„Wir müssen alle Ambrosius sein.“ heißt es unvermittelt in einer Zeitdiagnose von Will Self in der Welt. Hö? Auf welchen Ambrosius nimmt er hier Bezug und was ist der Konnex? Kenne da nur einen: den Bischof von Mailand weiland.


Wie liest es sich denn im Englischen? „We must all be Ambroses.“ H-hilft nicht viel weiter. Gut, es gibt noch Ambrose Bierce und vielleicht weitere. Bezieht Self sich vielleicht auf ein Zitat von einem solchen, welches hier oder mir nicht so bekannt ist? Stocherte ein bisschen rum, aber nichts gefunden.

Da plötzlich finde ich: Will Self hat Ambrosius durchaus eingeführt, der Absatz hat’s nur nicht in die deutsche Übersetzung geschafft:

We don’t know when the form of reading that supported the rise of the novel form began, but there were certain obvious and important way-stations. We think of Augustine of Hippo coming upon Bishop Ambrose in his study and being amazed to see the prelate reading silently while moving his lips. We can cite the introduction of word spaces in seventh-century Ireland, and punctuation throughout medieval Europe – then comes standardised spelling with the arrival of printing, and finally the education reforms of the early 1900s, which meant the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 was probably the first universally literate army to take to the field. Just one of the ironies that danced macabre attendance on this most awful of conflicts was that the conditions necessary for the toppling of solitary and silent reading as the most powerful and important medium were already waiting in the wings while Sassoon, Graves and Rosenberg dipped their pens in their dugouts.


Hm, jetzt ist das Problem für mich noch ein bisschen größer geworden, stehe ich nun doch vor gleich drei mir nicht bekannten Namen: Sassoon, Graves und Rosenberg. Aber die Sache mit Ambrosius wenigstens hat sich aufgeklärt. Augustinus berichtet über ihn:

Sed cum legebat, oculi ducebantur per paginas et cor intellectum rimabatur, vox autem et lingua quiescebant.

Wenn er aber las, glitten seine Augen über die Seiten, und sein Herz suchte den Sinn zu erkunden, doch Stimme und Zunge blieben stumm.
(Schön übersetzt von Kurt Flasch und Burkhard Mojsisch.)

Also wir sollen schön still lesen, damit andere nicht erfahren, was wir lesen, und am besten den Titel noch hinter einem anonymisierenden Schutzumschlag verstecken, den ich in der Stadtbahn schon mal in Action gesehen hab.



Siegfried Sassoon (1886 – 1967)
Robert Graves (1895 – 1985)
Isaac Rosenberg (1890 – 1918)


Isaac Rosenberg, Break of Day in the Trenches:

The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.

Siegfried Sassoon, Enemies:

He stood alone in some queer sunless place
Where Armegedoon ends. Perhaps he longed
For days he might have lived; but his young face
Gazed forth untroubled: and suddenly there thronged
Round him the hulking Germans that I shot
When for his death my brooding rage was hot.

He stared at them, half-wondering; and then
They told him how I’d killed them for his sake —
Those patient, stupid, sullen ghosts of men;
And still there seemed no answer he could make.
At last he turned and smiled. One took his hand
Because his face could make them understand.

Robert Graves, Goliath and David:

‚If I am Jesse’s son,‘ said he,
Where must that tall Goliath be?‘
For once an earlier David took
Smooth pebbles from the brook:
Out between the lines he went
To that one-sided tournament,
A shepherd boy who stood out fine
And young to fight a Philistine
Clad all in brazen mail. He swears
That he’s killed lions, he’s killed bears,
And those that scorn the God of Zion
Shall perish so like bear or lion.
But…the historian of the fight
Had not the heart to tell it right.

Striding within javelin range,
Goliath marvels at this strange
Goodly-faced boy so proud of strength.
David’s clear eye measures the length;
With hand thrust back, he cramps one knee,
Poises a moment thoughtfully,
And hurls with a long vengeful swing.
The pebble, humming from the sling
Like a wild bee, flies a sure line
For the forehead of the Philistine;
Then…but there comes a brazen clink,
And quicker than a man can think
Goliath’s shield parries each cast,
Clang! clang! And clang! was David’s last.

Scorn blazes in the Giant’s eye,
Towering unhurt six cubits high.
Says foolish David, ‚Curse your shield!
And curse my sling! But I’ll not yield.‘
He takes his staff of Mamre oak,
A knotted shepherd-staff that’s broke
The skull of many a wolf and fox
Come filching lambs from Jesse’s flocks.
Loud laughs Goliath, and that laugh
Can scatter chariots like blown chaff
To rout; but David, calm and brave,
Holds his ground, for God will save.
Steel crosses wood, a flash, and oh!
Shame for beauty’s overthrow!
(God’s eyes are dim, His ears are shut),
One cruel backhand sabre-cut
‚I’m hit! I’m killed!‘ young David cries,
Throws blindly forward, chokes…and dies.
Steel-helmeted and grey and grim
Goliath straddles over him.

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