On the Lovely Summer- and Harvest-Time

For this post—our first after a few months’ hiatus—we decided to let readers in on our process. Instead of posting the final version of our translation with a link to the original, we’ll include all the steps: the original German text, the draft translations by Joanne and Sarah, and then the final version that the three of us developed together.

No two dictionaries are quite alike, and collectively we end up using several in the course of our translating: Cassell’s New German Dictionary, the Oxford-Duden German Dictionary, the online Langenscheidt German-English Dictionary, and the Deutsches Wörterbuch by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Original text:

Auf die liebliche Sommer- und Ernde-Zeit

O Wunder-Gottes Güt! die in die Erd sich senket.
Sie grünt und prangt hervor/ in Nahrung-reicher Art.
Die Allmacht hat mit ihr sich in die Erd gepaart:
aus deren Würkung Gott/ uns diese Gaben schenket.
bey iedem Sichelschnitt/ ists billig/ daß man denket
an Gottes Gnaden Mäng’ und Lob zum wundern schaart.
So wenig ja den Dank/ als er den Segen/ spaart!
sein Gnaden-Herz sich ganz auf uns zu giessen lenket.

Ein schallends Ehren-Lob soll aus den Halmen gehn/
weil seiner Ehren voll die Erd’/ und was sie träget.
Am Lebens Mastbaum soll der Lobes-Segel stehn:
Der Freuden-Seufzer-Wind ihn lieblich süß beweget.
So sammlet Gottes Lieb/ durch diese Erdenfrücht:
und schüttet dafür aus/ sein Lieb- und Lob-Gerücht!

Sarah’s version:

On the Lovely Summer- and Harvest-Time

Oh, Goodness of a wondrous God! It drops into the earth
Where, greening and sprouting, it brings forth nourishment.
Goodness and Omnipotence are joined with soil
And from this union spring God’s gifts of harvest.
At every scythe-cut It is right to remember
God’s generous grace, and to amazement add our praise.
(Our thanks will be as small as if God spared his blessing!)
His gracious heart bends wholly to our benefit.

Resounding exaltation shall rise from every stalk.
The earth and what she bears is worthy of esteem.
We will fasten our sail of praise to life’s main mast
Where it will sway, sweetly and gently, in wind’s joyful sigh.
Thus God’s love gathers in the fruits of earth,
And thus pours out on us his favour and his love.

Joanne’s version:

On the delightful summer and harvest-time

O goodness of our wondrous God, that comes to earth!
It greens and shines forth, rich in nourishment.
Omnipotence has mingled with it in the earth,
from whose working God pours out these gifts to us.
With every sickle-stroke it’s fitting that we think
on God’s abundant grace, gathered in praise and wonder.
Our thanks are so much smaller than his blessings!
Glory-praise shall resound from every stalk
since earth and all it bears is full of his glory.
The praise-sail shall be set on life’s mast,
moved so sweetly by joy-sighing winds.
So God’s love gathers in these fruits of earth,
and spills out fragrance of his love and praise!

Final collaborative version:

On the Lovely Summer- and Harvest-Time

Oh, goodness of a wondrous God! It drops into the earth
which greens and shines, rich in nourishment.
Goodness and omnipotence join within the soil
and from this pairing spring God’s gifts of harvest.
With every sickle-stroke, it’s fitting to remember
God’s abundant grace, and to amazement add our praise.
(Our thanks as scarce as if God spared his blessing.)
He pours His whole heart’s grace on us.

Honor and praise shall resound from every stalk
since earth, and all it bears, is full of God’s glory.
The sail of praise shall be set on life’s main mast
where it will stir sweetly in wind’s joyful sighing.
So, God’s love, gathered in these fruits of earth,
spreads out His love and praise.

Spiritual Word-Thunder: in a thunderstorm in the garden

By PROPOLI87 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91220236

Mighty, thundering God! Give thunder-power
to your heart-penetrating Word, so that we see
the Spirit-Lightning, and feel its heat-strike
that snatches all our hearts’ pride away.
This thunder-rumbling has power to transform:
God’s presence reigns in times of terror.
This dreadful cannon-blast is fruitful,
just as God’s zeal is charged with grace.
That wonder-flash, God’s Word, will neither wound the soul
nor weaken the body; to strengthen is his only goal.
His Spirit-subtlety can penetrate unnoticed.
At times, he is pleased to overwhelm with sound.
Protect us, O God, from the clouds’ thunderclaps:
your Word, although it strike us, will transform us.

Click here to read this sonnet in the original German.