During the eighty-three years of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s life, he produced hundreds of poems ranging from the most fleeting occasional pieces to meditative poems of both God’s creation of nature and human nature. His poems fill thirteen hundred pages in one standard German edition.
I recently found a seven-volume set of Goethe’s works which were published (1892) in Leipzig, Germany in Middle German Fraktur typeface. Volumes I and II contain short poems about love, the seasons, his beloved Wiemar countryside and the human condition.
For this blog, I’ve chosen to translate a very simple, delightful poem about poets.
An die Günstigen by Goethe
Dichter lieben nicht zu schweigen,
Wollen sich der Menge zeigen
Lob und Tadel muß ja fein!
Niemand beichtet gern in Vrofa
Doch vertraun wir oft sub Rosa.
In der Musen stillem Hain.
Was ich irrte, was ich strebte,
Was ich litt und was ich lebte,
Sind hier Blumen nur im Strauß.
Und das Alter wie die Tugend,
Und der Fehler wie die Jugend
Nimmt sich gut in Liedern aus.
My English Translation
Poets fain not to be muted;
Nor their words to be disputed.
Praise and blame, will they covet;
No prose will be found in error
Or confessed- ‘twould be a great terror,
Their muses, in silence, will not have it.
What I trespassed, what I strived for,
What I suffered and what I lived for,
As only the flowers in a bouquet.
For the aged, for the truth,
And the mistakes of the youth
All are fair when viewed today.
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)