east-west divan

Rubens Gerchman, A Bela Lindonéia, 1966. Photographic reproduction by unknown author.


Commentary on the Book of Lyrics by JW Goethe

Against the grain of the gloomy situation in which Brazil finds itself, the work of JW Goethe has been enjoying growing interest, and in this tree the year 2020 registers a significant milestone: the first full translation into Portuguese of the most extensive Goethian lyrical cycle, originally published in 1819 (eight years later an expanded edition would appear).

Signed by Daniel Martineschen (Estação Liberdade), the translation bears a title – east-west divan – which can immediately cause some strangeness with the adjective “Occident”, not included in Portuguese language dictionaries, recent or older, such as the bluteau or Morals.

This eventual estrangement perhaps awakens in the reader the impression that he is about to enter an experimental and avant-garde translation workshop, close to the conceptions, to quote a great name, of Haroldo de Campos, who bases all his work as a “transcreator” on the pillar of a “generalized paronomastic operation, by Jakobson, centered on the principle of equivalence of the poetic function”.

But now the reading of the poems of the first of the 12 verse books that make up the western-eastern volume – the “Livro do cantor”: Moganni Nameh, in the Persian designation equally used by Goethe for each book – does not confirm this impression and, arriving at Martineschen's “Afterword”, the reader will learn that the translator found “help” before in the translation of the text. auspicious performed by Jenny Klabin Segall over three decades.

In general, the resources mobilized by the translator to transpose the Goethian poems into Portuguese are sober, starting with the effort to reproduce the metric, rhythmic and strophic scheme of the original with rigor and fidelity. As a rule, we tried to reproduce the verse with four accents and in trochaic rhythm – succession of strong and weak accents – by means of the major round (seven syllables), while the verses with three accents were transposed with the five syllables of the round smaller.

Apparently this would systematically subtract a syllable from the original, but by making frequent use of signals and elisions, Martineschen gains the possibility of adequately corresponding to the metrical structure of Goethean verses. In itself, this expansion of the number of syllables may not exactly constitute an advantage within the lyrical genre, which is distinguished by condensation.

However, Martineschen thus gained greater flexibility for the transposition of the “sense” present in the poems in which the “western” poet dialogues with his “eastern” colleagues, especially his fourteenth-century Persian “twin” Hafez, as formulated in the third stanza of the poem “Ilimitado”, with its predominantly trochaic rhythm of four accents in the original, and which in the translation oscillates between seven and (with the doubling of “contigo”) nine poetic syllables: “And may the world sink, / Hafez, with you, with you only / I will dispute! Pleasure and pain / be us twins full! / How you drink and love / will be pride, my fate!”

If Goethe's Levantine intertext – “Admit it! The poets of the East / are greater than those of the West”, we read in the “Book of Proverbs” (in the original: “greater than we of the West”) – it was already very distant from the German readership of the first decades of the XNUMXth century, all the more remote he is in relation to the contemporary Brazilian reader and, in this sense, brief and objective notes that elucidate allusions and references that the poems are prodigal would be very welcome.

It is true that the poet himself postponed a 13th prose book to his lyrical cycle (“Notes and essays for better understanding” of the Diva”) precisely to facilitate the reader's orientation in this poetic dialogue that spans five centuries; however, even so, the reader will have to research on his own in order to grasp at deeper levels the meaning of certain poems, and this not only with regard to concepts and elements of the Islamic world, as manifested in two poems entitled “Fátua” , but sometimes also in relation to Western culture.

For example, when Goethe, criticizing religious hypocrisy (so active among us), outlines a parallel between the adversities imposed on Hafez and Ulrich Hutten by “brown and blue habits”, in the original metonymy, translated in an explanatory way by “Christian and Muslim monks”. ”. (A concise explanation of Ulrich Hutten, a German humanist who lived between 1488 and 1523, would certainly be very useful to the Brazilian reader of this poem.)

