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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von

Poems of the West and East
West-Eastern Divan - West-Östlicher Divan

Bi-Lingual Edition of the Complete Poems
Verse Translation by John Whaley
With an Introduction by Katharina Mommsen

Series: German Studies in America - Volume 68

Year of Publication: 1998

Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt/M., New York, Paris, Wien, 1998. 490 pp.
ISBN 978-3-906759-62-3 hardback  (Hardcover)

Weight: 0.850 kg, 1.874 lbs

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Book synopsis

This English verse translation of Goethe's West-Eastern Divan aims to give English-readers a fair indication of the themes, quality and flavour of Goethe's major cycle of lyric poetry. As far as possible it remains faithful to Goethe's metrical and rhyming patterns. The Divan's wealth of earnest depth and passion is conveyed with an often casual simplicity of vocabulary and expression. It moves through changing moods from which wit and grace and good humour are never long absent when the mind is, as in these poems, at play and in command. Goethe described this complexity as «Unconditional submission to the unfathomable will of God, serene conspectus of the activities of this earth, mobile and always in circles and spirals, love, inclination hovering between two worlds, all the real purified, dissolving in symbol». The English translation seeks to keep to the poetic tones in Goethe's seemingly effortless words.


Contents: This bilingual edition contains in verse all twelve books of Goethe's West-Eastern Divan. It has a German and an English Index to the poems and an English Glossary of key Arabic names and terms. A Translator's note follows an extensive Introduction by Katharina Mommsen. She points to the many themes and motifs of the work, examines them in the political and cultural context of the time, and presents them as a summation of Goethe's experience, feeling and thought throughout a long life, as a work affirming Goethe's conviction of the spiritual meaning of a fully earthly life.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

The Translator: John Whaley, born in 1927, was educated at University College London and Tübingen University. A professional civil servant, now retired, he first translated the West-Eastern Divan in 1974. This is his new verse translation of the Divan. He has also translated and published in 1998 Goethe: Selected Poems, described by T.J. Reed (Taylor Professor of German, Oxford University) as «that rare thing, a translation of a major poet for which no allowances need to be made».


«The fine verse translations of this inherently difficult collection will continue to make it accessible to a wider audience.» (The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies)


Germanic Studies in America. Vol. 68
Edited by Katharina Mommsen, Stanford, California