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GOETHE'S "WANDRERS NACHTLIED" VIEWED IN THE LIGHT OF LONGFELLOW'S TRANSLATION WANDRERS NACHTLIED

Der du von dem Himmel bist, Alles Leid und Schmerzen stillst, Den, der doppelt elend ist, Doppelt mit Erquickung fllest, Ach, ich bin des Treibens mde, Was soll all der Schmerz und Lust? Ser Friede, Komm, ach komm in meine Brust! EIN GLEICHES ber allen Gipfeln Ist Ruh, In allen Wipfeln Sprest du Kaum einen Hauch, Die Vgelein schweigen im Walde. Warte nur, balde Ruhest du auch. WANDERERS NIGHT-SONGS (AFTER GOETHE) - H. W.Longfellow I Thou that from the heavens art, Every pain and sorrow stillest, And the doubly wretched heart Doubly with refreshment fillest, I am weary with contending! Why this rapture and unrest? Peace descending Come ah, come into my breast! II O'er all the hill-tops Is quiet now, In all the tree-tops Hearest thou Hardly a breath; The birds are asleep in the trees: Wait; soon like these Thou too shalt rest.

The Question of how to translate "Wand(e)rer" into English When translating Goethe's "Wandrers Nachtlied" into English, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a scholar versed in German literature as well as a celebrated poet, rendered its title as "Wanderer's Night-Songs". His choice of the word "Wanderer" raises an interesting question. Anyone who has learned a foreign language is likely to be familiar with the concept of "false friends" - words in different languages which share a similar outward form but which convey quite different meanings, e.g. English "deception" and French "dception". When located in a non-fictional text, the German "Wanderer" is as likely to find its English equivalent in "traveller," "wayfarer," "migrant" or even "hiker" as it is in "wanderer". The translator's choice of word will reflect his or her assessment of the General sense of the passage in question. In the case of "Wandrers Nachtlied", however, it is not possible to determine which particular meaning of "Wandrer" has precedence over others. The two short poems which singly or jointly bear the title of "Wandrers Nachtlied" evoke the sentiments of a pilgrim on life's journey. The second poem in this pair depicts a nocturnal scene witnessed by a speaker that the reader might imagine to be a traveller or rover. The poems are also "songs", expressions of a poetic or artistic vision. The only English word to convey a comparable range of associations is "wanderer". Its quality of ambiguity and vagueness, which might disqualify it as a precise logical term, commends itself to use in poetry. In the course of ensuing discussion we shall consider which ways in Longfellow's translation significantly departs from the original, as these divergences throw much light on matters concerning the interpretation of "Wandrers Nachtlied". The first divergence we encounter is found in the poems title. Implications of Divergences between Longfellowss Translation and the German Original "Night-Songs" does not correspond to "Nachtlied" in number. Goethe's use of the singular emphasises the unity evinced by the two poems. Longfellow's use of the plural emphasises their respective singularity. The question of the poems' unity is best elucidated by reference to the time and circumstances of their origin. The first "Night-Song" was written in l776, when Goethe was still a newcomer to the court in Weimar. We note a correspondence between the mood of the first "Night- Song" and the young poets situation in that year. He was then still recovering from the trauma of his Sturm und Drang years when he had felt himself to be a Cain-like fugitive. By 1776, Goethe was afforded the promise of relief from his woes by the consoling influence of Frau von Stein. By 1780, largely as a result of being subject to this influence, Goethe had acquired the virtues of self-possession, patience and a sense of the objectivity inculcated by the contemplation of physical nature and works of art. As a minister charged with responsibility for the supervision of mines, he frequently visited Ilmenau, and it was in the close vicinity of this town that he wrote the second "Night-Song" and inscribed its words into the boards of a wayfarer's hut set in the hills. The most probable date of this event was the 6th of September 1780. When Goethe approached the end of his life, he returned to this hut. On reading the second "Night-Song" carved in the boards of a wall, Goethe could not help weeping, so deeply was the poem connected with his memories of Frau von Stein. Goethe himself set the precedent for having the poems appear either separately or together. If the poems appear singly, each bears the title of "Wandrers Nachtlied"; if together, only the first is thus entitled, while the poem of 1780 bears the title "Ein Gleiches"", (meaning here "a poem of the same kind"). Let us now go on to consider words found in the poems and difficulties Longfellow faced when translating them. The words "Sprest du" in the second "Night-Song" are rendered by Longfellow as "Hearest thou". Any English translation of the German "du" in a poetic text cannot quite convey the force of the German pronoun. The English "you" neither specifies a reference to only one person, nor does it in itself indicate that there is a close or familiar relationship between the speaker and the person addressed. "Thou" corresponds to "du" in terms of number and familiarity, but carries possibly unwanted associations with certain biblical and literary traditions. An evocation of tradition may well be consistent with the lofty tones of the first "NightSong" so reminiscent of the Lord's Prayer in the King James Bible. However, the self-same tone loses something of the intimate feeling conveyed by "du" in the second "Night-Song".

