The Third Sex Issue 2, article 8 (September 1930)

(In the churchyard in Muskau)

  • A small church and a narrow cemetery,
  • Full of sweet peace, undisturbed depths,
  • And souls1 that rest peacefully here,
  • Who once slept at the sermon on Sunday

  • Floral wreaths2, colorful pearl hangings
  • And pious sayings, golden on the stones,
  • Winter shrub and ivy, potted evergreen3,
  • And the dear sun smugly shining.

  • The paths clean, graves raked smooth,
  • The pair are still happy in their pit,
  • And sprinkled with sand as if at home
  • While smoking a pipe in the Sunday room.

  • Only one lays apart from the row of graves,
  • Is is a stranger, a heathen child,
  • Gray sandstone domes the sarcophagus,
  • Upon which a riddle is written:

  • “Machbuba”, around this name strangely creeps
  • The snake’s image in intertwined rings,
  • Symbol of silence, mute eternity,
  • That devours a secret in the crypt.

  • The snake peeks around a tombstone,
  • Upon it a word: “Machbuba” only readable,
  • The aged prince’s daydream4,
  • You bronze-brown, beautiful mysterious creature

*) Historical5. Prince Hermann Pückler-Muskau, the well-known world traveler, scholar and poet, creator of the famous Muskau Park (Silesia), brought a young Abyssinian with him from a trip abroad, who accompanied him on the hunt in boys’ clothes. She died early of a lung disease. Her grave can still be seen today in the Muskau cemetery.

  1. Bürgersleuchten 

  2. Strohasternkränzchen 

  3. Töpfchen Immergrün, lit. “potty evergreen/periwinkle” 

  4. Sonnenleibestraum 

  5. Prince Pückler-Muskau was a very problematic figure. He bought Machbuba, an Oromo slave girl, from a Cairo slave market and made her his companion. When writing to his ex-wife, he called Machbuba his “mistress.” Machbuba died of tuberculosis just a few years after they met. The grave is still in Bad Muskau to this day. It’s possible that the author interpreted “Machbuba” as a “false friend” word. In Arabic it means “beloved” or “dear.” However the Germanization of the spelling could be interpreted as a combination of “machen” (to make) and “Bub” (boy), i.e. “to make a boy.” Still, this is an example of how the development of queer identities intersected with colonialism and racism, just as Hirschfeld’s reasearch into “sexual intermediaries” was the result of colonial curiosity.