[lit-ideas] Re: Poetry x 2 = Sabbatical

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2006 13:45:30 -0700

> I once heard Joseph Campbell give the direct translation into English of the
> German version of "The owl of Minerva flies at night" and it sounded much more
> Russian than English to me.  More flourishy, less austere (although in this
> case I prefer the English).

This must be the new Minerva Mark II with night vision goggles. There's no doubt
that, having spread its wings (taken flight) at dusk, the owl would have kept
going, but if Campbell's translation was 'The owl of Minerva flies at night,'
he missed something.

'Die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug.'

This is at the end of the Preface to Hegel's Philosophy of Right. It implies
that philosophy cannot say how things will be but can only understand events
after they've revealed themselves. Something like that.

'The owl of Minerva first begins her flight with the onset of dusk.' ('The owl
of Minerva begins first with the [falling of]dusk her flight.') The translation
in parentheses is nearly word for word--I'm not sure how to translate
'einbrechenden'--but it's barbarous English. If Joseph Campbell has a different
version, it would be interesting to see it; and to see a Russian translation as

'When philosophy paints its grey on grey, then has a shape of life grown old. By
philosophy's grey on grey it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. The owl
of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.' [T. M. Knox,

I don't know who T. M. Know is. Erin must.

Robert Paul
The Reed Institute

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