The German verb "spren" has meanings in the range "to trace", "to sense", "to make out" and "to discern under difficult conditions". Why did Longfellow render this verb using "to hear"? It seems unlikely that the answer will be found in any need to make concessions to demands of metre. "Spren" does not suggest which of the five senses allows one to be aware of some object. In the given context Longfellow's choice of the verb "to hear" suggests that the speaker relies exclusively on the auditory channel of perception when detecting the slightest movement in the tree-tops to which he refers. Common sense tells us that despite the advent of darkness it is often possible to see objects at night. Even if we allow that the speaker can attune his hearing to movements in tree-tops (as opposed to those in their lower branches), we still have to consider the hill-tops referred to in the poem. Longfellow establishes by the very use of the verb "to hear" that the reader records his physical perceptions. To suggest that the vision of the hills is not physical in character, but rather some projection of the imaginative faculty is to deny the unity and consistency of the poem itself. We face none of these objections if we accept that the second night-song depicts a nocturnal landscape as seen by the speaker. Professor E.M. Wilkinson suggests in an appreciation of the poem that the speaker sees what he describes by the twilight of evening. 2 The only other source of light capable of illuminating the hills and trees to which the speaker refers is that of the moon. When faced with two equally plausible explanations, even a rigorously objective critic may find it appropriate to consider one poem in the light of another written by the author, preferably at about the same time. In one of the draft versions of "Wandrers Nachtlied" the opening line runs "ber allen Gefilden" ("Above every field"). 6 This evinces a strong similarity with words found in "An den Mond," which Goethe dedicated to Frau von Stein. Here is the second strophe of this poem: Breitest ber mein Gefild Lindernd deinen Blick Wie der Liebsten Auge, mild ber mein Geschick. You spread over my pastures Your softening glance Like the eyes of the dearest one, mildly Over my destiny. If we concede that "An den Mond" evinces a deep affinity with the poems that share the title of "Wandrers Nachtlied", it follows that the second person pronoun situated in the first line of"Wandrers Nachtlied" (1776) contains the same dual reference. As the poems entitled "Wandrers Nachtlied" form a unity, we have a basis for inferring that the speaker describes a moon-lit landscape in the poem of 1780. But if this is the case, why should this poem contain no explicit reference to the moon? I offer an explanation of this absence at a later juncture in this section. However, I now briefly submit reasons why the poem's implicit suggestions concerning the effect of moon-light are compatible with the deep psychological influences which Professor Willoughby discusses in association with Goethe's use of the word "Wanderer." In poetic usage the English and German words sharing the form "Wanderer" arouse identical or similar associations, among them those of the "Wanderer" and the moon. Indeed, Shelley's "Lines written in the Bay of Lerici" begins with an apostrophe to the moon with the words "Bright wanderer". In my view there is an implicit association of the "Wanderer" and the moon in Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner . In his article entitled "Romanticism and 'Anti-SelfConsciousness"'. 4 G.H. Hartman identifies the Mariner as the "Wanderer" or "Wandering Jew". The Mariner is finally released from the curse that he brought upon himself when he blesses sea-serpents he sees by the light of the moon. Parallel treatments of the associated themes of the Wanderer and the moon in German and English poetry cannot be readily explained in terms of adherence to some convention or well-established tradition. In my view an explanation of this phenomenon must be sought in the deep levels of the psyche. Dr. C. G. Jung constantly elucidated his theories by referring to the archetypal wanderers that appear in ancient mythologies. 5 In this connection he pointed to "solar" heroes driven by a libidinal impulse to achieve union with that aspect of the

