When Interests Collide: Howards Ehrengedächtnis – Goethe

Plaques created by local children (and a few adults) during an arts workshop inspired by the English Heritage Blue Plaque scheme that took place at the Tottenham Ploughman “CloudFest” 2014.

Blue plaques in a fluffy cotton cloud – made by the children and adults around the old house of Luke Howard, the classifier of the clouds. From the Tottenham Clouds website.

Luke Howard, classifier of the clouds. 28 November 1772 – 21 March 1864

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), the celebrated German author and poet, was interested in clouds himself and wanted to learn more about the young Luke Howard. https://tottenhamclouds.org.uk/goethe/

Wie geht es, Leute?

Not that long ago I was really interested in clouds, and they remain amongst my other interests to this day. Occasionally I’d browse The Cloud Appreciation Society , marvelling at the stunning pictures, the cloud inspired poetry, and the whole science behind those water-vapoury wanderers in the sky.

Because yes, there is science. And- yay!- linguistics!

There are different types of cloud, and each type is given a Latin name -There had been other cloud classification systems, yet this one in Latin, the (‘educated’) ‘global language’ of the 16th century, allowed other scientists and meteorologists from around the world to also identify the cloud type.

There are many types of cloud, but the main types are:

Stratus (Latin for layer) – the lowest cloud, forming like layers of fog in a way. (In German- Sichtwolken – ‘layer clouds)

stratus clouds

Cumulus (Latin for heap) – can be found at medium height, the typical ‘candyfloss’ or ‘sheeplike’ clouds – with many different subtypes. (German: Haufenwolken or Kumulus.)

(Comes from the same Latin root as the English verb ‘accumulate’, to add on- like cumulus clouds growing bigger and more puffy)

Image result for cumulus clouds

Nimbus (Latin for ‘dark cloud’) – a prefix used for a rain cloud, typically the stratonimbus or the Cumulonimbus- the large rain cloud that may also bring thunderstorms.

cumulus clouds

(Cumulonimubs cloud – Photo by Kevin Knupp University of Illilois Cloud Catalog. Its the highest cloud and stretches its ‘plume’ above the other cumulus.)

Cirrus (Latin for a curling ringlet of hair)- the highest clouds, looking like wisps of hair, made of ice streak that streak across the stratosphere. (German: die Federwolken – ‘feather clouds)

cirrus clouds

So what does this have to do with German? Well, a good while after that, I discovered that the person who invented this Latin naming system for the clouds was called Luke Howard. He was a chemist living in 16th century East London, living the later part of his life in Tottenham, North London. As well as being a chemist by trade, however, he was fascinated with the clouds.

Luke Howard was one of the first people to name clouds, giving them the Latin names which are used right up till today. Previous cloud-scientists (nephologists) had tried using names in other languages (ie German also uses its cloud names along with the ‘scientific’ Latin ones.) Latin was already a dead language by then, but scientists used it because it was still taught and in theory all ‘educated’ people could read it. (Today I’d say that similar to… hm… programming.)

The Latin names caught on and today Luke Howard might be known as the ‘Classifier of the Clouds.’ He was born in 28 November 1772 and died in 21 March 1864.

So that was a pretty amazing find, but what does this have to do with German? Well, then I found out that Goethe, yes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German author and poet who wrote Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers and Dr Faustus, also wrote a poem for Luke Howard.

It’s called Howards Ehrengedachtnis, roughly translating as Howard’s honoured Memory. It was written in 1821 when Luke Howard was around 49

An article in German about it (http://bib.gfz-potsdam.de/pub/schule/goethe/startgoe1.html)

And I just had to bring all my interests full circle and translate Howards Ehrengedachtnis… So, I did.

(Just to be clear, this is an unofficial translation by me. I may have made a few mistakes.)

(Nur um wirklich klar zu sein, dies ist eine inoffizielle Ubersetzung, und ich haette ein Paar Fehler machen konnen.)

Credit to zeno.org, where I found the full poem.

Howards Ehrengedächtnis – by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1821

[551] Wenn Gottheit Camarupa, hoch und hehr,

Durch Lüfte schwankend wandelt leicht und schwer,

Des Schleiers Falten sammelt, sie zerstreut,

Am Wechsel der Gestalten sich erfreut,

Jetzt starr sich hält, dann schwindet wie ein Traum,

Da staunen wir und traun dem Auge kaum;

When the god Campura, up and down,

Changes fluctuating through the air softly and violently

Of the veil’s folds collects, disperses them

In the changes of forms delights

Now rigid it holds, then disappears like a dream

Then we marvel and hardly believe our eyes.

Nun regt sich kühn des eignen Bildens Kraft,

Die Unbestimmtes zu Bestimmtem schafft;

Da droht ein Leu, dort wogt ein Elefant,

Kameles Hals, zum Drachen umgewandt,

Ein Heer zieht an, doch triumphiert es nicht,

Da es die Macht am steilen Felsen bricht;

Der treuste Wolkenbote selbst zerstiebt,

Eh er die Fern erreicht, wohin man liebt.

Now it boldly moves the picture’s own power

The uncertain established into certain

There threatens a lion, there weighed an elephant.

A camel’s neck transforms into a dragon,

An army is drawn, but not triumphantly

Because the power breaks between steep cliffs

The most trusted cloud message is itself scattered.

Until it reaches the faraway land, where we live.

Er aber, Howard, gibt mit reinem Sinn

Uns neuer Lehre herrlichsten Gewinn.

Was sich nicht halten, nicht erreichen läßt,

Er faßt es an, er hält zuerst es fest;

Bestimmt das Unbestimmte, schränkt es ein,

Benennt es treffend! – Sei die Ehre dein! –

Wie Streife steigt, sich ballt, zerflattert, fällt,

Erinnre dankbar deiner sich die Welt.

He, however, Howard, gives us with clear sense

New lessons of the most wonderful yield.

What doesn’t keep itself , can’t be achieved.

He tackles it, he first grasps the thought.

Ascertains the uncertain, narrows it down,

Names it aptly – Be the honour yours!

Like the patrol climbs, balls up, flattens, fallt,

I remember you thankfully the world


Wenn von dem stillen Wasserspiegelplan

Ein Nebel hebt den flachen Teppich an,

Der Mond, dem Wallen des Erscheins vereint,

Als ein Gespenst Gespenster bildend scheint,

Dann sind wir alle, das gestehn wir nur,

Erquickt’, erfreute Kinder, o Natur!

Related image

When from the still water mirror plan,

A fog wisp lifts from the surface of the pond.

The moon combines with the undulations of the appearance?

Like a phantom seemingly ghostly forming.

Then are we all, we all only admit,

Refreshed, delighted children – O, Nature!

Dann hebt sich’s wohl am Berge, sammelnd breit

An Streife Streifen, so umdüstert’s weit

Die Mittelhöhe, beidem gleich geneigt,

Ob’s fallend wässert oder luftig steigt.

Then lifts itself up to the mountains, accumulating wide,

Stripes are on patrol, so it () far

The middle heights, however that way inclined,

Whether it falls as water or to the air will rise.


Und wenn darauf zu höhrer Atmosphäre

Der tüchtige Gehalt berufen wäre,

Steht Wolke hoch, zum herrlichsten geballt,

Verkündet, festgebildet, Machtgewalt

Und, was ihr fürchtet und auch wohl erlebt,

Wie’s oben drohet, so es unten bebt.

Image result for cumulonimbus raining

And when to  the higher atmosphere

The capable content is called

The clouds stand high, wonderfully balled,

Announced, established, forceful might.

And, what you fear and also experience,

As it threatens over, so under it quakes.


Doch immer höher steigt der edle Drang!

Erlösung ist ein himmlisch leichter Zwang.

Ein Aufgehäuftes, flockig löst sich’s auf,

Wie Schäflein tripplend, leicht gekämmt zu Hauf.

So fließt zuletzt, was unten leicht entstand,

Dem Vater oben still in Schoß und Hand.

Image result for cirrus clouds

But ever higher climbs the noble urge.

Redemption is a celestial lighter force.

A lumpy accumulation, itself flakily resolves

Like scurrying lambs, combed lightly to a heap.

So it flows finally, what below easily occurs.

To the Father still above in shot and hand.

[552] Nimbus

Nun laßt auch niederwärts, durch Erdgewalt

Herabgezogen, was sich hoch geballt,

In Donnerwettern wütend sich ergehn,

Heerscharen gleich entrollen und verwehn! –

Der Erde tätig-leidendes Geschick!

Doch mit dem Bilde hebet euren Blick:

Die Rede geht herab, denn sie beschreibt,

Der Geist will aufwärts, wo er ewig bleibt.

Image result

Now let also downwards, through the earth’s force.

Be pulled down, what was on high.

In thunderstorms, angrily they fare,

Legions unroll themselves and blow away!

The Earth-active and Earth-suffering skill

But with the pictures you all lift your gaze.

There is talk of this, because it is described,

The spirit wants to go upwards, where he forever stays.

Image result for cirrus clouds diagram


What verbs can do- (mit Adventure Time, Ich erinne mich an dich)

Video: Adventure Time: Ich erinne mich an dich

So I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to, due to being at university studying German, and also due to not exactly knowing how this language-learning blog will go. Now I think I know.

Verbs! Reflexive verbs, imperative verbs, modal verbs, verbs in the first person, second person, third person AND imperfect verbs, regualar and irregular verbs – I found them all in one of my favourite episodes of the American Cartoon Network show Adventure Time , or Abenteuerzeit mit Finn und Jake in German.

The main characters are a boy named Finn, the Human, and his adoptive brother Jake the Dog. They live in the Land of Ooo (translated as Uuh. Source: http://de.adventuretime.wikia.com/wiki/Uuh), a magical place that in the past had a nuclear war called the Mushroom War. However this particular episode is not about Finn and Jake – they do make a cameo, but are largely in the backseat in ‘I Remember You.’ No, this episode is about the “villain” or, more appropriately, ‘anti-hero’ of the series – the Ice King, http://de.adventuretime.wikia.com/wiki/Eisk%C3%B6nig, an old wizard who can use the powers of his magic crown to fly, shoot ice and generally cause mischief. He is usually described as ‘crazy’ and avoided by Finn and Jake.
However, he wasn’t always this way. Back in the time of the war, the Ice King was an intelligent archaeologist called Simon Petrikov, who discovered the crown and used it to protect his friend, Marceline, who was a little girl at the time. Around 1,000 years later, the Ice King is still alive because the powers of the crown prevent him from dying, while Marceline is still alive because she’s a vampire. Yeah.

In this episode, Marceline the Vampire Queen finds some notes among the Ice King’s old things, which he wrote when he was Simon Petrikov. The Ice King just wants to make some music with her, but Marceline remembers what their past was, and the truth hidden in the song that the Ice King is prevented from remembering….

So, onto the episode! And verbs.

‚haben‘ and ‚sein‘

Der Eiskong: Was hast du da, ein Apfel?

Two of the best verbs to know in German are ‘haben’ – to have, and ‘sein’ – to be. Why? Because they can create the past tense – Perfekt tense.
Zum Beispiel:
Ich habe einen Apfel gegessen – I ate an apple (habe is the first person/me/I from of ‚haben‘).
‘Was hast du da, ein Apfel?’ – What have you got there, an apple?
3rd person: Marceline hat ein Apfel geworfen – Marceline threw an apple

Ich bin nach Deutschland gefahren – I have travelled to Germany (I really haven’t…. not yet…..) (bin is the first person/me/I form of sein)
‘Du bist so erbahrmlich (?)’ – You are so annoying
3rd person: Der Eiskonig ist nach Marcelines Haus gegangen

So as you can see both are used for the past tense. They both are found with another verb, to say that this action was done in the past. However ‘sein’ is used in the past tense with a verb of movement, such as ‘gefahren’- to travel to another county; or ‘gegangen’, to go, possibly to ‘travel’ to a friend’s house.
However they can also be used ‘normally’ as in to have something, or to be something.

Das Beispeil im Video:
Der Eiskonig: Was hast du da, ein Apfel? – What have you got there, an apple?
(Marceline seufzt und lӓsst der Apfel fallen. Sie sitzt neben dem Kühlschrank, und der Apfel rollt zu dem musikalischen Instrument, und schalt es an. Marceline singt:)

Marceline: Du bist so erbarhmlich, du meiser alter Mann. – Youre so annoying, you miserable old man.
Ich will dir helfen, weiss ich nicht ob ich das kann. – I want to help you but, I don’t know if I can
Ich hӓlt‘ dich für verrückt… – I thought you were nuts
Doch du bist total, komplett verrückt.‘ – But you’re totally, completely nuts

Original lyrics by Rebecca Sugar.

So let’s check this out. I’ll put all the interesting verbs into the infinitive (- to ’verb’ form.)

  • Du bist so erbarhmlich…. – sein – to be (but you knew that, right?  see above… )
  • Ich will dir helfen … – wollen and helfen(+dat) – to want, and, to help
  • weiss ich nicht, ob ich das kann – kӧnnen – to be able to
  • Ich hӓlt‘ dich für verruckt … hӓlten jemanden/ etwas für – to ‚hold that someone is -‘… to hold (the opinion that) they are -, to think that.
  • Doch du bist total, komplett verrückt – sein – to be (again! Yay!)

Some verbs are regular, and you may be able to guess what they might look like if put in a different form other than their infinitive.
ie ‘haben’ – to have
Ich habe – I have
Du hast -you have
Er/sie/es hat -he/she/it has
Wir hatten -we have
Ihr hattet
sie/ Sie hatten

However, wollen – to want, is irregular, and it’s 1st and 3rd person form is ‚will‘
Ich will dir helfen.
Willst du er helfen?
Marceline will dem Eiskonig helfen.

(Tip: Watch Marceline’s faster bit ( from 0:41 to 0.58) with the speed down to 0.5 if you need to. It sounds amazing too!)
Marceline: Wohin ich mich auf verzicht? du spricht mich immer auf, und hängst hier herum
Unter einem Vorwand machst du dich hier breit, das bringt mich echt um.
Und dabei bin ich sogar froh, dich zu sehen.
Denn ich bin vielleicht…selbst verrückt….

