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German Translations of "Poets to Come"

"Poets to Come" appears in ten collections of Whitman's poetry in German translation. The fact that most of Whitman's German translators were attracted to the poem, given their different ideological and aesthetic viewpoints, emphasizes the poem's adaptability to foreign contexts. German and international readers felt directly addressed by Whitman's poem because it never actually locates the "poets to come" in America. The "poets to come"—and many of the translators were poets, or at least as translators felt closely connected to the world of poetry—were interpreted by German translators as international poets to come. Such a reading was probably even more seductive because the poem suggests that "not today is to justify me," but that "a new brood" (significantly also translated as "new race"), perhaps the Germans of the future, would do the justifying. The notion that these future poets were, in Whitman's words, "native" and "continental" did not have to mean that the "new brood" would be from America because, for European readers, "native" and "continental" could just as easily have referred to their continent.

Presented here are the ten translations of "Poets to Come" in German, dating from the late nineteenth century to the twenty-first, and an introductory essay by Walter Grünzweig and Vanessa Steinroetter that contextualizes and discusses the translations. Also available below is the first German translation of the original published version of "Poets to Come," which first appeared in 1860 as "Chants Democratic 14."


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