Come and join First Edition’s virtual celebration of the UNESCO World Poetry Day! Read some of our team’s favourite (translated) poems below both in the original language and in English.
Do you have any poems close to your heart that have made a huge impact on you? Share them with us in the comments below!
- The Erl-King by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
James shares one of Goethe’s poems, the famous Erl-King. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe probably needs no introduction, but… Born in 1749 in Frankfurt, he became a celebrated author by the age of 25. He was one of the greatest German Romantic writers, known for The Sorrows of Young Werther, Faust, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, and many more…
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht? –
“Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
“Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehn?
Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
“Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
Dem Vater grausets, er reitet geschwind,
Who’s riding so late where winds blow wild
“My son, why cover your face in such fear?”
‘Sweet lad, o come and join me, do!
“My father, my father, and can you not hear
‘Will you, sweet lad, come along with me?
“My father, my father, o can you not trace
‘I love you, your comeliness charms me, my boy!
The father shudders, his ride is wild,
translation by Edwin Zeydel
If you are up for some musical treats, here are a couple of links to two very different adaptations: one by Schubert (click here to hear that) and the other one by Hypnotic Grooves feat. Jo Van Nelsen (click here for the techno piece).
- Fantasy by Gérard de Nerval
Gérard de Nerval, whose poem was chosen by Isabelle, was a French poet, essayist and translator in the first half of the 19th century. He was a prominent figure of French Romanticism and his work later influenced Proust, Breton and the Surrealists. He was also well known for his translations of Goethe and Schiller which helped introduce French readers to the German Romantic poets. His themes included the juxtaposition of dreams and real life, fiction and reality, madness and sanity.
Il est un air pour qui je donnerais
Or, chaque fois que je viens à l’entendre,
Puis un château de brique à coins de pierre,
Puis une dame, à sa haute fenêtre,
There’s music I’d exchange right willingly
And every time I hear this air
And châteaux built in stone and brick
A damsel in a tower looking down
translation by Stan Solomons
- Boulevard dawn by Árpád Tóth
Anikó’s pick is by a Hungarian poet, Árpád Tóth (1886-1928). He was an important contributor to the contemporary literary life in Hungary with his signature style which was built around the feeling of melancholy, Schopenhauer’s philosophy, and his favourite literary device as an Impressionist poet, synaesthesia.
Vak volt a hajnal, szennyes, szürke. Még
Egyszerre két tűzfal között kigyúlt
Bűvölten állt az utca. Egy sovány
A Fénynek földi hang még nem felelt,
Bús gyársziréna búgott, majd kopott
The dawn was blind, a dirty grey, asleep
Flash between two fire walls, a fire –
Enchanted stood the street. Beyond a lean
From earthly sound to Light came no reply,
A factory siren droned a mournful lay,
translation by Leslie A. Kery
- Stages by Hermann Hesse
Melanie’s choice is by the literary Nobel Laureate and Goethe Prize winner, Hermann Hesse. The notable German poet, known for The Glass Bead Game, Steppenwolf and Siddhartha, was born in 1877 in Germany but he was educated in Switzerland and later he moved there permanently. His main themes were centered around the individual’s struggle with the constraints of society and the search for identity.
Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
As every flower fades and as all youth
Serenely let us move to distant places
Even the hour of our death may send
translation by Richard and Clara Winston
 Source of poem and translation: https://germanstories.vcu.edu/goethe/erl_dual.html
 Source of translation: https://feherilles.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/gerard-de-nerval-fantaisie-abrandozas.html
 Source of poem and translation: http://www.babelmatrix.org/works/hu/T%C3%B3th_%C3%81rp%C3%A1d-1886/K%C3%B6r%C3%BAti_hajnal/en/62206-Boulevard_dawn
 Source of translation: http://www.gss.ucsb.edu/projects/hesse/works/stages.html