“Blessed yearning” and “Gingo biloba”

Diva is a noun of Persian origin (dīwān) and means, in a literary sense, “cycle” or “collection”. In a way, this extensive set of poems inspired by Hafez and other Persian and Arab poets can be seen as during “oriental” to roman elegies, written after the Italian voyage between September 1786 and April 1788 and published in full only in 1914. Among the best-known poems of the Diva is Selige Sehnsucht, a title that the translator Manuel Bandeira summarized in a single word: “Anelo”. Martineschen translates it as “Blessed yearning”, while the Portuguese version by Paulo Quintela brings “Nostalgia de bem-aventurança”. (“Nostalgia” is also the option of the famous Spanish translator Rafael Cansinos Assens: “Dichosa nostalgia”.).

There are still other translations of this poem into Portuguese, but it would not be a demerit to any of them, including that of Martineschen, to state that the author of “Gazal in praise of Hafiz”, one of the most musical poems of all modern lyric, placed He reached an incomparable level by giving the heptasyllables of his “Anelo” a mellifluous rhythm, without any stumbles, which can be exemplified by the last of the five stanzas: “'Die and transmute': while / You do not fulfill that destiny, / You are on the dark land / Like a dark pilgrim”. Martineschen's translation faithfully reproduces, unlike the one from Bandeira, the duplication of the demonstrative pronoun ("this") present in the original in the form of its e this, but misses the correspondence between “turbid guest” and “dark land”, through which the terms are reiterated and intensified: “If this does not inhabit you, / this: die and transform you! / You are just a visitor / In the land without form”.

Quintela, on the other hand, preserves the correspondence (“conviva turvo” and “trevas”, since he transforms the Goethean adjective that qualifies “earth” into a noun), but giving excessive weight to the closing of the poem with the concept “earth-mother”: “ And until you understand / This: – Die and become! –, / You will only be a turbid companion / In the darkness of the motherland”.

Another famous poem by Diva was inspired by an Orient even more remote than the lands of Chiraz or Samarkand: “Gingo biloba”, a title that alludes to the bilobed leaf of the Ginkgo tree (for sound reasons Goethe omitted the “k” in the third version of the poem), originally from China and Japan. As in “Anelo”, the message of this poem from “Livro de Zuleica”, saying nothing to the “vulgo”, is destined to edify the “wise”.

Martineschen exemplarily translates the German trochaic rhythm of four accents into larger rounds, using signals, but also a hiatus in the fourth line:

orient tree leaf
that is done in my garden,
give me the missing sense
which the wise only please.

It will just be um live to be?
Which is part of itself,
be two? that, in the spoon,
do they fit into one without pulling apart?

To answer such questions
I reached a sour sense;
don't you see in these songs
that I am One and double?

In the first stanza we have the presentation of the “leaf” of the tree that, from the East, was transplanted to the poet’s garden, suggesting a correlation with the “leaf” of paper that, containing the third version of “Gingo biloba”, integrated it whether to the western-eastern “florilegium”– or “anthology”, to use this noun with botanical connotations, since it comes from the Greek anthos, "flower". In the two following stanzas, questions accumulate about the nature of the leaf and the identity of the poet, against the backdrop of the double and duplicity motif.

The bipartite sheet seems to appear as a symbolic metaphor for the symbiosis between the “twins” Goethe and Hafez and, by extension, between the West and the East. Or between Goethe and “Hatem”, a name taken from two Arab poets and assumed by the Western poet to dialogue with Zuleica, in turn the Persian mask of Marianne von Willemer, whom Goethe found during a trip through the Rhine region in 1814 and who, entering with great virtuosity in the erotic-lyrical game, he contributed some “leaves” to the poetic herbarium published in 1819.

In this sense, this leaf that is divided into two, or that was formed by the union of two, also symbolizes the lyrical link between Hatem and Zuleica. The three stanzas of “Gingo biloba” were also translated by Paulo Quintela, but in Portugal there is still a beautiful version by João Barrento, reproduced below so that an eventual comparison can be made with Martineschen’s translation:

This leaf, which the East
To my garden he trusted,
Gives the secret a try
Knowing that the wise formed.

