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June 14, 2012


In a previous article, I wrote about Goethe’s Kophtisches Lied (Coptic Song). Now I would like to talk about his other Coptic song, Ein Andres, which is sometimes called Kophtisches Lied II, and is often translated Another (Coptic Song). The reader will recognise that we said both poems were written by Goethe in 1787 as part of a musical play (Die Mystificierten) he first composed while in Italy that year, but when he returned back to his country he abandoned it. Only fragments of that play have been preserved, including these two songs. Later on, in 1814, Goethe published them, with other poems, in his poetic work, Gesellige Lieder (Convivial Songs).[i]

The Ein Andres is a strong song – the English language reader will appreciate that when he or she comes to its various English translations below; but, first, here is Goethe’s poem in the German:


Geh! Gehorche meinen Winken,

Nutze deine jungen Tage,

Lerne zeitig klüger sein!

Auf des Glückes großer Waage

Steht die Zunge selten ein.

Du mußt steigen oder sinken,

Du mußt herrschen und gewinnen

Oder dienen und verlieren,

Leiden oder triumphieren,

Amboß oder Hammer sein.


Ein Andres was first translated in 1836 by the Irish writer, James Clarence Mangan (1803 – 1849), who, to my knowledge, was also the first to translate Kophtisches Lied into English under the title A Song from the Coptic. He translated Ein Andre as Another song, from the same Coptic.[ii] The British writer, Edgar Alfred Bowring (1826–1911), published his translation in 1853 under the title, Another.[iii] The American litterateur, William Grasett Thomas (1822 – 1911), then made a translation, Another, which appeared in 1859.[iv] Another American, Paul Dyrsen, made another translation, The Same, in 1878.[v] [vi] A particularly beautiful translation, whose author I could not identify (I refer to him or her as “Anonymous”), and I reproduce below under the title “Title unknown”.[vii] It is interesting that John Sullivan Dwight and William Edmondstone Aytoun (working with Theodore Martin), who made famous translations of Kophtisches Lied, do not seem to have translated Ein Andres.[viii] Modern translations have been made by Stanley Appelbaum in 1999 under the title Another [Song of the Great Cophta II];[ix] and also by Emily Ezust.[x]

Below are the five translations into English of Goethe’s Ein Andres by James Clarence Magnan, Edgar Alfred Bowring, William Grasett Thomas, Paul Dyrsen, and Anonymous:



James Clarence Magnan


Another song, from the same Coptic.

Go ! — but heed and understand

This my last and best command :

Turn thine Youth to such advantage

As that no reverse shall daunt Age.

Learn the serpent’s wisdom early ;

And contemn what Time destroys ;

Also, wouldst thou creep or climb,

Chuse thy role, and chuse in time,

Since the scales of Fortune rarely

Shew a liberal equipoise.

Thou must either soar or stoop,

Fall or triumph, stand or droop ;

Thou must either serve or govern,

Must be slave, or must be sovereign ;

Must, in fine, be block or wedge,

Must be anvil or be sledge.


Edgar Alfred Bowring


Go! obedient to my call,

Turn to profit thy young days,

Wiser make betimes thy breast

In Fate’s balance as it sways,

Seldom is the cock at rest;

Thou must either mount, or fall,

Thou must either rule and win,

Or submissively give in,

Triumph, or else yield to clamour:

Be the anvil or the hammer.

William Grasett Thomas


Go ! thy master’s beck obey,
Profit of thy early days,
“Wisdom learn without delay :
On the scales of Fortune stays
Seldom e’er the tongue at rest ;
Rise thou must, or be depressed,
Rule and gain must be for thee,
Or must learn to serve and lose,
Triumph must or suffering choose,
Hammer must or anvil be.


Paul Dyrsen


The Same.

Take advantage of my winking,

Boy, be wise! My word is truthful –

Have your fortune in your hands!

Not for old men, nor for youthful

Poised the balance ever stands.

Rising is the scale or sinking.

You will either win and govern

Or will lose and serve forever.

Not the anvil be! Be clever,

Wield the hammer with your hands!


“Title unknown”.

Go! Listen to my advice,
Utilize your youthful days,
Learn early to be cunning!
On Fortune’s great scales
The tongue is seldom a guarantee:
You must rise or sink,
You must conquer and win,
Or serve and lose,
Suffer or triumph,
Be anvil or hammer.


No one can fail to be impressed by the strength of the Ein Andres’ lines that declare: “You must conquer and win, or serve and lose, suffer or triumph, be anvil or hammer.” Ein Andres, as we have seen in the first article when we talked about Cophtisches Lied,[xi] was written on the background of the L’Affaire du Collier (Affair of the Diamond Necklace) that scandalised the monarchy in the eve of the French Revolution, and on Goethe’s conviction of the involvement of the Italian crook, Alessandro Cagliostro (who called himself the “Grand Cophta”)[xii], in orchestrating the scandal.[xiii] We don’t know if Ein Andres was supposed to be Cagliostro’s words, or if it represented Goethe’s political philosophy. Whatever it may be, the poem that carries the Copts name seems to present us all with only two choices in life: we must either tread on others or be trodden upon by them – we must either be hammer or anvil. There is no alternative to the two, such as resisting oppression without one being an oppresser himself. Ein Andres can be the perfect martial anthem for an imperialist army – it will infuse them with the required enthisiasm to subdue and conquor the world. One cannot but agree with Helga Zepp-LaRouche in characterising the poem’s call to “be  hammer or anvil” as a call “to enter a pact with the devil to that purpose.” “Is that not the core of the immorality of all times, then as much as today?”[xiv] This is not the way of the Copts; and Ein Andres cannot possibly influence them on that direction. It can, however, remind them of the realities of this world – realities that they know only too well from their long history – that the obsession of the world (or a significant part of it) has always been to lord over them and reduce them to slaves. There is nothing moral or glorious to emulate in conduct of their oppressors, past and present. But if the Copts do not want to oppress, loot and take away the liberties of others, as others have done unto them, they also, and with even stronger impulse, do not want to be oppressed. Rather than the motto of Ein Andres, “Be hammer than anvil”, Coptic spiritual heritage rejects both anvil and hammer. The hammer they have never been since the days of Thotmose III and Ramses II when the New Kingdom ruled the known world;[xv] the anvil they have been ever since[xvi] – and both are morally diminishing. The refusal to be anvil, while equally rejecting being hammer, seems to me to be what ought to be learned from this fascinating, and thought provoking song of Goethe – if it must be truly Coptic.

