I am the spirit that negates/ever, that denies!/that always denies!

Comparing Goethe’s Faust Translations — Kaufmann and Kline — and Google Translate.

It’s an art form. Translations vary. And rightly so. Even Google is subjective, though it’s but a homunculus or golem:

Here’s the original German:

Ich bin der Geist der stets verneint!
Und das mit Recht; denn alles was entsteht
Ist werth daß es zu Grunde geht;

Drum besser wär’s daß nichts entstünde.
So ist denn alles was ihr Sünde,
Zerstörung, kurz das Böse nennt,
Mein eigentliches Element.

Faust. Eine Tragödie von Goethe. (Part 1 about line 1340)

Here’s Walter Kaufmann:

I am the spirit that negates.
And rightly so, for all that comes to be
Deserves to perish wretchedly;
‘Twere better nothing would begin.
Thus everything that your terms, sin,
Destruction, evil represent—
That is my proper element.

– Kaufmann, Walter (1963). “Introduction”. Goethe’s Faust : part one and sections from part two (Anchor books). Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday. p. 47. ISBN 0-385-03114-9

Tony Kline:

I am the spirit, ever, that denies!
And rightly so: since everything created,
In turn deserves to be annihilated:
Better if nothing came to be.
So all that you call Sin, you see,
Destruction, in short, what you’ve meant
By Evil is my true element.

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved. From <http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/German/FaustIScenesItoIII.htm>

Here’s what Google Translate offers.

Here’s Google:

I am the spirit that always denies!
And rightly so; because everything that arises
Is worth that it perishes;

It would be better if nothing happened.
So everything you do is sin,
destruction, in short called evil,
My actual element.

von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. “Faust – Der Tragödie Erster Teil.” Google Translate, Google, . Oct. 2022.

Not bad, Google!

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