Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4523 words)


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“The old Eternal Genius who built the world has confided himself more to this man than to any other”, said Ralph Waldo Emerson about Goethe. It is an understatement when Walter Kaufmann says, “Nineteenth-century German philosophy consisted to a considerable extent in a series of efforts to assimilate the phenomenon of Goethe”, for these efforts were international.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe is no longer mentioned in the same breath as Dante, and Shakespeare (“Daunty, Gouty and Shopkeeper” is how they are referred to in Finnegans Wake). “Of all the strongest Western writers, Goethe now seems the least available to our sensibility”, writes Harold Bloom. Among the factors in the erosion of Goethe's readership, a backlash against Goethe idolatry in the German schools and a lingering disdain elsewhere for anything German cannot be ignored. Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, or Rilke and Hölderlin, have never been cast as icons of specifically German greatness, as Goethe once was. Goethe nevertheless remains one of the most important of Western poets and thinkers and, judged by the breadth of his achievements and the quality of his best poetry, he is one of the greatest.

Goethe's birth in Frankfurt am Main on 28 August 1749, under the sign of the Virgin, was looked on benevolently by Jupiter and Venus, as he writes in Dichtung und Wahrheit [Poetry and Truth, 1813, 1831], while Mars and Saturn wore their indifference on their sleeve. He thus affirms in this first of four autobiographical writings the conciliatory cosmopolitanism that was to characterize his long and productive life. Early evidence of the boy Wolfgang's talent was a play about the biblical Joseph, performed in the puppet theater given to him and his sister Cornelia (1750-1777) by their grandmother on Christmas Eve, 1753. In an effort to enliven his lessons, he spun out a short novel in which seven siblings, scattered to the four winds, write to one another, each in a different language: German, Latin, Greek, English, French, Italian, and Yiddish.

Wolfgang's well-to-do father, Johann Caspar Goethe (1710-1782) — thirty-eight years old when he married Catharina Elisabeth Textor (1731-1808) in 1748 — delegated systematic instruction of their two children who survived beyond the age of six to private tutors. Serendipitous enrichment resulted from the billeting of François de Théas, Comte de Thoranc, the French municipal governor of occupied Frankfurt, in the Goethe household during the Seven Years' War. During this conflict Wolfgang and his father stood admiringly on the side of the “great” Frederick of Prussia, Johann Caspar causing serious offense when, after the French victory at Bergen on 13 April 1759, he told his unwelcome tenant, “I wish they had sent you to the devil, even if I myself had gone to hell with you.” Luckily, his young wife was able to smooth the ruffled feathers. The sympathies of her father, the Frankfurt Schultheiss, were with the French and their Austrian allies, and Grandfather Textor gave his grandson a season's ticket to the French theater, which led to an eventful friendship with the children of an actress and furthered the boy's fluency in French. Wolfgang watched paintings commissioned from local artists take shape in Thoranc's second-floor quarters, from which he was once temporarily banished for having sneaked a peak at some risqué pictures in a trunk. Lessons in drawing began when he turned nine, and in piano, horse-back riding, and fencing at the age of fourteen. At sixteen he dutifully suppressed his wish to read history and philology at the new university in Göttingen and struck out for his father's alma mater in Leipzig, where he studied under Christian Fürchtegott Gellert and took lessons at Adam Friedrich Oeser's drawing academy.

Criticism by Professor C. A. Clodius made Goethe as scornful of his early poetic efforts as he was ashamed in Leipzig, Germany's “Petit Paris”, of his stolid Frankfurt-tailored clothes, and most of his juvenilia went up in smoke in the kitchen stove of his landlady, Frau Straube, in the first of several “autodafés” that perforate the generally rich record of Goethe's life. A pastoral play, Die Laune des Verliebten [The Lover's Spleen], reflects his stormy relationship with Anna Catharina (“Käthchen”) Schönkopf, the daughter of the proprietor of an inn at which he took lunch. A fellow diner and his dearest Leipzig friend, Ernst Wolfgang Behrisch, selected nineteen of Goethe's best poems in the then fashionable “anacreontic” style for a small volume entitled Annette (1767). Goethe also began work on a three-act farce Die Mitschuldigen [Partners in Guilt, 1768], whose techniques anticipate both romantic irony and the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt.

