Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt. 1869. Translated by C. Hermann Merivale.
Excerpt, “The Book of German Songs from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century.” Translated and Edited by H. W. Dulcken. 1856.
Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry: A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.” Translated by Joseph Gostick. 1845.
To My old Friend
After long years once more thy writing lay
Before me, and – how wonderful – forth flew
Back on my heart our youthful friendship’s day,
When in the world’s great school we yet were new.
I now am an old man; my hair is grey,
And false shame I have long learned to subdue,
Yes! I will call thee friend, as I did then,
Will hail thee mine, and tell it unto men!
My poor, poor friend! the joggling fiend hath not
Me, as thyself, so treacherously undone;
Still have I striven, still hoped a brighter lot,
And truly, in the end, have little won’
Yet the Grey Man will boast not to have got
Hold of my shadow; nor hath ever done.
Here lies my native shadow, free unfurled:
I never lost my shadow in the world.
Yet, guiltless as a child, on me descended
The scorn men for thy nakedness did feel,
What! is our likeness then so subtly blended?
They shouted, “Where’s thy shadow, O Schlemihl?”
And when I showed it, laughing, they pretended
Blindness, and still laughed endless peal on peal.
What help? We learn in patience to endure;
Nay more – are glad – feel we our conscience pure.
And what then is the shadow? May I know it?
As I myself so oft am catechised?
Thus monstrously, and higher far to show it,
Than the harsh world itself it e’er hath prized?
Yes! and to nineteen thousand days we own it
Which passing o’er us, thus have us advised –
As formerly to shadow we gave being,
We now see life, a shadow, from us fleeing.
And thereupon we give our hands, Schlemihl!
On we will go, and to the Old One leave it;
How little for the whole world will we feel,
But our own union, firm and firmer weave it.
As thus unto our goal we nearer wheel,
Who laughs or blames — we’ll hear not, nor conceive it;
Till, ‘scaped from all the tempests of the deep
We’ll enter port, and sleep our soundest sleep.
Berlin, August 1834
Adelbert von Chamisso
Excerpt, “The Wonderful History of Peter Schlemihl” by Adelbert von Chamisso. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans. Paternoster Row. 1843. Translated by William Howitt. Illustrated by A. Fleischmann.
“Der Abend” – Caspar David Friedrich, 1820-21.
Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend
Would that I had never left you,
woodlands, lofty and wondrous!
You held me lovingly in your embrace
for many a long, long year.
Where, in your twilit spots,
there was birdsong and silver streams,
there also sprang up many songs
from my bosom, fresh and bright.
Your surging, your echoes,
your never-tiring whispering,
your melodies all
awoke song in my breast.
Here in these wide meadows
everything is desolate and mute to me,
and I gaze up into the blue sky,
looking for shapes in the clouds.
While you compelled song from my breast,
it seldom stirs now,
just as the bird sings only a half song
when parted from tree and leaf.
Rest, my love, in the shade
Of green, darkening night;
The grass rustles on the meadow,
The shadows fan and cool thee
And true love is awake.
Sleep, go to sleep!
Gently rustles the grove,
Eternally am I thine.
Hush, you hidden songs,
And disturb not her sweetest repose!
The flock of birds listens,
Stilled are their noisy songs.
Close thine eyes, my darling,
Sleep, go to sleep;
In the twilight
I will watch over thee.
Murmur on, you melodies,
Rush on, you quiet stream.
Lovely fantasies of love
do these melodies evoke:
Tender dreams swim after them.
Through the whispering grove
Swarm tiny golden bees
which hum thee to sleep.
..This girl’s image speaks to me:
As I dreamt of her for restless ages,
I see her now before my eyes.
I have often lifted my eyes at dead of night,
Longing for a wife.
Satan’s spite left me but a pounding heart
To remind me of my torment.
The dull glow I feel burning here,
Can I in my misery call it love?
Ah, no! It is a yearning for redemption:
would that through such an angel it came true!
As from the mist of times long gone.