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Translated from the German by James Richardson
Published: Wed Apr 15 2020
Wanderer’s Night Song (II)

Over the hills,
stillness.
In miles of leaves
you sense
hardly a breath.
The birds have quieted in the forest.
Wait a little,
you as well
will come to rest.

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), one of the foundational figures of German literature, is best known for his novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, which has been called the first bestseller, and his drama Faust. He was also a theater director, critic, philosopher, scientist, statesman, and lyric poet.

James Richardson’s collections of poems, aphorisms, ten-second essays, and microlyrics include For Now (forthcoming 2020); During (2016); By the Numbers (2010), a finalist for the National Book Award; and Interglacial (2004), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award—all from Copper Canyon Press. Of “Wanderer’s Night Song (II),” Richardson writes: “I fell in love with Goethe’s whisper of a poem in the first week of college and fifty years later got around to translating it.” He is the recipient of the 2011 Jackson Poetry Prize. He teaches at Princeton University. (updated 2/2020)
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