A hemorrhage from the throat, probably caused by a light tuberculosis, interrupted Goethe's Leipzig studies and forced him to return “like a ship-wrecked sailor” to his parent's home in Frankfurt. During a year and a half of convalescence (1768-70), he explored the works of famous Pietists and alchemists, eventually inserting an adaptation of writings by the devout Susanne von Klettenberg, a relative of his mother, into his novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre [Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, 1795/96] under the title “Confessions of a Beautiful Soul”.

In April 1770 Goethe resumed his studies, this time in Strasbourg. There he met Johann Gottfried Herder, who kindled the enthusiasm for Shakespeare that is expressed in the essay “On Shakespeare's Name Day”, 14 October (1771). Herder also praised the strength and vitality of “folk poetry”, features of which Goethe imitated in the ballad “Heidenröslein” [“Heath Rose”, 1773], like “Erlkönig” (1782), an allegory of sexual violence, both poems later set to music by Schubert and numerous other composers. Goethe's essay “On German Architecture” elucidates the design and decoration of the thirteenth-century gothic Strasbourg cathedral. By climbing to the top of its one completed spire he sought to vanquish his fear of heights. Goethe returned to Frankfurt in August 1771, creating in the characters Clavigo — in the eponymous play — and Weislingen, in the tragedy Götz von Berlichingen (1773), objective correlatives of his own guilt in loving and leaving Friederike Brion, daughter of the village pastor in Sesenheim by Strasbourg. Other unfaithful lovers are Fernando, in Stella (1776), and Faust. When Goethe said, however, that “all of my works are but fragments of a great confession”, he meant not a confession of sins or faith, but of a Weltanschauung or world view. His life-long concern with religious issues began, he says, with the jolt to the six-year-old boy's optimism inflicted by the Lisbon earthquake (1755). The “bibelfest” (Bible firm) Goethe was well aware that Christian patterns of thought and expression pervade his thinking and writing, but distaste for pretensions of piety eventually destroyed his friendship with the Swiss divine, Johann Caspar Lavater, for whose “physiognomical” studies he had drawn portraits of important persons.

Goethe handled only twenty-eight cases during a brief, desultory career as a lawyer (1771-75), the humdrum aspects of the work seen to by a clerk in the employ of Goethe's father. Dispatched to Wetzlar on the Lahn in the summer of 1772 to observe proceedings at the Reichskammergericht, the imperial supreme court, where regional delegates struggled to reduce a centuries-old backlog of cases, he made friends with a legal ambassador from Hannover, Johann Christian Kestner, and spent pleasant hours in the company of Kestner's fiancée, Charlotte Buff, and with the eleven younger siblings she was mothering. Surrogate mothers are a recurring theme in Goethe's writings. While fear that his passion for Charlotte would become too intense may explain his abrupt departure from Wetzlar, as — earlier — from Sesenheim, the pretext for a quick exit provided by their prior commitment has been urged as a factor in his attraction to unavailable women throughout his life. Again back in Frankfurt, Goethe combined details from Kestner's report of the suicide of Carl Wilhelm Jerusalem with his own “hopeless” love for Charlotte and wrote the sensational epistolary novel The Sufferings of Young Werther, which established his fame and, among his detractors, his notoriety as a sentimentalist. Napoleon Bonaparte was not a detractor, and it was about Werther that Napoleon wanted to converse, when on 2 October 1808 he summoned Goethe to his headquarters in Erfurt. Legend has it that as Goethe left after the half-hour audience Napoleon exclaimed: “Voila un homme!”, which Friedrich Nietzsche wickedly interprets as meaning, “Behold, a man — and I expected only a German.”