consciousness that gives rise to the image of a goddess of the night, sometimes the moon, representing the anima, the female aspect of the self, sought by the libido. In an article to which I have already referred G.H. Hartman interprets poems that present the theme of a journey as expressions of the imaginative process when engaged in the composition of poetry. I continue this discussion exploring ways in which words and images encountered in "Wandrers Nachtlied" mirror the quality and nature of the poems themselves. Let us once more consider aspects of "Wandrers Nachtlied" in the light of Longfellows translation. Longfellow's rendering of "Vgelein" as "birds" in the second "Night-Song" does not convey the diminutive force of the suffix indicating "liitle birds". What is lost by this inaccuracy? We are surely not considering here some aspect of ornithogy but a reflection of an internal aspect of the poem itself. I find corroboration for this conclusion in a word that also implies a reference to poetry and poetic inspiration, namely in "Hauch" ("breath"), which immediately precedes the line beginning "Die Vgelein", for the words "die Vgelein" and "kaum einen Hauch" share the feature of denoting a slight measure.These intimations are consonant with the tone of the second "Night-Song" with its quality of reticence and lack of any superfluous word or image. It is the bare economy of language evident in the poem, with its tendency to stress the minimal or negative aspects of what it describes, which lends the poem its specially vibrant qualities and its density of associations. Again the line "Die Vglein schweigen im Walde" will serve to illustrate this point. In the normal way it should be translated as "The little birds are silent in the wood". Longfellow's translation of this line offers one possible explanation of the birds' silence, but forfeits the stark simplicity of the original, which stresses absence and negation. If, as I earlier argued, a perception of light is implied by the speaker s reference to inaudible objects, the absence of any reference to a source of light again reflects the poet's avoidance of any superfluous statement. The minimalism that characterises "Wandrers Nachtlied" enhances the suggestive power those few words that compose it, making us unusually aware that words exist in their own right and are not merely subservient to a concise referential and designating role. This is nowhere more clearly evident than in the case of the word "Wanderer". In the introduction of this inquiry I focussed on possible reasons why Longfellow chose the word "Wanderer" as the appropriate translation of "Wandrer". No Synonym of "Wanderer," whether "wayfarer", "pilgrim", or "itinerant artist" covers the full range of meaning that inheres in "Wanderer", and no dramatic or contextual setting foregrounds one sense of "Wanderer" at the expense of another. Any resultant ambiguity does not lead to confusion or contradiction, as interpretations of the poem based on a regard for one of its meanings complement and enhance alternative interpretations based on another understanding of the word's possible meaning. This ambiguity comes to light if we reflect on the nature of the "rest" that is finally promised to the Wanderer. This might be construed as physical rest on a traveller's return to home and family after the rigours of a long journey. It could betoken the rest of a believer after life's journey is over, or a release from tensions that assail the poet's peace of mind. In recognition of what Goethe called "Wiederspiegelung", the interaction of art and life, we gather that all the aspects of "wandering" just mentioned colour the full meaning of the word "Wanderer". We should not consider this word only in terms of its power to define subject-matter. It implies structure, contrast, relationships and reciprocity. This is clearly evident in the antithesis of "Wanderer" and "rest" in "Wandrers Nachtlied," or indeed, within the general context of Goethe's poetic works, as Professor L.A. Willoughby convincingly demonstrates in his article "The Image of the 'Wanderer' and the 'Hut' in Goethe's Poetry". If, as I suggested earlier, the associations of "Wanderer" and other forms derived from the verbs "wandern" and "to wander', harbour the same wealth of implications, we should expect to discover similar themes and antitheses in poems in which such forms occur. Certain similarities of this kind may be the result of "influence". As I noted in another connection, according to Jonathan Wordsworth, his renowned forebear, William Wordsworth, was deeply impressed by Goethe's "Der Wandrer" as mediated to him by a translation of this poem by William Taylor of Norwich. 