É um living being that in itself
Even in two split?
Or are two elected
And the world in them um it saw?

Of these questions you ask
Right sense I give you:
Don't sit in my corners
How am I one and two?[I]

translation typology

The crucial motivation that launched Goethe to the elaboration of his most extensive lyrical cycle came from the intense reading, from June 1814, of the Diva of Hafez, in the translation of the Austrian diplomat and orientalist Hammer-Purgstall (1774 – 1856). The impact of this experience was so overwhelming that the German poet was forced to react “productively” to the new world unveiled by Hafez, that is, responding to Persian poems with his own creations. Otherwise, says an autobiographical writing, "I could not have sustained myself in the face of the mighty phenomenon." Around the reading of this translation, Goethe catalyzes all his previous occupation with the literature and culture of the East, his previous knowledge of Arab and Persian poets and also his contact with the Old Testament, such as the text “Israel in the desert” which, written in May 1797, it is integrated into the “Notes and Essays”.

It is not surprising that, in one of the chapters of this theoretical part, Goethe considers an essential aspect in the constitution of world literature (World Literature), a concept that he would create a few years later: translation. A tripartite typology of translation art is then proposed, with the first type referring to a translation always in prose, leveling all the peculiarities of the original.

The poet exemplifies with Luther's biblical version how valuable such a translation is, so to speak. homogenizing can reveal himself: “Although prose completely eliminates all idiosyncrasy from any poetic art and lowers poetic enthusiasm to the same level, it still does a great initial service, for it surprises us with the extraordinary of the foreigner within our comfort. national and of our daily life, so that, without us knowing how, it gives us a higher spirit and truly edifies us. Luther's Bible translation will always produce such an effect”.

The second type appears designated as “parodic”, conceived in the pure sense of the term, that is, developing in “parallel”. The translator transposes himself entirely to the cultural horizon of the original, but at the same time appropriating the foreign element through what is his own and, thus, expressing the foreigner through the resources of his mother tongue, of his own culture. The valuable translations that Wieland made of Shakespeare's work (praised in the novel The Learning Years of Wilhelm Meister) would offer, according to the Goethean argument, the illustration for this modality of translation.

The third type consists of trying to bring the translation as close as possible to the original. It would be this modality of translation that initially suffers the strongest resistance, as shown by the reception, observes Goethe, of the transpositions that Johann Heinrich Voss (1751 – 1826) made of the Homeric epics; because by adapting to the particularities of the original, the translator often offends the taste of his contemporaries, not infrequently infringing norms of the “target language”.

From the perspective of this typology, Daniel Martineschen's translation would lean towards the second type, the “parodic”. Because the principles that guided his work with the Divan Goethean are, as said, very far from the conceptions of a Haroldo de Campos, who not only pushed his translations - be it the Iliad or excerpts from auspicious – to the third field, but still lead them to go beyond it, with the proposal of a “generalized paronomastic operation” and the consequent hybris to convert the original into a translation of its own “transcreation” – or “Mephisto-Faustian transluciferation”, in the case of Goethe.

Compared to this daring translation workshop, Martineschen's work is much more sober: “My objective was to try to translate the Divã by reproducing the poetry's rhythm and sonority in Portuguese (even if that sounds vague), trying to simplify solutions and avoid fussiness. ” he notes in the Afterword. In this passage, however, the translator seems to disregard the fact that he has slipped by terms like leixa-pren ou glamorous, with no correspondence in the original. One can also point out, problematizing the translator's statement of having sought to “simplify solutions and avoid fussiness”, for the difficulty of understanding the verse “No Olho raia a alba no lenho” (“Livro de Zuleica”): “I had a dream – interprets: / The alb in the wood dawns in the eye. / Says a poet, says a prophet: / What is this dream that I have?” In the original, it is easier for the reader to understand the syntax of this verse where, literally, “the dawn shone in the eye through the tree”.

