Easter walk/Osterspaziergang

Das zweisprachige Handbuch für Deutschland, das neulich für uns Migranten veröffentlicht wurde, enthält einen Auszug aus Goethes “Osterspaziergang”, allerdings nicht ins Englische übersetzt, was auch sehr schwer wäre.

The other word of the day, or word of yesterday, is Osterspaziergang: Easter walk. The Manual for Germany mentioned in an earlier entry quotes fourteen lines from Goethe’s ‘Osterspaziergang’, which is actually from Faust I. The text of the book online is much shorter and does not include the poem.

The two-language copy I received does not attempt to translate the piece into English, perhaps fortunately (I have had to accept that the English is rocky in parts). It does entitle the passage ‘Easter Stroll’, although a moment later it has ‘Easter-Day Walk’.

The text is available online in English and German (translation into English by Edgar Alfred Bowring). The English is not good. Perhaps the contents sound a bit pedestrian, but the German has a bouncy rhythm (and the text must be seen as part of a play, not a free-standing poem).

The description in the manual of Easter is a bit shaky. ‘Ancient Germanic custom states [sic] that the egg is the origin of life. … Easter Eggs, chocolate bunnies and other sweets are hidden in the garden or in the apartment by parents on Easter Sunday for the children to hunt and find.’ (We don’t actually hunt eggs, do we?) ‘Sometimes Straw puppets are burned to symbolise the end of winter.’ Eggs and Straw with capitals. Is this Jack Straw, following in the tradition of Guy Fawkes? And ‘puppets’ – are they glove puppets, marionettes, or what? – I don’t like to be so negative, but the list of country and capitals is also odd (p. 11). I know that towns are often left in their original spelling, but what is this: Ucrain Ukraine, Slowakia Slowakei, Icland Island. Belarus or Belorussia etc. has been omitted altogether.

However, the attempt to communicate in icons on the cover is still more mystifying:


What does the symbol on the left mean – it suggests ‘Is this the men’s or the women’s lavatory?’ And then there is the empty third square.

Read on for the German Goethe text and the translation:Vor dem Tor
Vom Eise befreit sind Strom und Bäche
Durch des Frühlings holden, belebenden Blick,
Im Tale grünet Hoffnungsglück;
Der alte Winter, in seiner Schwäche,
Zog sich in rauhe Berge zurück.
Von dort her sendet er, fliehend, nur
Ohnmächtige Schauer körnigen Eises
In Streifen über die grünende Flur.
Aber die Sonne duldet kein Weißes,
Überall regt sich Bildung und Streben,
Alles will sie mit Farben beleben;
Doch an Blumen fehlts im Revier,
Sie nimmt geputzte Menschen dafür.
Kehre dich um, von diesen Höhen
Nach der Stadt zurück zu sehen!
Aus dem hohlen finstern Tor
Dringt ein buntes Gewimmel hervor.
Jeder sonnt sich heute so gern.
Sie feiern die Auferstehung des Herrn,
Denn sie sind selber auferstanden:
Aus niedriger Häuser dumpfen Gemächern,
Aus Handwerks- und Gewerbesbanden,
Aus dem Druck von Giebeln und Dächern,
Aus der Straßen quetschender Enge,
Aus der Kirchen ehrwürdiger Nacht
Sind sie alle ans Licht gebracht.
Sieh nur, sieh! wie behend sich die Menge
Durch die Gärten und Felder zerschlägt,
Wie der Fluß in Breit und Länge
So manchen lustigen Nachen bewegt,
Und, bis zum Sinken überladen,
Entfernt sich dieser letzte Kahn.
Selbst von des Berges fernen Pfaden
Blinken uns farbige Kleider an.
Ich höre schon des Dorfs Getümmel,
Hier ist des Volkes wahrer Himmel,
Zufrieden jauchzet groß und klein:
Hier bin ich Mensch, hier darf ichs sein!

From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Faust”, translation by Edgar Alfred Bowring, 1853

From the ice they are freed, the stream and brook,
By the Spring’s enlivening, lovely look;
The valley’s green with joys of hope;
The Winter old and weak ascends
Back to the rugged mountain slope.

From there, as he flees, he downward sends
An impotent shower of icy hail
Streaking over the verdant vale.
Ah! but the Sun will suffer no white,

Growth and formation stir everywhere,
‘Twould fain with colours make all things bright,

Though in the landscape are no blossoms fair.
Instead it takes gay-decked humanity.

Now turn around and from this height,
Looking backward, townward see.

Forth from the cave-like, gloomy gate
Crowds a motley and swarming array.

Everyone suns himself gladly today.
The Risen Lord they celebrate,

For they themselves have now arisen
From lowly houses’ mustiness,
From handicraft’s and factory’s prison,
From the roof and gables that oppress,

From the bystreets’ crushing narrowness,
From the churches’ venerable night,
They are all brought out into light.
See, only see, how quickly the masses
Scatter through gardens and fields remote;
How down and across the river passes
So many a merry pleasure-boat.

And over-laden, almost sinking,
The last full wherry moves away.
From yonder hill’s far pathways blinking,
Flash to us colours of garments gay.

Hark! Sounds of village joy arise;
Here is the people’s paradise,

Contented, great and small shout joyfully:
“Here I am Man, here dare it to be!”

3 thoughts on “Easter walk/Osterspaziergang

  1. I was going to blog this, but I wouldn’t have done it as well as that, hoorah! That really is a sumptuously lamentable translation into the Victorian kitsch!

    ‘Twould fain with colours make all things bright, isn’t it? Then ‘twould fain make heavy use of the “blink” tag and animated “under construction” gifs, I shouldn’t wonder.

  2. Thank you.

    I did toy for a minute or two with retranslating it myself, but I could see more would probably be lost than won.

  3. I’ve read it only once quickly, and so far my only change would be in the last line:

    “Here I am human, here dare it to be!”

    “Man”– and capitalized in 2021–Yee gads …..

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