Wondering about Silence: Considerations from over Fifty Translations of Goethe's "Wandrers Nachtlied II" into Hebrew


"Wandrers Nachtlied II" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is considered aesthetic lyricism, perfection merging content and form. It has been the focus of various disciplines and studied from many points of view. We devote our study to the notion of silence and the roles played by silence in the thematic buildup of the poem as these unfold from the examination of the linguistic choices made in fifty-three translations of the poem into Hebrew dating from 1888 to our millennium. This poem, acknowledged to be one of the lyrical gems of world literature, does not need any external support, yet using the translations to focus on the lexical choices such as "Ruh" and "schweigen," morphological forms, and syntactic constructions by way of interpretation, intermediately within an external linguistic system further surfaces and amplifies inner qualities and notions of the original poem, as well as the non-monolithic varied, and at times diverse senses of silence. Focusing on Hebrew as the object of investigation, the side-by-side examination of the fifty-three translations produced by talented Hebrew poets and translators makes apparent the poetic qualities accomplished by each translator and each translation.