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Goethe Poetry

And other thought is misfortune
    Is death and night to me:
I hum no supportable tune,
    I can no poet be.

  - J.W. von Goethe,
   from A Song Over the Unconfidence Toward Myself (in English)

Selected German verse by J.W. Goethe
in a dual-language format

This is a small collection selected from the vast total of Goethe's verse. The selection is purely subjective, reflecting my own personal favorites and whims. There is no attempt to arrange the poems by period or category, or to analyze their meaning. The selected poems are for the pure pleasure of reading a master poet in his original language—and to make it easier for you to find Goethe's verse.

It has often been observed that Goethe's poetry is difficult to properly translate. Others vastly more skilled than I—including T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and others—have attempted to translate Goethe into English with varying degrees of success. My Übersetzungen are line-by-line prose translations that convey the essential meaning of Goethe's words, without attempting to duplicate the poetic beauty of the original works. However, for some of Goethe's verse we offer side-by-side poetic English translations by Brigitte Dubiel (our German Forum manager) and Edgar Alfred Bowring (1826-1911), whose lyric translations appeared in The Poems of Goethe in 1874. Another good translator of Goethe's verse was Henry van Dyke (1852-1933). You can enjoy his English version of Goethe's "Nähe des Geliebten" (below).

Anyone who wants to read even more of Goethe's verse or prose should look at our links to Goethe online and Goethe books in both German and English.

Contents / Inhalt


1. Erlkönig  (Erlking, 1782)
Faust I >
   2. Die Gretchenfrage aus Faust I  ("The Gretchen Question")
   3. Vorspiel auf dem Theater aus Faust I  ("Prologue in the Theater")
4. Gefunden  ("Found")
5. Totentanz  ("Dance of Death") - with poetic translation
6. Wandrers Nachtlied II  ("Wayfarer's Night Song II")
7. Der Zauberlehrling  ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice") - with poetic translation
8. Nähe des Geliebten  ("Nearness of the Beloved One" or "Love's Nearness") - with poetic translation

MORE > J.W. Goethe - Main Page

MORE > Goethe Bio | Goethe Books | Goethe Links

Related Pages

Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Our main Goethe page.

Books: Goethe
German and dual-language works by or about Goethe.

Authors in German Literature 1
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Authors in German Literature 2
Our author index and link page for German-language authors on the Web.

Book Reviews
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German Book Sources
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Das Goethe-Institut
All about this indispensible resource for just about anything to do with German and German culture.

German Literature
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German proverbs, sayings, and literary quotations on the Web.

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