This lyrical poem, Ich denke dein,  was written by Goethe in 1795 during the Storm and Stress Movement in which poets “loudly proclaimed the supremacy of the unrestrained…they praised nature, denounced culture, and idealized the folksong as the voice of natural man”(Thomas, 57).

There is a simplicity to this prose in which the reader often loses the poem in the subject: “I see you, I hear you, I think of you”.  Beethoven printed the words from the first verse of Goethe’s Ich denke dein in his piece Andenken WoO 136.

I took a break from Goethe after translating several of his poems last year [see post]. It’s nice to be back. This poem is a good reminder of why I enjoy Goethe’s poetry: the simplicity of his language and style; his relatable themes of nature and art, and Goethe never stopped learning or writing having composed a poem on the final day of his eighty-three years!

“Consider, too, the genuineness of whatsoever he did ; his hearty, idiomatic way; simplicity with loftiness, and nobleness, and aerial grace; — pure works of art, completed with an antique Grecian polish”(Carlyle’s View of Goethe, Poets and Poetry, 287).

Ich denke dein, wenn mir der Sonne Schimmer by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ich denke dein, wenn mir der Sonne Schimmer
Vom Meere strahlt;
Ich denke dein, wenn sich des Mondes Flimmer
In Quellen mahlt.

Ich sehe dich, wenn auf dem fernen Wege
Der Staub sich hebt;
In tiefer Nacht, wenn auf dem schmalen Stege
Der Wandrer bebt.

Ich höre dich, wenn dort mit dumpfem Rauschen
Die Welle steigt.
Im stillen Haine  geh’ ich oft zu lauschen,
Wenn alles schweigt.

Ich bin bei dir, du seyst auch noch so ferne,
Du bist mir nah!
Die Sonne sinkt, bald leuchten mir die Sterne.
O wärst du da!

The Presence of the Loved-One

I think of you when from the restless ocean
The sunlight beams,
And when the moon reflects with liquid motion
From rippling streams.

I see you there, when on the distant highway
A dust-cloud nears;
In deepest night when on the mountain byway
The traveler fears.

I hear you where the waves with muffled thunder
Their waters spill,
And listen in the silent grove with wonder
When all is still.

I, too, am there—however far you wander-
Where you may be;
The sun goes down, a single star blinks yonder.
O, come to me.

[English Translation by J.W. Thomas (German Verse)

Works Cited

Bowring, Edgar A. (1919). Poems of Goethe. Chicago: Belford, Clarke & Co.

Kurz, Heinrich. Goethes Werk. Volume 1. Leipzig: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts.

Thomas, J. W. German Verse from the 12th to the 20th Century in English Translation. NC: University Press. (1963).