goethe gedichte

I recently found a great treasure in the “Old and Unusual” section of a half-price bookstore in Dallas: seven volumes of the works of Goethe in his original Middle German language written in Fraktur script. These works were published in the Institute of Leipzig by Heinrich Kurz in the late nineteenth century (no copyright date).

This was my first introduction to the Fraktur typeface which was developed in the early 16th century when Emperor Maximilian commissioned the design of the Triumphal Arch wood cut by Albrecht Durer. Consequently, he had a new typeface created specifically for this purpose.

In the 18th century, the Theuerdank Fraktur was further developed in Leipzig where these Goethe volumes were published by typographer, Johann Breitkopf. So cool, so cool. Below is a chart of the Breitkopf Fraktur typeface in which I am currently learning in order to translate Goethe’s Gedichte (Poems).

old german middle german alphabet[3116]
German Fraktur script

Those of you who are calligraphers are probably familiar with this script. As in most scripts of antiquity, the capital letters are the most eloquent. Notice the upper cases of: A, E, G, H, I, J, K, R, S, V, and Y.

Fraktur is still used today for decorative typesetting. I have translated Der Abschied (The Farewell) in this post from German to English. I had to use the modern German for this post as I could not access a keyboard with the Fraktur script. Genießen!


The Farewell

Let mine eyes say farewell,
That my lips will ne’er say;
Heavy, how heavy one might tell,
The weight of a man to-day.

Mournful in an hour as this
Is love’s sweetest pledge, I deem;
Cold upon the mouth the kiss,
Faint your hand to press and ream.

In other ways, a stolen kiss
Inflames my raptured heart;
So as the violets of March bring bliss,
The joys of both impart.

No wreath for you shall I bring
Nor rose to adorn your door;,
Dear Francois, for you it is Spring
Alas, autumn for me evermore.

Der Abschied by Goethe

Laß mein Aug den Abschied sagen,
Den mein Mund nicht nehmen kann!
Schwer, wie schwer ist er zu tragen!
Und ich bin doch sonst ein Mann.

Traurig wird in dieser Stunde
Selbst der Liebe süßstes Pfand,
Kalt der Kuß von deinem Munde,
Matt der Druck von deiner Hand.

Sonst, ein leicht gestohlnes Mäulchen,
O wie hat es mich entzückt!
So erfreuet uns ein Veilchen,
Das man früh im März gepflückt.

Doch ich pflücke nun kein Kränzchen,
Keine Rose mehr für dich.
Frühling ist es, liebes Fränzchen,
Aber leider Herbst für mich!


Work Cited
Kurz, Heinrich. Goethes Werke. Leipzig: Berlag Publishing House.

Copyright 2020 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)