Women important to Goethe, in addition to Käthchen Schönkopf, Friederike Brion, and Charlotte Buff, were his wife Christiane Vulpius, in a marriage lasting from 1788 until her death in 1816, but solemnized only in 1806, after the battle of Jena / Austerlitz (of their five children, only August [1789-1830] survived beyond infancy); his sister Cornelia, who died in childbirth after a short, unhappy marriage; Elisabeth Schönemann, the only woman to whom he was ever formally engaged; Charlotte von Stein; Marianne von Willemer-Suleika to Goethe's Hatem in the cycle of poems entitled West-östlicher Divan; Minna Herzlieb, the “model maid” of Goethe's sonnets; and Ulrike von Levetzow, a teenager to whom the seventy-four-year-old poet extended an unsuccessful proposal of marriage. The depth of his feeling for the girl is expressed in the famous “Elegie” from his “Trilogy of Passion”. Auguste von Stolberg, whom he never met in person, was Goethe's intimate correspondent in the years 1775-82.

A fateful consequence of the young Goethe's burgeoning fame was a visit in December 1774 from the sixteen-year-old Duke Carl August, on tour with his younger brother and their mentor Carl Ludwig von Knebel. This led eleven months later to an invitation to visit Weimar, which Goethe accepted against the advice of his republican-minded father. He arrived in November 1775 in the little capital of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, which, although he had planned only a short stay, was to be his home for the rest of his life. He became a friend and adviser to the now eighteen-year-old duke, accompanying him on hunting trips, conferring all night with him in the bedroom they sometimes shared, and sometimes joining him in adolescent transgressions of decorum. Goethe replied sharply to a reprimand from Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, who had honored the young genius with a visit in Frankfurt in September 1774.

At first only a “Favorit” of the Weimar court, Goethe was soon given important administrative assignments, outstripping the career civil servants who, until they beheld his independence of mind and action, were affronted at the meteoric rise of the inexperienced youth. Goethe drew a salary in his first year as Privy Councillor of 1200 talers (compared to Schiller's annual salary of 200 talers as a Jena professor). Among Goethe's responsibilities were road building and the resumption of operations in an inactive silver, copper, and slate mine above Ilmenau. He was also put in charge of state finances and made Director of the Commission of War, which dual authority he used to reduce the ducal infantry from 532 to 248 men, thus bringing the princely accounts into the black. Goethe found a confidante in Charlotte von Stein, wife of the chief Equerry and a friend of the young Duchess Luise. He often dined with her tête-à-tête and wrote her numerous love letters, which she later destroyed. The poem “Warum gabst du uns die tiefen Blicke ?” [“Why didst thou impose these intuitions?”] invokes the idea of reincarnation to indicate their almost unbearable sibling- or spouse-like closeness, from which he sometimes escaped on hikes in the Thuringian Forest. On one solitary excursion he wrote on the boards of a hunter's cabin the most famous poem in the German language: “Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh” [“Peace presides on every summit”]. While burdened by such social problems as hunger among the stocking weavers in Apolda and the onerous task of levying soldiers to meet a Prussian requisition in the War of the Bavarian Succession, he wrote the idealizing, classical play Iphigenie in Tauris, its ethically refined heroine modeled on Frau von Stein.

In 1786, with the Duke's assurance that his salary would continue, Goethe secretly left the spa of Karlsbad for a long postponed trip to Italy, of which he gives an account in his Italienische Reise [Italian Journey,1816-29]. Traveling under the names “Johann Philipp Möller” and “Signore Filippo Miller”, to avoid questions about the true-to-life accuracy of Werther, he spent four months with the painter Wilhelm Tischbein in Rome, and then traveled to Naples (22 February to 29 March 1787), climbing Vesuvius three times. After a slow boat ride to Sicily in bad weather, he discovered while searching for the “Urpflanze” (“primal plant”) in the botanical gardens of Palermo the key to the principle of the metamorphosis of plants. At the beginning of May he was back in Rome, seeing and sketching the sights and profiting from conversation with Karl Philipp Moritz and the painters Angelica Kauffmann and Philipp Hackert. He arrived back in Weimar on 18 June 1788. Upon his return Goethe was released from most of his governmental positions, remaining, however, a member of the Duke's privy council and retaining responsibility for the university in Jena and for the Weimar theater, libraries and parks. In the face of criticism of his “unsanctified” marriage with Christiane, he celebrated their love in the dactylic couplets of the erotic Roman Elegies (1790): “Often lying in her arms I've rested and written a poem, / Gently with fingering hand counted hexameters out / On her back”. One of his Venetian Epigrams (1790) depicts the cross as one of four things he most detests (besides tobacco smoke, bedbugs, and garlic). Another epigram concedes that his primary talent lay in his virtuosic use of that “poorest of media”, the German language. He had early reflected on the distortions produced by the prism of language and on forms and problems of representation. Goethe was the first critic to distinguish between symbol and allegory and is chiefly responsible for romanticism's preference for the former.

