That's a language I've always wanted to learn, because there's so much German literature I've wanted to read in the original language, and because the translations I have read, have varied so much: In particular, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and Rainer Maria Rilke.
I've probably read at least 6 translations of The Duino Elegies, and I'm surprised by the variance in the English versions: (1923)
A few examples, from an example of the 8th elegy, which also pertains to animals:
"Animals see the unobstructed
world with their whole eyes.
But our eyes, turned back upon
themselves, encircle and
seek to snare the world,
setting traps for freedom.
The faces of the beasts
show what truly IS to us:
we who up-end the infant and
force its sight to fix upon
things and shapes, not the
freedom that they occupy,
that openess which lies so deep
within the faces of the animals,
free from death!
We alone face death.
The beast, death behind and
God before, moves free through
eternity like a river running.
Never for one day do we
turn from forms to face
that place of endless purity
blooming flowers forever know.
Always a world for us, never
the nowhere minus the no:
that innocent, unguarded
space which we could breathe,
know endlessly, and never require."
"The creature gazes into openness with all
its eyes. But our eyes are
as if they were reversed, and surround it,
everywhere, like barriers against its free passage.
We know what is outside us from the animal’s
face alone: since we already turn
the young child round and make it look
backwards at what is settled, not that openness
that is so deep in the animal’s vision. Free from death.
We alone see that: the free creature
has its progress always behind it,
and God before it, and when it moves, it moves
in eternity, as streams do.
We never have pure space in front of us,
not for a single day, such as flowers open
endlessly into. Always there is world,
and never the Nowhere without the Not: the pure,
unwatched-over, that one breathes and
endlessly knows, without craving. As a child
loses itself sometimes, one with the stillness, and
is jolted back. Or someone dies and is it.
Since near to death one no longer sees death,
and stares ahead, perhaps with the large gaze of the creature.
Lovers are close to it, in wonder, if
the other were not always there closing off the view…..
As if through an oversight it opens out
behind the other……But there is no
way past it, and it turns to world again.
Always turned towards creation, we see
only a mirroring of freedom
dimmed by us. Or that an animal
mutely, calmly is looking through and through us.
This is what fate means: to be opposite,
and to be that and nothing else, opposite, forever."
...and at least a dozen other translations exist.
I've always enjoyed comparing so many versions, but it makes me wonder what it might be like to read the original. Perhaps one day!