fbpx

5 Short German Poems with English Translations

No matter the language, poems hold a special place in people’s hearts. The same is true with German poems. Poetry by German greats Goethe, Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Heine, and so many others, continue to be read and loved today.

If you’re looking for short German poems that you can easily memorize by heart, this article is a good place to start. We’re sharing here five short poems by great German poets, together with its English translation. Think of this as your gateway to learning--and loving--German poetry!

|. Der du von dem Himmel bist (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

When you talk about German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe easily comes to mind. A novelist, poet, playwright, among other distinctions tied to his name, Goethe is considered the greatest German literary figure.

In his lifetime, he was able to write novels, epic and lyric poetry, dramas, memoirs, and science papers.

Here is his short poem called Der du von dem Himmel bist.


Der du von dem Himmel bist

 

Der du von dem Himmel bist,

Alles Leid und Schmerzen stillest,

Den, der doppelt elend ist,

Doppelt mit Erquickung füllest;

Ach, ich bin des Treibens müde!

Was soll all der Schmerz und Lust?

Süßer Friede,

Komm, ach komm in meine Brust!


Wanderer's Nightsong I


Thou that from the heavens art,

Every pain and sorrow stillest,

And the doubly wretched heart

Doubly with refreshment fillest,

I am weary with contending!

Why this pain and desire?

Peace descending

Come ah, come into my breast!


||. Archimedes und der Schüler (Friedrich Schiller)

Renowned German poet Friedrich Schiller or Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller if you want to be more precise, had a lot on his plate. He was a celebrated poet, playwright, historian, physician, and philosopher.  

He is also a good friend of the highly influential Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, and together, they made a lot of fruitful collaborations.

Here’s his short poem entitled Archimedes und der Schüler.


Archimedes und der Schüler  


Zu Archimedes kam ein wißbegieriger Jüngling,

»Weihe mich,« sprach er zu ihm, »ein in die göttliche Kunst,

Die so herrliche Frucht dem Vaterlande getragen

Und die Mauren der Stadt vor der Sambuca beschützt!«

»Göttlich nennst du die Kunst? Sie ists,« versetzte der Weise,

»Aber das war sie, mein Sohn, eh sie dem Staat noch gedient,

Willst du nur Früchte von ihr, die kann auch die Sterbliche zeugen;

Wer um die Göttin freit, suche in ihr nicht das Weib.«
Archimedes and the Student


To Archimedes came a youth desirous of knowledge.

“Tutor me,” spoke he to him, “in the most godly of arts,

Which such glorious fruit to the land of our father hath yielded

And the walls of the town from the Sambuca preserved!”

“Godly nams’t thou the art? She is’t,” responded the wise one;

“But she was that, my dear son, e’re she the state served.

Woulds’t thou but the fruits from her, these too can the mortal engender;

Who doth woo the Goddess, seek not the woman in her.”

III. Schicke mir ein Blatt (Berthold Brecht)

The next poem comes from Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht or simply, Bertolt Brecht as he is known widely. A playwright, author, and poet. He is considered one of the most prominent and influential playwrights of the 20th century.

Here’s his short and intriguing poem, Schicke mir ein Blatt.


Schicke mir ein Blatt

 

Schicke mir ein Blatt, doch von einem Strauche

Der nicht näher als eine halbe Stunde

Von deinem Haus wächst, dann

Mußt du gehen und wirst stark, und ich

bedanke mich für das hübsche Blatt.


Send me a leaf


Send me a leaf, but from a bush

That grows at least one half hour

Away from your house, then

You must go and will be strong, and I

Thank you for the pretty leaf.


IV. Es liegt der heiße Sommer (Heinrich Heine)

German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine is well-loved for his lyric poetry that dwells on romantic themes. He was also an essayist, journalist, and a literary critic.

Here’s one of his poems.


Es liegt der heiße Sommer

Es liegt der heiße Sommer

Auf deinen Wängelein;

Es liegt der Winter, der kalte,

In deinem Herzchen klein.

Das wird sich bei dir ändern,

Du Vielgeliebte mein!

Der Winter wird auf den Wangen,

Der Sommer im Herzen sein.


There lies the heat of summer


There lies the heat of summer

On your cheek’s lovely art:

There lies the cold of winter

Within your little heart.

That will change, beloved,

The end not as the start!

Winter on your cheek then,

Summer in your heart.

V. Sie liebten sich beide (Heinrich Heine)

Our fifth poem is another one by Heinrich Heine and talks about love suppressed.


Sie liebten sich beide


Sie liebten sich beide, doch keiner

Wollt es dem andern gestehn;

Sie sahen sich an so feindlich,

Und wollten vor Liebe vergehn.

Sie trennten sich endlich und sahn sich

Nur noch zuweilen im Traum;

Sie waren längst gestorben,

Und wußten es selber kaum.


They loved each other


They loved each other, but neither

Would admit to the other they could:

As enemies, they saw each other,

And almost died of their love.

In the end they parted and only

Saw each other sometimes in dreams:

It was long ago they had died,

But they scarcely knew it, it seems.

Bonus Poem: Nicht alles, was Gold ist, funkelt (J.R.R. Tolkien)

We’re throwing in an extra poem for you. But unlike the others previously listed above, this one was written originally in English and translated into German.

This poem, All That is Gold Does Not Glitter, was written by J.R.R. Tolkien for his popular novel The Lord of the Rings. It is also known as Song of Aragorn, and talks about a major plot of the story.


Nicht alles, was Gold ist, funkelt


Nicht alles, was Gold ist, funkelt,

Nicht jeder, der wandert, verlorn,

Das Alte wird nicht verdunkelt,

Noch Wurzeln der Tiefe erfroren.

Aus Asche wird Feuer geschlagen,

Aus Schatten geht Licht hervor;

Heil wird geborstenes Schwert,

Und König, der die Krone verlor.


All that is gold does not glitter


All that is gold does not glitter

Not all those who wander are lost

The old that is strong does not wither

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken

A light from the shadows shall spring

Renewed be the blade that was broken

The crownless again shall be king.

Conclusion

So there you have it, six short German poems with English translations. Which one did you like best? Share it with us in the comments!

To read more German texts, check out German Short Stories. It comes with a built-in dictionary and free audio to help you learn German vocabulary as well as hone your listening skills in German. Check it out below!

A  FUN AND EFFECTIVE WAY TO LEARN GERMAN

  • 10 entertaining short stories about everyday themes
  • Practice reading and listening with 90+ minutes of audio 
  • Learn 1,000+ new German vocabulary effortlessly!

About the Author Janey

Leave a Comment: