by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated by Graham Good
Goethe’s poetry has delighted readers around the world for over two centuries, but for English readers there was clearly a need for a new contemporary translation. In an age which prizes both individual self-development and cultural diversity, one looks to Goethe (1749-1832) as the first writer to show how these two values could be combined. Goethe was a global thinker, learning from the lyric poetry of countries such as Persia and China, and coining the term “world literature” (Weltliteratur). His poetry encompasses a wide variety of themes, from love and creativity to nature and religion. For Goethe, life is a process with no final answers: “All meaning is only asking.” This selection of Goethe’s poetry aims to represent its formal and thematic variety in verse translations which follow the formal patterns as far as possible, while rendering the sense in an idiom accessible to readers of modern poetry in English.