(Idiomatic phrases)
(unter dem Vorwand – uder the pretence/ pretext of)
sich heir breit machen – to make your presence felt here (?)
sich umbringen – to be killed (metaphorisch, in this case-

Der Eiskonig steigt von dem Kühlschrank. Er ist überrascht, das Marceline magt ihn, und er versucht, sie zu küssen, wie eine andere Prinzessin. Jedoch Marceline bedeutet, dass sie der Eiskӧnig in der Vergangenheit kennengelernt hatte, und er kann das nicht erinnern.

Marceline: Weiss du uberhaupt wer du bist?
Eiskonig: Klar, wiess ich! Ich bin ein lurische Meister! Hier steht alles auf diesen Seiten. Seiten voller Sauce, baby! Auf dieser Rechnung, auf diesem Schmerzettel, oder auf diesen Zeitungen!‘

(A cool dativ exercise up there, by the way.)

Marceline: Auf diesem Bild, das war mal du, Simon, vor dem Kreig! Ach, du hast das vollig vollgekritzelt!‘

‘Stehen auf’ (not to be confused with auf/stehen, the separable verb) means to be put on – in this case to be written on. ‘Es steht auf (+dat.)’ because auf is a dativ kind of preposition.

The Ice King still doesn’t recognize his old self, but knows that on the papers there was something of his past. He thinks the words written down would make great song lyrics – ‘Ich hole das Keyboard!’
Marceline: Was? Warte! Hor mir zu!

Eiskonig: Ja, fangen wir an. Was steht den da, leg los, Schwester.

(Calls for seperable verbs.
Zu/horen an/fangen (? volgekritzelt)

Marceline, du und ich ganz allein und intrimmen dieser Welt?
Lasst mich dich halten, wenn dich sonst hier nicht mehr halt.
Einen Mann der immer zu dir steht, brauchst du
Ich verliere dich, du verlierst ich und wir sehen uns dabei zu.

Dieser* Zauber halt mich am Leben – This magic keeps me alive
Doch er macht mich fertig – But it makes me
Niemand kann mich retten,
Doch dich retten wird ich,
Sei mir gnadig, egal was ich tue
Aus dem Kopf verschwindest du.

So here we have great examples of how to tell different forms of verb. ‘Aus dem Kopf verschwindest du’ means literally, ‘From the (my) head, you disappear.’ ‘Verschwinden’ means to disappear, and -est is joined on to most present-tense 2nd person (you- singular form) verbs, replacing ‘-en’.

‘Werden’- the future tense. Hoped we’d get one of those! The future tense is made by a form of ‘werden’ and the infinitve of the verb.
‘Doch dich retten werd’ ich’ would be re-written as ‘Ich werde dich retten‘- I will save you.
Sei – another imperative. Take ‚sein‘- ‚to be‘, take off the -en (in this case n). Sei mir gnadig seems to mean, ‘Be merciful to me’ –
Egal was ich tue – from ‚tun‘ – to do. Another word for this is ‘machen’-to do, to make. Egal means ‘no matter what’

Eiskonig: Wow! Ich hab das geschrieben? Echt groovy!

Eiskonig: Marceline,
Irgendetwas zog mir von dir fort, – Something brought me away from you
Das zu erklären, fehlt mir jedes Wort. – To explain that, every word is missing from me
Du wurdest unglücklicher Tag für Tag. – You become sadder day by day
Ich wies das es an meine Krone lag – I know that it lies on my crown

The Imperfect tense:
Just touched on here, but still, the imperfect tense is sometimes used for the past, written in stories.
zog –3rd person past tense zogen to pull
lag –3rd person past tense lagen, to lay

(Der Eiskonig und Marceline singen zusammen. Marceline hat Trӓnen in ihre Augen, weil der Eiskonig wird nie erinnern, wer er früher war.

Dieser* Zauber halt mich am Leben
Doch er macht mich auch fertig
Niemand kann mich retten,
Doch dich retten wird ich,
Sei mir gnadig, egal was ich tue
Aus meinem Kopf verschwindest du.
Sei mir gnadig, egal was ich tue
Aus dem Kopf verschwindest du.

*I put Dieser Zauber, althought the version in the video writes Dein Zauber – but unless the Ice King is adressing the crown, I think that doesn’t make sense. Marceline wasn’t magical at the time, and the Ice King isn’t asking her to save him, as she was a child then.)

(3:47- Finn and Jake make thier appearance, watching from Marcelines window – but can anyone tell me what Jake’s saying at 3:47? Ich hab echt keine Ahnung! – I have no idea. Konnt ihr mir helfen, bitte?)

English song: ‚ Remember You‘ by Rebecca Sugar – http://adventuretime.wikia.com/wiki/Remember_You

German version: To be found.

I may make this a weekly thing – if so, the continuation of the Ice King’s story will be posted. For now, tschuss!