with his practice elsewhere, he could omit the colon, an omission that would almost be more appropriate for the indirect discourse—if that is what it is—in the last line. Still, many precedents can be cited, presumably, for George's usage, for example a passage from Goethe's "Introduction to the Outline of a Theory of Color." There we find:
In order that we may not appear overly timid by trying to avoid an explanation, we would revise what we said first, as follows: that color be an elementary natural phenomenon for the sense of sight ...
Goethe regards the words after the colon as the explanation of what color is, and says: "Color be ... " But what is the situation in the last stanza of George's poem? Here we have to do not with a theoretical explanation of a natural phenomenon, but with a renunciation.
So I renounced and sadly see: Where word breaks off no thing may be.
Do the words after the colon say what the substance of the renunciation is? Does the poet renounce the fact that no thing may be where the word breaks off? Exactly the opposite. The renunciation he has learned implies precisely that the poet admits that no thing may be where the word breaks off.
Why all these artful explications? The matter, after all, is clear. No, nothing is clear: but everything is significant. In what way? In this way, that what matters is for us to hear how, in the poem's last stanza, the whole of that experience is concentrated which the poet has undergone with the word—and that means with language as well; and that we must be careful not to force the vibration of the poetic saying into the rigid groove of a univocal statement, and so destroy it.
The last line, "Where word breaks off no thing may be," could then still have another meaning than that of a statement and affirmation put in indirect discourse, which says that no thing is where the word is lacking.
What follows the colon does not name what the poet renounces;