Poem Translation

For my translation I chose a poem called ‘May Song’ by Goethe, one of the best German poets and writers.

German:
Wie herrlich leuchtet
Mir die Natur!
Wie glänzt die Sonne!
Wie lacht die Flur!

Es dringen Blüten
Aus jedem Zweig
Und tausend Stimmen
Aus dem Gesträuch,

Und Freud und Wonne
Aus jeder Brust.
O Erd, o Sonne!
O Glück, o Lust!

O Lieb, o Liebe,
So golden schön,
Wie Morgenwolken
Auf jenen Höhn!

Du segnest herrlich
Das frische Feld,
Im Blütendampfe
Die volle Welt.

O Mädchen, Mädchen,
Wie lieb ich dich!
Wie blickt dein Auge!
Wie liebst du mich!

So liebt die Lerche
Gesang und Luft,
Und Morgenblumen
Den Himmelsduft.

Wie ich dich liebe
Mit warmem Blut,
Die du mir Jugend
Und Freud und Mut

Zu neuen Liedern
Und Tänzen gibst.
Sei ewig glücklich,
Wie du mich liebst!

My literal translation:
How lovely
Nature glows!
How the sun shines!
How the fields laugh!

Buds insist on flowering
From each branch
And a thousand notes
From the bushes,

Joy and delight
from every front
oh earth, oh sun!
Oh happiness, oh delight!

Oh beloved, oh darling!
Such golden beauty,
As morning clouds
On yonder!

The mist of blossoms
The fresh field
The flowering smell for
the whole world.

Oh little girl, oh little girl,
How I love you!
How bright your eyes shine!
How you love me!

As loves the lark
Singing and air,
And morning flowers
The smell of the sky,

How I love you
With the warm blood
Of my youth
Joy and courage

Give new songs
And dances.
Be happy forever
As you love me!

The reason I chose this poem was because I had listened to May Song by Beethoven and enjoyed it. Little did I know until some research that May Song was Beethoven’s musical composition of the poem. Goethe and Beethoven were good friends and therefore Beethoven composed it for two of his students. At that time, Goethe was in love with Friedrike Elisabetha Brion who was a parson’s daughter. I think that both the poem and the composition wonderfully express Goethe’s feelings towards nature and Friedrike. These themes are entwined to give the feeling of a peaceful atmosphere that the young Goethe himself was probably experiencing at at the age of 22 when he wrote this poem. He ends May Song with the words I think portray how Goethe wanted to spend the rest of his life with Friedrike.

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3 thoughts on “Poem Translation”

  1. this is a nice bit of work. Are you intending working on the English version to develop it from the ‘literal’? My German’s no good so can’t tell if it’s literally literal…
    I notice the original rhymes. It’s a challenge, but to replicate the original rhyme scheme and metrical pattern can be fun.

  2. I was impressed by the maintenance of the stanza form. I’d be interested – particularly given your inspiration from Beethoven – to see you try another draft in which you try to capture some more of the musicality of the orginal German. There are clearly some alliterative elements to the original poem that you could play up more. Equally, I think that Mr. Walsh’s comments are fair, that it might be worth having a go at trying to capture the rhyme of the original. This is a great first draft, however, and an excellent place to develop your translation from.

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