Of untranslatable music;
Of oblivion never sweeter
Than upon a bed of words.
Oh that Procrustian bed of words, sweet even though (especially because) it requires clarity and translation. Let nature, angels, and gods sing freely and absolutely. The dark impress of human language speaks us as we savor its flavors.
Alex's poem and my Goethe Yearbook article on language in Goethe's first novel are echoes of Herder's arguments in the essay "On the Origin of Language."
For instance: "If an angel or a heavenly spirit had invented language, how could its entire structure fail to bear the imprint of the manner of thinking of that spirit, for through what could I know the picture of an angel in a painting if not through its angelic and supernatural features?"
For instance: "What proof is there of the existence of a single word which only God could invent? Is there in any language anywhere a single, pure and universal concept that was handed down to man from Heaven?"
As Herder contemplates the human origin of language he contrasts the whirling and fecund imperfections of language with the cold universality of supposed angelic speech. God's language and the cold language of French philosophy pale, for Herder, against the rich tapestry on the bed of German words.
"Die, or create language."