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Traditional rhyming poetry

German Poems Translated into English

Below are two translations of a sonnet by Eduard Mörike (1804-1875), a German poet of the romantic period. I wrote the translation with 10-syllable lines first (in iambic pentameter). Then I wrote (with the same end rhymes) the one with 8-syllable lines (in iambic tetrameter).

In the Woods

While lying on the grass beneath the leaves,
I listen to the sound of cuckoo song.
His melody flows gently out along
the vale, and all can clearly hear him grieve.

The worst vexation that I can conceive:
society’s pale faces, grim and long.
They cannot fight with me or do me wrong,
for when I’m in the woods I find reprieve.

But if the people only knew how I
can lie and waste my time so leisurely,
they would be sure to envy my pursuits.

I gaze into the distance—at the sky—
and weave the words as verses come to be.
I live in peace; my sonnets are the fruits.


In the Woods

While lying here beneath the leaves,
I listen to the cuckoo’s song.
His melody flows out along
the vale, and all can hear him grieve.

The greatest ill I can conceive:
the city’s faces, grim and long.
They cannot fight or do me wrong,
for in the woods I find reprieve.

But if the people knew how I
can waste my time so leisurely,
they’d surely envy my pursuits.

I gaze into the distant sky
as woven verses come to be.
My nature sonnets are the fruits.


Am Walde

Eduard Mörike (1804-1875)

Am Waldsaum kann ich lange Nachmittage,
Dem Kukuk horchend, in dem Grase liegen;
Er scheint das Tal gemaechlich einzuwiegen
Im friedevollen Gleichklang seiner Klage.

Da ist mir wohl, und meine schlimmste Plage,
Den Fratzen der Gesellschaft mich zu fuegen,
Hier wird sie mich doch endlich nicht bekriegen,
Wo ich auf eigne Weise mich behage.

Und wenn die feinen Leute nur erst daechten,
Wie schoen Poeten ihre Zeit verschwenden,
Sie wuerden mich zuletzt noch gar beneiden.

Denn des Sonetts gedraengte Kraenze flechten
Sich wie von selber unter meinen Haenden,
Indes die Augen in der Ferne weiden.


Here is another sonnet by Eduard Mörike.

To the Beloved

When I am sated by your form and face,
I’m speechlessly delighted by your worth.
I hear an angel breathing on this earth,
for in your form she takes her hidden place.

My smile doubts, but if I only knew
I wasn’t dreaming and you’re timeless still,
my greatest wish for you, my only will
concerning you, would finally come true.

My mind is plunging to the depths, and I
can hear our fate rush by melodically.
It is divinely sourced within the night.

Amazed, I look up at the endless sky,
where all the stars are shining there with glee.
I kneel to listen to their song of light.


An die Geliebte

Wenn ich, von deinem Anschaun tief gestillt,
Mich stumm an deinem heil’gen Wert vergnüge,
Dann hör’ ich recht die leisen Atemzüge
Des Engels, welcher sich in dir verhüllt,

Und ein erstaunt, ein fragend Lächeln quillt
Auf meinem Mund, ob mich kein Traum betrüge,
Daß nun in dir, zu ewiger Genüge,
Mein kühnster Wunsch, mein einz’ger, sich erfüllt.

Von Tiefe dann zu Tiefen stürzt mein Sinn,
Ich höre aus der Gottheit nächt’ger Ferne
Die Quellen des Geschicks melodisch rauschen.

Betäubt kehr’ ich den Blick nach oben hin,
Zum Himmel auf – da lächeln alle Sterne:
Ich kniee, ihrem Lichtgesang zu lauschen.