Goethe: Poetic vistas of eternity

Nicholas Lezard reviews David Luke’s book of translations of Goethe’s poetry, in The Guardian:

GoetheThe immensity of Goethe’s achievements — he was one of the last men, it was said, to know everything — is perhaps beyond our grasp these days, but he was, above all, a poet. And the problem with foreign-language poets is, for us, what gets lost in the translation. In his introduction to this volume, David Luke writes: Goethe’s “poetry is the essence of German. Unfortunately for translators, and for readers of Goethe unfamiliar with German, the converse is also true: the poetry of the German language is of the essence of Goethe. There is not much to be done about this situation.”

This is engagingly self-deprecating. Luke has done a lot about this situation, having not only published a definitive English-language edition in prose translation in 1964, but worked on versifying them for today.

More here.