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Wanderer's Nocturne II (1780)

Above all mountaintops
Is silence,
In all the treetops
You sense
Scarcely a breath;
The birds fall silent in the woods.
But wait, soon
You too will rest.

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Notes: This is among the most famous of German verses, penned in 1780 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the most famous of German authors. Poetic beauty was sacrificed for ``accuracy'' in this particular translation. Goethe's poem has shorter lines and stronger rhyme, and the German text contains several words that are only clumsily translated into English. Far more difficult than Goethe, though, is Gottfried Benn, a poet of the twentieth century whose choice of words is precise and nuanced enough to make ``good'' translations very difficult.

The german original is also available on this site.