It should also be noted that reproducing “the rhythm and sonority” of the poems of Divan Goethean – the goal pursued by the Brazilian translator – constitutes a most complex task, which is unlikely to have been carried out with full success in any other translation of this lyrical collection. Martineschen's work stands out rather admirably for its effort to reproduce the metric and rhyme schemes of the original. But at this point, it infiltrates from time to time in the Diva something that surrounds every translation committed to rigorously corresponding to the formal structures of versified works, which is the distancing, to a greater or lesser degree, of the “meaning” of the verses, thus undermining the original interaction between two dimensions that, in the conception goethiana would be inseparable: “Content brings form with it. Form never exists without content”.

Perhaps this observation can be summarily exemplified with some examples, starting with the poem that, although it was not the first to be written, opens the Diva: “Hijrah”, a term that designates the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina in the year 622, marking the beginning of a new era in the Muslim calendar. At first a mere detail: “North and west and south spread out”, one reads in the first verse of the poem; but in German the verb is stronger than "spread": it is about zersplittern (“to shatter”, “to shatter”), which also alludes to the deep cracks caused in the European geopolitical map by Napoleon, which led Goethe to undertake his “Hegira” towards the East of Hafez, conceived as the homeland of poetry – a pasargadae lyrical, to allude to Bandeira's utopia. Closing the antepenultimate stanza, the verses “Oh Hafez, without your poems / this land has problems” reveal themselves as a somewhat banal solution, imposed by the need for rhyme that, resolved here in a less happy way (“poems” – “problems”) , weakens the vigorous condensation that Martineschen had achieved in the previous lines of the stanza: “On the rocks, along the trail, / with his mule goes the guide; / the stars sing aloud – / fear looms the bad guys by storm”.

A similar weakening, and conditioned by rhythmic demand, is felt in the second poem of “Livro de Timur”, which, addressed to Zuleica, prepares the subsequent book, Sukeika Nameh. Seeking to close the third stanza in rhyme with “full impetus”, the translator uses the not very expressive “nothing serene”, which may sound to the reader as a mere rhymic and metric filling of the verse, thus clashing with the poetic vivacity maintained until then: “um [ world] that pulsates with ardor / which, in its full impetus, / is very similar to the loves / of bulbul, not at all serene”. The original speaks, in literal translation, of the love of bulbul (the love affair between the nightingale and the rose, a frequent motif in Persian poetry) and the “song that excites the soul” (which in the translation decays into the complement “nothing serene”), that is, the ecstatic and plaintive song of the bird strongly also present in Western poetry.

And if Goethe opens his lyrical cycle by suggesting, in the last lines of “Hégira”, that the poet's words gently knock on the doors of paradise, in “Boa Noite” – a poem that closes the Diva – we are in fact in the middle of paradise and the poet then begs the angel Gabriel, who already in the previous poem had lulled the “sleeping seven” of a Christian and Muslim legend to sleep, to now take care of the “limbs of the exhausted one”. The substantivated adjective “exhausted” refers to the “poet”, but in the translation the reader can find the plural form: “Gabriel takes care of the lives / of the exhausted, with pleasure”.

At the end of the “Livro de Zuleica”, the most extensive of the cycle, the reader of the Brazilian translation will be faced with a misunderstanding, now not of number, but of genre. Behind Zuleica (name that appears in a gazel by Hafez) hides, as noted above, Marianne von Willemer and the book that bears her name consists of loving dialogues that the beautiful woman has with Hatem, under whose figure Goethe would have passed the word , in Walter Benjamin's view, to "the fickle and wild element of their youth" and given "the wisdom of beggars, drunkards, and wanderers the highest form they ever found."[ii]

In the dialogue between Zuleica and Hatem –impregnated with symbols such as the bulbul and the hudhud (Eurasian hoopoe), birds from Hafez's poetry – it is not always clear who took the floor. In the last poem of the “Livro de Zuleica”, for example, it is not made explicit who is speaking and the same occurs in the previous sextilla, which the Brazilian edition does not clearly separate from the closing poem, which, without bearing a particular title, opens with the verse “In a thousand ways you can hide yourself”. These “thousand forms” allude to the 99 names that Muslim tradition assigns to Allah. Martineschen transposes the monorhyme present in the even verses of the poem into his version, as well as other details of the Goethean rhyme scheme; however, the Brazilian reader is left with the impression that it is the woman who addresses the beloved, when it is the opposite, as indicated by the feminine epithets that, in the translation, appear incorrectly as masculine: Oniamado, Omnipresente, Onilisonjeiro and seven more of the same type. , until reaching the last stanza: “What I know with an external, internal sense, / you Omni-instructor [in the original: Allbelehrende, a that teaches everything, omni-instructor] know through thee; / and when the names of Allah, a hundred, external, / in each one resounds a name of you”.

