[This page by Madeleine Brook]
This poem is a translation of Francesco Petrarch’s sonnet ‘S’ amor non è, che dunque è quell ch’ io sento?’ Opitz’s rendering changes certain aspects of his source material, but retains its key features: the rhetorical question and antithesis, especially in the opening octet. The poetic voice attempts to define love, but finds its unpredictability defies this. The sonnet also exemplifies a number of other features typical of the lover in petrarchan poetry, including the confused and vacillating lover, the helpless lover. Though linked in their sense of the vacillating lover, the two images of land and sea in the final sestet are also antithetical (land/sea; dry/wet). This is summed up in the chiastic structure of line 13.
Translation was an important activity for early modern writers as a way of forming their own style. They were less concerned with merely reproducing the work of the renaissance poets of France and Italy than they were with imitating it. It was a way of competing with the original material and demonstrating the improvement of that material through the German language. The art of translation was just as important to Opitz as the art of poetic composition, but after his death, although his ideas on poetic form were eagerly taken up by the following generations of poets, translation was neglected.
Frederick M. Rener, ‘Martin Opitz, the Translator: A Second Look’, Daphnis 9 (1980), 477-502