How to cite this article: Dioscorus Boles (14 June 2012), GOETHE’S OTHER COPTIC SONG – EIN ANDRES,

[i] For more, read my first article, Goethe’s Coptic Song – Kophtisches Lied: Dioscorus Boles (13 June 2012), COPTIC SONGS BY THE GREAT GERMAN WRITER JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE – KOPHTISCHES LIED I,

[ii] Dublin University magazine: a literary and political journal, Volume VII; pp. 293-4. Published again in German Anthology, a series of translations from the most popular of the German poets, by James Clarence Mangan (Dublin, William Curry, Jun. and Company; Longmans, Brown and Co. London; 1845); Vol. II; p. 29.

[iii] The Poems of Goethe; translated in the original metres by Edgar Alfred Bowring (London, 1853). See also The dramatic works of J. W. Goethe, translated from the German with Sir Walter Scott, and Anna Swanwick and others (1880). The original book has recently been republished: The Poems of Goethe (Mobi Classics) By Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe; translated by Edgar Alfred Bowring (Mobi Classics, 2008).

[iv] The Minor Poetry of Goethe. A selection from his songs, ballads, and other lesser poems. Translated by William Grasett Thomas (Philadelphia; E. H. Butler & Co.; 1859); p. 308.

[v] Goethe’s Poems, translated in the original metres, by Paul Dyrsen (New York, F. W. Christern, 1878); p. 107.

[vi] I could not find a biography for Paul Dyrsen.

[vii] It has been produced, without mention of its translator, in:

  1. Scorci Improvvisi Di Altri Orizzonti by Mario Faraone et al (USA, Mario Faraone, 2008); p. 480; footnote no. 71.
  2. Venus In Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch; translated by Fernanda Savage; edited with an Introduction by Matthew Kaiser (USA, Cognella, 2012); Page 8, footnote.
  3. Friedrich Schiller, Poet of Freedom (Washington, Schiller Institute, 1988); Vol. II. Introduction by Helga Zepp-LaRouche.

Interestingly, the English translation by Stanly Appelbaum (see n. ix) is not very different from this translation which we don’t know its author.

[viii] See, Select Minor Poems, Translated from the German of Goethe and Schiller with notes By John S. Dwight (Boston, 1839); and Poems and Ballads of Goethe; translated by W. Edmondstone Aytoun and Theodore Martin (London, 1858.

[ix] 103 great poems: a dual-language book (103 Meistergedichte) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; edited and translated by Stanley Appelbaum (Mineola, New York, Dover Publications, 1999); p.  87.  Applebaum translated Kophtisches Lied (which he writes as Cophtisches Lied) under the title, Song of the Great Cophta. Ein Andres he gave the additional name of Cophtisches Lied II.

[x] The translation is not titled. To my knowledge, it has only been published on the internet. Emily Ezust permits her own translations to be reproduced without prior permission for student recitals, provided the following credit is given: Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust, from The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive  (which began as The Lied and Art Song Texts Page, which is now called The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive).

[xi] See n. i.

[xii] On the criminal history, and a biography, of Alessandro, Count Cagliostro, see: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911). Cagliostro was a member of the freemasonry organisation, which Goethe accused of instigating the French Revolution. Charles Harris tells us that Cagliostro “had pretended to revive an ancient Egyptian system of freemasonry, and had called himself as head of it, Grand Cophta,” which means the High Priest of Egypt or its Chief Magician (Goethe’s Poems; selected and edited with introduction and notes by Charles Harris [Boston, D. C. Heath & Co., 1899]; Note 70. Kophtisches Lied; p 222).

[xiii] The reader is advised again to review my first article “Goethe’s Coptic Song – Kophtisches Lied” (see n. i).

[xiv] See Introduction by Helga Zepp-LaRouche in Friedrich Schiller, Poet of Freedom (Washington, Schiller Institute, 1988); Vol. II.

[xv] The New Kingdom (or Egyptian Empire) lasted from c. 1550 BC–c. 1069 BC. Thutmose III (1479–1425 BC) and Ramses II (1279–1213 BC) were two of the great Pharaohs of this Empire who fought hard to expand or maintain it.

[xvi] Egypt lost its independence from c. 1000 BC to successive occupiers, including Libyans, Nubians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, etc.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2012 12:08 am

    Reblogged this on A Drink With Clarence Mangan and commented:
    Part the Second, which shows “Another Song from the same Coptic” by Mangan, with other translators of the Goethe considered as well.


  1. GDR at 25: An Anvil not a Hammer? | The GDR Objectified

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