Übersetzung / Translation
von / by Walter A. Aue

Joseph von Eichendorff:


Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen
Die da träumen fort und fort,
Und die Welt hebt an zu singen,
Triffst du nur das Zauberwort.

Joseph von Eichendorff

Dieses Gedicht sei möglicherweise über ein Gedicht, aber sicher nicht über den Herbst, meinen Sie? Unzweifelhaft. Aber ich mag Gedichte über Gedichte. Es gibt viel zu wenige davon.

Sie wollen aber eines oder zwei hören, um vergleichen zu können? Bitte sehr, bitte gleich: Ein Gedicht über das Gedicht von Franz Kießling und über die holde Dichtkunst von Eugenio Montale.

Noch welche? Hab' ich eigentlich nicht. Aber wenn ich so meine kleine Webseite ansehe, finde ich doch ein paar die sich - cum grano salis und unter Nachlaß aller Taxen - möglicherweise mit Dichtung, Gedichten und Dichtern beschäftigen. Halt so ein kleiner, alphabetischer Ausflug durch das weite Land der Seele:

Margaret Atwood: Siren Song

William Blake: To see a World

Wilhelm Busch: Verzeihlich

Emily Dickinson: This is My Letter
und Tell All the Truth

Maria von Ebner-Eschenbach: Ein kleines Lied

Joseph von Eichendorff: Isegrimm

und, last but not least, ein altes Wienerlied: Das hat ka Goethe gschrieb'n.

Joseph von Eichendorff:

Magic Wand

Sleeps a song in things abounding
that keep dreaming to be heard:
Earth'es tunes will start resounding
if you find the magic word.

Too repetitive, you say? Ok, I'll throw in a couple of heavier words to make a bigger splash:

Joseph von Eichendorff:

Divining Rod

Sleeps a tune in Noumenon
that keeps dreaming on and on:
songs will rise on Earth'es breath
if you guess Her Shibboleth.

But the poetry now got lost in translation, you say? Well, what else? But at least you knew your Robert Frost...

Honestly, though, did you really expect me to preserve the sparkle of such a gem, through all that semantic regrinding?

Really? Gee, thanks!

But, honestly, you better learn German. And then ask Freiherr von Eichendorff to forgive his humble admirer and translational macerator...

By the way, maybe Eichendorff was talking not only about the art of the poet but also about the agony of the translator? Finding the magic word - or at least the mot juste - and then waving the magic wand... What transcendental art, what transcending agony!

Later, much later

That simple quatrain, which I had put in this collection for my sheer love of this poem - knowing full well I couldn't do it justice - brought some unexpected responses over the past couple of years or so. I have been asked more often for this than for any other poem, whether readers could reproduce my translation for their book, essay, dissertation, etc. Prominent among them were natural scientists, which warmed my heart.

Anyway, a short time ago I received two inquiries, one from a string quartett and one from a university language department. I answered the chamber musicians that, while they were welcome, I wasn't satisfied with my feeble effort and they might well want to wait for another attempt on my part.

Not that trying to wave the magic wand again worked for me but, nevertheless, below you will find a slightly different version. It may not be better, but three versions - well, one is more of a joke, isn't it? - may be better than one:


Joseph von Eichendorff:


Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen
Die da träumen fort und fort,
Und die Welt hebt an zu singen,
Triffst du nur das Zauberwort.

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, 1788-1857

Joseph von Eichendorff:


Songs repose in things abounding
that keep dreaming to be heard,
and the world shall start resounding
if you hit her magic word.

Does that tell you something about Eichendorff? Hardly. But it does tell you something about the difficulties of translation, of making mere words carry the music. Believe me, that is much harder than putting prosody and rhyme to order...


Further poems by Eichendorff
Weitere Gedichte von Eichendorff

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First posted: September 2006
Last updated: July 2008

N.B.: The frame around the poems
shows autumn clouds over St. Margaret's Bay.

Want to see the original photograph?