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Issues of the Day A Poem about Vienna

I found myself quite affected after only a few hours of walking in central Vienna on the weekend of Dec. 9-11, 2011. I had come for a meeting that Sunday, and decided to arrive the previous Friday in order to get a glimpse into a city central to Western culture that I had not previously visited. 

The sentiments I felt find expression in this poem, which I began while standing between the old Jewish section of the city and the Scottish quarter. After arriving after dusk on the avenue near the Stephenplatz, I composed the second part of the piece.


Thanks to Helen Bar-Lev for her comments and edits. 




By Yosef Gotlieb

Commenced at Borsegasse 1, Vienna, Dec. 9, 2011, approx. 16:00

Continued in the vicinity of Stephenplatz on the same date





so many pastels,

so trim and fit.

Where is the passion of your old stones?



Clapping hooves on your pavements,

horses march, pulling wagons,

a sigh of spirit? ‘tis a tenuous claim,

The carts ply tourists

so they might see

what has been lost.





So many shades of pale

grays to beige

the tolling of bells





A small rumble on your cobblestoned ways

chimes clang distant

the cold, brooding canopy above,


submits you to

order pursues order,

on and on.


Where is your soul?


Your buildings huddle

shoulder to shoulder

pressing together

                                to hide

a spirit? a specter?



I spy your statuary

Trident’s fork and Ulysses’ sword,



They poke for naught from the deepest depths of forest moss 

The Elysian fields that feed your soul

are now beneath it,

all thistle and stone, and

the clapping of hooves as life passes, above, beyond   

Your horses’ sweet dung

seems the most alive of you…


The fabled heroes

are no more.


And so, now, Wien,

What is your meaning?






I erred.

You spring alive,

Suddenly I see you

a luminescence

a whiteness unsealed

I, wanting to see, peer at you,

You are a


Horns entangled,

In a forest,

in a thicket,

snorting, you phew

“Release me, Release me

                so that I might


                                           propelling across the vast whiteness

                                              my hooves cleave to it

                                                  I sweep ahead

                                                      forward I race

                                                        the fire in me burns,


                                                            run, alive, alive

                                      I am a creature, sinew and fury

                                           Across the woodscape I do spring

                                              I would                



                                                        to the moon

                                                           the white orb,

                                                            I, I,


                                            In the thunderous dark night

                                              I would seize the moon

                                                 In a bite, my jaws tight on it,

                                                     I would pull to clench it clean of the

                                                          filament, its shroud,

                                                          until it would bleed,

                                                          the Moon,



                                                                 a track of injury

                                                                              upon the snows,

                                                                              so I, the Stag

                                                                              might flee again

                                                                              its touch, desire, to

                                                                              'be me, be me'

                                                                              My passions.”


You forest Stag,                        


You slumber, beneath a mantle of

forest moss, thick and deep,

It is the comfort it offers that

makes you free

To write your great works, and

Hear the music,

Others could have never known.


 Note, Dec. 9, 2011:


Vienna’s passions are sublimated into great music, art and theory. Klimt, Schiele, Freud, Mozart, Beethoven, Herzl.


Freud’s theory seems correct as social representation of petit-bourgeois Viennaof the time. The question is: Are these patterns universally projectable. 



© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved