(Poet's title: Geheimes)
Set by Schubert:
Part of Goethe: West-Östlicher Divan
Über meines Liebchens Äugeln
Stehn verwundert alle Leute,
Ich, der Wissende, dagegen
Weiß recht gut, was das bedeute.
Denn es heißt: ich liebe diesen,
Und nicht etwa den und jenen,
Lasset nur, ihr guten Leute,
Euer Wundern, euer Sehnen.
Ja, mit ungeheuren Mächten
Blicket sie wohl in die Runde;
Doch sie sucht nur zu verkünden
Ihm die nächste süße Stunde.
My beloved’s little eyes cause
Everyone to stand in amazement;
I, the one who is in on the secret, on the other hand,
Know very well what that signifies.
For it means: I love this one,
And not, as it were, that one or that other one.
So, good people, just forget
Your astonishment, your longing!
Yes, she may well use mighty powers
To look around;
Yet she is just trying to inform
Him about the next sweet hour.
All translations into English that appear on this website, unless otherwise stated, are by Malcolm Wren. You are free to use them on condition that you acknowledge Malcolm Wren as the translator and schubertsong.uk as the source. Unless otherwise stated, the comments and essays that appear after the texts and translations are by Malcolm Wren and are © Copyright.
Goethe’s engagement with the Persian style of poetry that had been inspired in him by his discovery of the work of Hafez of Shiraz was so serious and respectful of the tradition that he cannot be accused of ‘orientalism’. The women who populate his ‘west-eastern collection’, such as Suleika and Leila, are rounded individuals rather than figures of exotic fantasy. In the case of the beloved in ‘Geheimes’ we are dealing not with a sultry belly-dancing vamp but with someone who has control of ‘mighty powers’ using her eyes alone. It might be the case that it is only her eyes that are visible (is she wearing a niqab?) but she can definitely take control of a room simply by looking around. In the conventional orientalist fantasy about a harem it would be the male gaze that selected a desirable woman, but in Geheimes it is the woman who is making the choice.
Why she has this power is part of the secret at the heart of the text. The other part of the secret concerns the relationship between the speaker and the woman. He calls her his beloved, and he claims to have inside knowledge of her intentions, yet when it comes to it (in the final line) we are not sure if his feelings are reciprocated. The beloved is sending a message ‘to him’ (the one she has selected) not ‘to me’ (the speaker). We are therefore left uncertain about what it is that the speaker is expressing here. Is there collusion with the woman (is he her ‘gay best friend’ / one of the eunuchs whose job it is to guard her)? Or is the whole thing uttered in jealousy as the poet recognises that he is not the one who has been chosen?
Original Spelling Geheimes Ueber meines Liebchens Aeugeln Stehn verwundert alle Leute; Ich, der Wissende, dagegen Weiß recht gut was das bedeute. Denn es heißt: ich liebe diesen, Und nicht etwa den und jenen. Lasset nur ihr guten Leute Euer Wundern, euer Sehnen! Ja, mit ungeheuren Mächten Blicket sie wohl in die Runde; Doch sie sucht nur zu verkünden Ihm die nächste süße Stunde.
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s source, Goethe’s Werke. Ein und zwanzigster Band. Original-Ausgabe. Wien, 1820. In Carl Armbruster’s Buchhandlung. Stuttgart. In der J. G. Cotta’schen Buchhandlung. Gedruckt bey Anton Strauß page 59; with Goethe’s Werke. Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand. Fünfter Band. Unter des durchlauchtigsten deutschen Bundes schützenden Privilegien. Stuttgart und Tübingen, in der J. G. Cotta’schen Buchhandlung. 1827, page 60; and with West-oestlicher Divan von Goethe. Stuttgard, in der Cottaischen Buchhandlung 1819, page 60.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 59 [69 von 500] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ22342380X