Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in German Quarterly 61 (1988), 563-565. Published by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG); 112 Haddontowne Ct. #104, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034-3668 USA
Copyright © 1988 American Association of Teachers of German. Used by permission.


Noted Germanist Martin Swales offers a volume designed to introduce English speakers to German lyric poetry from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. Seventeen poets are included, each represented with several poems (between six and eight is the norm, with Goethe at the high end with eighteen, and Novalis at the low, with two). The poems are in German only; Swales' intrduction and notes (an intrductory paragraph on each author and brief synopses of each poem along with some formal observations) are in English. Swales' historical schema lends this book of poetry a degree of thematic coherence unusual for a general anthology. And within this coherence lively—even heated—dialogues emerge, brought into focus through the cross-references within the poems themselves. Some weaknesses must also be noted. Beyond the overarching historical schema of the self-questioning lyrical subject, we are given relatively little historical background on the poets or the poems. We are not told when the poems were written, when or where they were published, and in many cases the biographical references in the poems are not elucidated. Finally, one wishes that Cambridge Press had priced the book more in line with the pocketbooks of its student readership.