Globalization and world literature

In any case, more debatable solutions or even possible mistakes that may be pointed out in this east-west divan (easily remedied for a future edition) in no way diminish the merits of a translation that Goethe himself would not fail to acknowledge. In a letter he sent in January 1828 to Thomas Carlyle, who four years earlier had published his translation of the Wilhelm Meister's Learning Years, the poet makes use of the vocabulary of commerce, which he saw in a process of increasing globalization, to value the role of the translator in the constitution of a literature that is also increasingly globalized, which he called world literature.

For despite its intrinsic shortcomings, translation is seen by Goethe as “one of the most important and worthy businesses in the general movement of the world”. And then, the epistolographer resorts to the same metaphorical field that in previous years had impregnated his Diva: “The Qur'an says: 'God gave to every people a prophet in their own language.' So every translator is a prophet for his people”.

Making available to the Brazilian reader the first full translation into Portuguese of the intense poetic dialogue of the author of auspicious with Persian and Arabic tradition, Martineschen offers at the same time an invaluable contribution to our culture – an achievement that is all the more remarkable in light of his commitment to rigorously reproduce the formal structure of German poems – unlike, for example, the Spanish translation by Rafael C. Assens.

Making Hatem and Zuleica dialogue in Portuguese in “equal word and sound”, not just “look to look”, but also “rhyme to rhyme” – as the poem says “Bahram Gor, they say, invented rhyme” – represents an objective whose magnitude, but also risk, Goethe himself drew attention to when discussing the advantages of a translation in prose, as a means of circumventing the immense difficulties of a translation in verse.

In the “Notes and Essays” that accompany his Diva, the poet laments that the Song of the Nibelungs (early XNUMXth century), written in Middle High German (Mittelhochdeutsch) and in stanzas of four verses rhyming in pairs (“stanzas of the Nibelungs”), had it not been translated into modern German in “useful prose”, which would have allowed the reader to enjoy this heroic medieval epic in “all its strength” . Also in a conversation (January 18, 1825) with Eckermann about Serbian songs, Goethe suggests that the charms of popular Slavic verses would come out in a simple prose translation of their “motives”.

On this issue of the translatability of verses, as is well known, great names in World Literature have spoken out, and Dante, five centuries before Goethe, already denied the possibility of preserving “all the sweetness and harmony” of a creation in verses when translating it. la “from your language to another”.[iii]

Daniel Martineschen, fortunately, did not allow himself to be guided by similar conceptions and, with that, his east-west divan presents the reader with precious examples of the art of translation in the realms of gold, as John Keats called the “realm of poetry”. Exquisite, for example, are the three smaller round squares of the poem “Aparição”, which, magnetized by the rainbow symbol that is not only colored, but also white (behind which the Goethean theory of colors is hidden), culminates in the stanza: “You, dear old man, / must not cry; / your hair is whitened, / but you will love”.

Equally sober and admirable is the translation of the “Reading Book”, inspired by poems that Goethe – also the poet committed his slips… – attributed to the Persian Nezami (1141 – 1209), but actually coming from the Turk Nischani (XNUMXth century): “Wonderful book of books / is the book of love! / Attentive I read it: / little leaf of joy, / notebooks all of pain; / a section makes the separation. / Reencounter! A single chapter, / fragmentary. Tomes of grief / extended with explanations, / endless, without measure”.

