with broad and straight back, with a proud officer’s posture, sealed to the saddle of his muscled Kulash, sank into the light blue, over the dark edge of the mountain side, suddenly and irrevocably, just as those who will never come back disappear, just as the dream that we will never dream again ends.

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When his horse stepped over the edge of the shadow that draw the purple darkness sharply to the very border of the steep uphill, just as the ocean indigo shapes the body of the island and separates it from the dark depths, captain Trakl suddenly dived into a blinding glow. He forgot about his regiment, about these four years of hard war. He pulled the reigns. The horse stopped. So synchronous with his movement that one could not say whether, just a split second before the horse had stopped itself petrified by the miracle that had opened in front of them.
It was not a common plateau! An ocean of green waves bathed in the morning sun shone until the borders of the horizon. Similar to a sky island, this view of pure, shiny grass gently waved. And only a distant mountain slope, sprinkled with white rocks, or the twinkling of the kofil on the gentle slopes, made it different from an ocean experience, as the whitening of the foam of distant waves. When his eyes adjusted, captain Trakl noticed that thick galaxies of meadow flowers were sprinkled throughout that calm shiny desert – the leftover gold of the extinguished stars. Several blue mirrors, lakes, darker and bluer than the other surface glowed in the distance, reminding Trakl of the views that he had seen in the Kornati, at the Adriatic Sea, when the smooth spots on the calm sea shine under the gentle blows of the mistral, in the middle of the grayness of the wrinkled sea surface. He was a bit surprised by the knowledge that he was not bothered by the absence of any traces of people, civilization, history. And then that nice inner smile that his lovers liked so much appeared on his face. He was surprised by the clear and already written or read thought. Yes, no doubt there is neither Vienna, nor Salzburg, nor Venice, nor Prague here. But, this is no human world after all. All of those four elements, which rule so voluptuously here, this wide land of the plateau, the transparent and sharp air of the mountain, the crystal clear waters of the springs and shimmering lakes, and the fire of this eternal Sun, which rules with everybody and everything, must have looked like this even before people existed. How, I would never know. But, here, I know how they would look after our disappearance!

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On the surface of that endless, timeless Ocean, calmly and confidently, as a saint walking on water, he was approached by lieutenant Musil, the commander of the reconnaissance patrol. Through the long, gentle green wave, the captain saw the four people of the patrol descending, with the same calm and sovereignly saintly step, as in a prayer or a dream.
After he had saluted, lieutenant Musil sharply gave his report.
Everything is OK, Mr. Captain! No traces of people, nor any residential facilities, walls, trenches or any other proofs of human presence.
And then he took the liberty of giving a comment:
Everything looks surreal, timeless. As if I had dreamt all of my previous life. I feel that we, those before this, were not at all, as if we had never been!
Captain Trakl and lieutenant Musil were friends at the war academy. This informality between them was not unusual, and their friendship resisted all temptations of the strict army hierarchy.
I agree, my man. Although, I would add that I am impressed by the other complementary point: as if we are just now. And as if we had just arrived where we would stay forever. We passed from time to eternity, from darkness to light, from fiction to reality.
Franciscus Trakl was an experienced soldier. One of the three best cadets in the generation of Militarische Akademie, he had all the preconditions for a brilliant military carrier. The war took him by surprise and postponed those perspectives, but now, at its end, everything could start from the beginning. Accelerate even, because the country needs every capable man after such a defeat. Often possessed by his plans for the future, the captain was surprised by some feeling of carelessness, peace and almost complete indifference to any thought of planning. His unit was withdrawing from the Thessaloniki front, from the Kajmakcalan region, after the long battles in the trenches. With his wise decisions, by understanding the logic of the field and with his excellent tactics knowledge, captain Trucks kept his unit practically without losses throughout the three endlessly long war years. He was completely close to any of the men, sharing their worries, hopes, interests, and dreams. In his unit he had a philosophy professor, two painters, four musicians, out of whom there was one composer and one violinist of the Wienner Filharmonische Orchestra, two physicists… Each of them had been surprised by the thorough knowledge and inventiveness of the spirit of their captain, whether it was the esthetic beliefs of Benedetto Croce, Hegel’s dialectics, or the concepts of Max Planck. Trakl equally convincingly demonstrated his deep understanding of the painting, especially the period of quattrocento and cinquecento, as well as the work of Titian and Raphael, while he knew the details of the contemporary music not only in theory but first hand, Franciscus Trakl played the violin so well that when he was seventeen he was offered to play at the Conservatorium.
Still, the captain also knew how to behave with any other man in his unit, regardless of their education level. He was happy and had fun with the three tailor’s assistants, he told dirty jokes with a dozen of factory workers, he was equal in skill to the two professional wrestlers of his unit. He was born in Innsbruck, and often as a boy he traveled to Bolzano, where his family regularly spent the winters, and at his early age he learned Italian perfectly. There, when he was fifteen, he met and make friends with his peer, the assistant at the hotel where the Trakl family regularly stayed, named Martin Lupino. When the war started, Martin was also at Franciscus Trakl’s unit, probably upon the direct intervention of the captain himself, and he never left any traces of it nor did he mention the subject.

2018-08-21T17:23:39+00:00 March 1st, 2002|Categories: Prose, Literature, Blesok no. 25|0 Comments