Many of Goethe's works are “occasional” — Clavigo, dashed off in a single week “on a dare” (Boyle) in 1774, others composed as billets-doux to women with whom Goethe fell in love or played at falling in love, and yet others commissioned by his patron for official court pageants. Some, like the sonnets of 1807-08, were mere études, vocalizes – experiments in whichever form, theme, or idea ignited the poet's interest or was urged upon him by Friedrich Schiller during the eleven years of friendship and collaboration that ended with the Schiller's death at the age of forty-five. Thanks to Goethe's mediation, Schiller was appointed professor of history at the university in Jena in 1789. There, after a meeting of the Nature Research Society in July 1794, the two men fell into a discussion of biological morphology. Goethe was proud of his empirical approach to scientific questions and in reply to Schiller's blunt comment that Goethe's theory came not from observation but from an ideal premise said, “It's all right with me if I have ideas without knowing it, and even see them with my own eyes”. The two men wrote epigrammatic attacks on literary adversaries, called Xenien [Xenia] after Martial's example — a selection of 414 pieces published in Schiller's Musen-Almanach (1797), to which journal Goethe later contributed the ballads “The Bride of Corinth”, “The God and the Bajadere”, and “The Sorcerer's Apprentice”, among others, and it was Schiller, too, who encouraged Goethe to finish the Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. Their letters back and forth during its composition count as one of history's great literary correspondences. Inserted into the narrative of the Apprenticeship, proclaimed the quintessential romantic work by the young Friedrich Schlegel for its irony and its free blending of genres, are some of Goethe's most famous poems, such as Mignon's “Kennst du das Land?” [“Knowest thou the land?”] and the harpist's “Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass” [“Who ne'r ate his bread with tear-filled eyes”].

In addition to the compact Werther and the Apprenticeship, Goethe wrote the novels Die Wahlverwandtschaften [Elective Affinities, 1809], and Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre [Wilhelm Meister's Journeymanship, 1829], the latter a repository for the novellas “St. Joseph II”, “A Man of Fifty”, and “The new Melusine”, among others, as well as for some of Goethe's recommendations on the education of the young (in the “Pedagogical Province”), and on the advantages of wax models over cadavers in medical education. Elective Affinities, one of European literature's classic tales of adultery, seems to have been intended as a novella as well. Its “unheard of event”, which a novella must have, according to Goethe's poetics, is the “Ehebruch im Ehebett” [“marital breach in the marital bed” (Stöcklein)], a married couple in conjugal union with each other both imagining an absent beloved in place of the spouse in their arms.

Goethe failed to revive the mining industry in Ilmenau, but his efforts awakened an interest in geology that is manifested in the essay “On Granite” (1785) and in his partiality to “neptunistic” theories of the formation of the earth's crust (versus the “vulcanist” views of some scientific adversaries — Goethe, of course, was acquainted with volcanic activity first hand), and is honored in the naming of the iron bearing oxide mineral “goethite”. While preparing lectures on the human skeletal structure for the princely drawing school, he discovered that homo sapiens, too, has a distinct intermaxillary bone in the jaw, which confirmed his belief that man was not a special creation outside of Nature. From his Farbenlehre [Theory of Colour, 1810], the longest of all his works and the one of which he was proudest, only the section on “physiological” colors has proved to be a lasting contribution, while the relationship between phenomena and their material “causes” remains an unsettled and controversial question.