The reader who scrolls through the pages of this first Diva Goethean in Portuguese will be walking the paths and gardens of a Chiraz that Hafez's “twin” amalgamated with Rhenish landscapes, resulting from this fusion a utopia of elevated poetry, surrounded by the song of the bulbul and hudhud, a loving messenger already in the times of “King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba” (poem “Salutation”, in the “Book of Love”), and reeking of the dense scent of roses, jasmine and wine celebrated in countless verses.

The Brazilian reader will discover poems governed by the principle of “polarity”, of fundamental importance both for Goethe's scientific and literary work. And to the western-eastern polarity that appears in the title of the collection, several others are associated, starting with love: happiness in a few “leaves” and suffering in many “volumes”; the paradise of poetry and the nightmare of history: “thrones crack and empires tremble”, which relates to the later parallel between Napoleon's winter in Russia and that of Timur (Tamerlane) in China in 1405; the sensual ecstasy of wine and the Sufi vision of God; youth (Zuleica) and old age (Hatem); life and death: “die and be transformed!”; unity and duplicity: “don't you see in these songs / that I am One and double?”.

Or, to cite yet another example, the bodily “polarity” that should inspire gratitude in the human being, systole and diastole, inhaling and exhaling: “There are two graces in breathing: / sucking in the air, freeing yourself from it. / One refreshes, the other oppresses: / that's life, mixed and sublime. / Grace to God, if he presses you; / Give Him grace if He sets you free”.

When speaking in your Aesthetics (segment “The pantheism of art”) on “Muslim poetry”, Hegel draws a parallel between Hafez’s and Goethe’s “Couchs” as a conclusion, noting that the western-eastern poems of 1819 could only be born thanks to the depth and youthful freshness of the Goethean spirit, also “to a sense that spread over the widest latitude, sure of itself in all storms”, as well as – and Hegel then quotes lines from the poem “A Zuleica” – thanks to “a [world] that pulsates with ardor / which, in its full impetus, / is very similar to the loves / of bulbul […]”. crucial in designing a world literature destined to occupy an increasingly important place in the globalized world.

In the context of the then emerging World Literature, the poems would fertilize and renew each other in the midst of a “dance of the spheres, harmonic in the turmoil”, as the old poet formulated in verses that place beside the harp of King David and of bulbul de Hafez the colorful Brazilian serpent found many years ago in the Tupi song that Montaigne comments on in the famous essay on “Os Canibais”:

As David sang the harp and princely song,
The vinedresser's song sounded sweetly beside the throne,
Persian bulbul surrounds rosebed
And snake skin shines like an indigenous belt,
From pole to pole, songs are renewed,
A dance of spheres, harmonic in turmoil;
Let all peoples under one sky
Excited rejoice in the same gifts.[iv]

Two hundred years after Goethe published his most extensive lyrical cycle, the extraordinary translation by Daniel Martineschen opens up to the Brazilian reader the possibility of rejoicing in these poems that celebrate the fruitful interaction between two great literary traditions: “Great the Orient / the Mediterranean crossed; / Anyone who loves Hafez and understands him / knows what Calderón sang”.

*Marcus V. Mazzari He is a professor of comparative literature at USP. Author, among other books by The double night of the lime trees. History and Nature in Goethe's Faust (Ed. 34).


[I] This and other poems by Goethe accompany João Barrento's essay “Poesia. The glorification of the sensitive”, published in the Dossier Goethe of Revista Estudos Advanced (USP), Nº 96, August 2019: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0103-40142019000200317&lng=en&nrm=iso.

[ii] “Goethe” (trans. by Irene Aron and Sidney Camargo), in Collected Essays: Writings on Goethe. São Paulo, Duas Cidades/Editora 34, 2009 – p. 168.

[iii] Dante Alighieri, conviviality (trans. by Emanuel F. de Brito). São Paulo: Cia das Letras, 2019, p. 123.

[iv] This poem was written in 1827 and published posthumously under the title world literature – see on this subject the essay “Nature or God: pantheist affinities between Goethe and the 'Brazilian' Martius”: Revista Estudos Advancedos, Nº 69, August 2010:


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