Ginkgo poem by Goethe
.. ..Ginkgo leaves (photo Cor Kwant)
 
Goethe and the Ginkgo in Weimar
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 
1749-1832
The German poet, scientist, botanist and philosopher, dedicated the poem below to his former lover Marianne von Willemer. The Ginkgo leaf symbolizes Goethe's theme, one and double. The Ginkgo tree that was Goethe's inspiration to write the poem in 1815, grew in Heidelberg, Germany. On the picture below you see the poem in Goethe's original handwriting.
This poem was published in Goethe's work 'West-östlichen Divan' (book Suleika) of 1819, titled 'Gingo biloba' for literally reasons.
 

Goethe's poem Ginkgo biloba


Copy of the original of Goethe's poem with Ginkgo-leaves pasted on it by Goethe himself.
15, September 1815.
Original ( fair copy) in Goethe Museum, Düsseldorf (Germany).
21,4 x 32,7 cm

 
 
 
Dieses Baums Blatt, der von Osten
Meinem Garten anvertraut,
Gibt geheimen Sinn zu kosten,
Wie's den Wissenden erbaut.

Ist es ein lebendig Wesen,
Das sich in sich selbst getrennt?
Sind es zwei, die sich erlesen,
Dasz man sie als Eines kennt?

Solche Frage zu erwidern,
Fand ich wohl den rechten Sinn:
Fühlst du nicht an meinen Liedern,
Dasz ich Eins und doppelt bin?

Marianne von Willemer around 1809
Gerbermuhle, Frankfurt
Gerbermühle
Goethe

Goethe sent Marianne von Willemer a Ginkgo-leaf and on  September 15, 1815 on the Gerbermühle in Frankfurt (Germany)  he read his draft of the poem to her and  friends.
On  September 23, 1815 he saw Marianna for the last time. Then he showed her the Ginkgo tree in the garden of the castle in Heidelberg from which tree he took  the two leaves pasted by him on the poem. The tree no longer exists. After that he wrote the poem shown above and sent it to Marianne on September 27, 1815.
So the date '15.9.1815'  only refers to his evening on the Gerbermühle.
The poem was published in his work 'West-östlichen Divan' (Book 'Suleika'), first published in 1819. Suleika is Marianne von Willemer. In  his work Goethe changed Ginkgo into Gingo for literary reasons (East ->West?).
 
 

Translations
 

English

This leaf from a tree in the East,
Has been given to my garden.
It reveals a certain secret,
Which pleases me and thoughtful people.

Does it represent One living creature
Which has divided itself?
Or are these Two, which have decided,
That they should be as One?

To reply to such a Question,
I found the right answer:
Do you notice in my songs and verses
That I am One and Two?

Japanese

 Spanish

Las hojas de este árbol, que del Oriente
a mi jardín venido, lo adorna ahora,
un arcano sentido tienen, que al sabio
de reflexión le brindan materia obvia.

¿Será este árbol extraño algún ser vivo
que un día en dos mitades se dividiera? ¿O dos seres que tanto se comprendieron,
que fundirse en un solo ser decidieran?

La clave de este enigma tan inquietante
Yo dentro de mí mismo creo haberla hallado:
¿no adivinas tú mismo, por mis canciones,
que soy sencillo y doble como este árbol?

.
.
.
French

La feuille de cet arbre
Qu'à mon jardin confia l 'Orient
Laisse entrevoir son sens secret
Au sage qui sait s'en saisir.

Serait-ce là un être unique
Qui de lui-même sest déchiré ?
Ou bien deux qui se sont choisis
Et qui ne veulent être quun ?

Répondant à cette question
Jai percé le sens de lénigme
Ne sens-tu pas daprès mon chant
Que je suis un et pourtant deux ?

Italian

Le foglie di quest'albero dall'Oriente venuto a ornare il mio giardino 
celano un senso arcano 
che il saggio sa capire. 

C'è in esso una creatura 
che da sola si spezza? 
O son due che per scelta voglion
essere una sola? 

Per chiarire il mistero 
ho trovato la chiave: 
non senti nel mio canto ch'io
pur essendo uno anche duplice sono?

Dutch

Zie dit kleinood in mijn gaarde:
boomblad uit de oriënt,
siert met zijn geheime waarde,
ingewijden welbekend.

Leeft het als een enkel wezen,
innerlijk in twee gedeeld?
Of vormt juist het uitgelezen
tweetal één herkenbaar beeld?

Langzaam rijpende ideeën
werpen op die vragen licht.
Voel je niet dat ik in tweeën
eenling ben in mijn gedicht?


 

Read other poems about the Ginkgo:
by Howard Nemerov, Poet Laureate of the U.S.A.: click here.
 by the Spanish poet Elena Martín Vivaldi: click here.
by Eve Merriam: click here.



 
 

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