Albert Einstein

Zu Spinozas Ethik

Wie lieb ich diesen edlen Mann
Mehr als ich mit Worten sagen kann.
Doch fürcht' ich, dass er bleibt allein
Mit seinem strahlenen Heiligenschein.

So einen armen kleinen Wicht
Den führst du zu der Freiheit nicht
Der amor dei lässt ihn kalt
Das Leben zieht ihn mit Gewalt

Die Höhe bringt ihm nichts als Frost
Vernunft ist für ihn schale Kost
Besitz und Weib und Ehr' und Haus
Das füllt ihn von oben bis unten aus

Du musst schon gütig mir verzeih'n
Wenn hier mir fällt Münchhausen ein
Dem als Einzigem das Kunststück gedieh'n
Sich am eigenem Zopf aus dem Sumpf zu zieh'n

Du denkst sein Beispiel zeiget uns eben
Was diese Lehre dem Menschen kann geben
Mein lieber Sohn, was fällt dir ein?
Zur Nachtigall muss man geboren sein
Vertraue nicht dem tröstlichen Schein:
Zum Erhabenen muss man geboren sein.

Written circa 1920.
Transcribed from ms. facsimile, Albert Einstein Archive, 31-018


On Spinoza's Ethics

How I love this noble man
More than I can say with words.
Still, I fear he remains alone
With his shining halo.

Such a poor small lad
Whom you'll not lead to freedom
The amor dei leaves him cold
Mightily does this life attract him

Loftiness offers him nothing but frost
Reason for him is poor fare
Property and wife and honor and house
That fills him from top to bottom

You'll kindly forgive me
If Münchhausen here comes to mind
Who alone mastered the trick
Of pulling himself out of a swamp by his own pigtail

You think his example would show us
What this doctrine can give humankind
My dear son, what ever were you thinking?
One must be born a nightingale
Trust not the comforting façade
One must be born sublime

©2007-2008 English translation by Jonathan Ely

 


Note on Transcription

Several people who looked at the manuscript image suggested variant details in the transcription. The transcription above is that of the translator, Jonathan Ely. Note that he included two lines crossed out in the original manuscript.

This can be compared with the transcription by Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 267. (See also Jammer's partial translation, below.)

stanza 2, line 2: Jammer capitalizes "Du".

stanza 4, line 1 :no apostrophe in "verzeihn"

stanza 4, line 3: no apostrophe in "gediehn"

stanza 5, line 2: Was diese Lehre den Menschen kann geben.

Otherwise, Jammer uses ue instead of ü, but this is just a typographical convention.


Note on Translations

Thanks to Jonathan Ely for the translation above. Charles Senger and Riccardo Pozzo also kindly provided literal translations. I am told the original poem is not very good; still, it is a significant illustration of Einstein's perspective.

A literal translation is offered by Ben Thorn (2007.10.16) as the conclusion of a bulletin board interchange.

Max Jammer, in Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 43, provides a translation of the first stanza:

How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he'll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own.


A Personal Tribute to Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 - 18 April 1955)

"Einstein Revisited" by Ralph Dumain

Einstein Gone 50 Years

Letter from Albert Einstein to Emanuel Fried

Albert Einstein and Black Americans

Albert Einstein on Intellectuals and the Masses,
Specialization and the Division of Labor, and the Quality of Life

Albert Einstein on the Limits of Scientific Description

Albert Einstein on the Secret of Western Science

Book Review: Barnett's 'Universe'

Kial la civilizacio ne bankrotos
de Albert Einstein, trad. el la angla C. Rosen

"Spinoza" poem by Jorge Luis Borges

"Baruch Spinoza" poem by Jorge Luis Borges

Heinrich Heine on Spinoza and Our Lenses

Heinrich Heine on Leibniz & Spinoza

"Spinoza, the First Secular Jew?" by Yirmiyahu Yovel

Spinoza’s World-View by A. M. Deborin

Spinoza's Attributes by Constantin Brunner

Offsite:

"Zu Spinozas Ethik", Albert Einstein Archive, 31-018

How I love this noble man / Wie lieb ich diesen edlen Mann / Einstein's poem to Spinoza
Vleeptron_Z, 1 December 2007

Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology [sample text] by Max Jammer

Einstein Archives Online

The Albert Einstein Archives

Einstein: Nov 15, 2002 - August 10, 2003, American Museum of Natural History, New York

Spinoza & Spinozism / BDSweb


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