7 In entitling the translation "The Wanderer", Taylor anticipated Longfellows choice of the same word in the title "Wanderer's NightSongs". In Jonathan Wordsworth's view, Goethe's influence gave rise to the figure of the Wanderer in The Excursion. It is, however, in a comparison of "Wandrers Nachtlied" and "I wandered lonely as a cloud" that I believe we are able to discover the deepest affinities shared by Goethe and Wordsworth. In both poems we witness a vision of natural objects which effects a perfect balance of subjectivity and objectivity. The communion of the observer and the observed

springs from a harmony of the self-conscious and the unconscious operations of the poet's mind. The merging of these modes of consciousness does not result in either poem in an obliteration of references to recalled experience. Indeed, we can even assign precise dates to the experiences which prompted Goethe and Wordworth to write these poems. However, the poems also evince that power which transcends the normal individual or personal consciousness, the power the Romantics called "the imagination". Professor E. .M. Wilkinson observes in connection with the second "Night-Song" that the poem reveals the essential order of language itself. 8 I believe a similar claim can be made for "I wandered lonely as a cloud", for reasons that should become clear in the following discussion. It is noteworthy that both poems begin with the word "Wanderer" or a declined form of the verb "to wander", thereby typifying a trait in the poetry of their age. A conspicuous number of celebrated poems written by Goethe and his Romantic contemporaries contain the word "Wanderer" in their titles. The frequency of this occurrence is so conspicuous that one might be misled into concluding that the word "Wanderer" is limited in function to serving as some conceit or convention. One finds occurrences of the verb "to wander" at the beginning of English Romantic poems which echo traditional evocations of the "wandering" Muse.9 If we discover essentially the same phenomenon reflected in occurrences of the word "Wanderer" in German poetry and those of the less conspicuous but no less significant appearances of the verb "to wander" in Romantic English poetry, we have cause to ponder whether the Muse has truly departed from modern poetry. In my view no prevalent influence or convention, and least of all coincidence, provides a full explanation for the affinities and shared associations noted in this discussion. ANNOTATIONS 1. The background of the poem is discussed by Erich Trunz in his commentary on "Ein Gleiches" Goethe Die Gedichte, ed. Erich Trunz (Munich, 1929). 2. We pointed to the immediacy with which language here conveys the hush of evening ber allen Gipfel ist Ruh. In the long of Ruh and in the evening pause we detect the perfect stillness that descends upon nature with the coming of twilight. Professor E.M. Wilkinson, "Goethe's Poetry", German Life and Letters , pp. 316-329. 3. Hand-written copies were in the possession of Herder and Luise von Gchhausen. 4. In: Romanticism and Consciousness Essays in Criticism , ed. Harold Bloom (New York, 1970 5 . "The nature of wandering in psychological terms is discussed in the fifth chapter of Psychology of the Unconscious . I cite a passage from this chapter as translated by Beatrice M. Hinkle: The wandering is a representation of longing, of the ever-restless desire, which nowhere finds its object, for unknown to itself, it seeks the lost mother, the wandering association renders the Sun comparison easily intelligible, also. under this aspect, the heroes resemble the wandering Sun, which seems to justify the fact that the myth of the hero is a sun myth. But the myth of the hero, however, is, as it appears to me, the myth of our own suffering unconscious, which has an unquenchable longing for all the deepest sources of our own being." 6. in: Etudes Germanique July-Dec 1951. 7. Jonathan Wordsworth, The Music of Humanity (New York / Evanston, 1969). 8. ln the article cited in the second footnote above: Here, in this lyrical poem, his [Goethe's] experience of natural process has been so completely assimilated into the forms of language, that it is communicated to us directly by the order of the words. 9. Most noticeably in Byron's Childe Harold' s Pilgrimage and Blake's Milton.