The impact of the French revolution on Goethe was inevitably strong. He wrote in 1791 his comedy Der Gross-Cophta [The Grand Kophta, 1792], about the “necklace affair” and the shenanigans of “Count” Cagliostro, whose needy family he had visited in Palermo under the name of Mr. Wilton and to whom he then sent money. Although he had no illusions about the corruption and wastefulness of the French court, Goethe felt little of the enthusiasm for “freedom” or the hatred of “tyranny” exhibited by Fichte, Hölderlin, or Georg Forster or Klopstock, who, along with “the publicist Gillé” (Schiller), was one of seventeen foreigners designated honorary citizens of revolutionary France in a declaration signed by Danton. As R. Friedenthal points out, all of Weimar would have fit comfortably in a side street of a Paris Faubourg. The German empire lacked a national capital and no one in the provinces felt him- or herself part of a German nation. Hoffmann von Fallersleben's “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” — a call for Germans to place national unity ahead of local, particular interests — was written in 1841, nine years after Goethe's death. Always interested in extraordinary individuals, Goethe might have found, as did the young Georg Büchner, an engaging subject in the charismatic, loose-living Danton, or in the rise and fall of the lean fanatic Robespierre. Napoleon did capture his imagination and remained an object of fascination. “A monstrous power emanates from [such “dämonisch” persons]”, he wrote. “They exercise an incredible sway over all creatures, even over the elements”. Goethe's Der Bürgergeneral [The Citizen-General], Die Aufgeregten [Agitation], both written in 1793, the fragment Achilleis [Achilles, 1808], Die natürliche Tochter [The Natural Daughter, 1803—its title an allusion to Diderot's Le Fils Naturel], the Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten [Conversations of German Emigrants, 1795], and the popular epic Hermann und Dorothea (1797) all depict aspects or consequences of the upheaval.

In 1792 Goethe was obliged to participate in its consequences, required by Duke Carl August to accompany the invasion of France by a coalition of Prussians, Austrians, Hessians and decadent émigrés, Louis XVI having been forced to sign a declaration of war against Austria (thus also against Austria's ally, Prussia) as one of his last acts of government. Bivouacked near Longwy, in a camp flooded with water, human excrement and offal from an overflowing drainage ditch, Goethe compared himself to Noah in his Ark, and wrote home that he looked forward to seeing the rainbow being painted on the ceiling of the stairwell in his new house am Frauenplan. After riding alone to the front lines to gain a better view during the cannonade of 20 September 1792, he is supposed to have said to his comrades in the rain-drenched foxhole where he and Carl August spent a miserable night, “Here today begins a new epoch of world history and you can say that you were there”. This invasion led to the massacre of aristocrats and clerics in Paris, to the declaration of the First French Republic on 21 September 1792 and, four months later, to the beheading of the king and his Austrian queen.

No poet ever rhymed more effortlessly or wielded a greater variety of prosodic forms than did Goethe. The poems sent to Friederike “first showed Germans what it means to be young” (Erich Trunz). One of them, “Kleine Blumen, kleine Blätter” [“Tiny Blossoms, Tiny Leaves”], infuses its “pointe” — de rigeur for an anacreontic poem—with a transporting poignancy, coming as close as any poem in any language to the wit and grace of a Watteau painting or a Mozart opera while evoking a chaste and “un-French” reverence. Nine of the poems in his West-östlicher Divan (1816) were written in a coach on the road between Eisenach and Fulda — this work's title, like Dichtung und Wahrheit, a “coincidence of opposites”, evoking the unity of East and West, the “twin brotherhood” of Goethe and the Persian poet Hafiz, and Goethe's oneness with Marianne von Willemer, a few of whose reciprocal love poems he recast as words of Suleika.

Goethe's feat in writing one hundred fifty hexameters on each of nine days in a row amazed Schiller, who described him as a “naïve” poet, in harmony with Nature and with his own nature. Work on the blank verse version of Iphigenie in Tauris, however, stretched over eight years, until December 1786, followed in the summer by Egmont, begun in 1774. He worked “with unpermitted care” on Torquato Tasso, the first important work in Western literature featuring a poet, rather than a statesman or military leader, as the protagonist, until its completion on 31 July 1789. Intermittent work on Faust extended over his entire adult lifetime, from the so-called Urfaust (1775), to Faust: Ein Fragment (1790), and to Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy (1808), the brilliant and wide-ranging Second Part remaining unpublished at Goethe's death because, as he wrote to Wilhelm von Humboldt in his last preserved letter, “The day is truly so absurd and confused that my honest and lengthy efforts in behalf of this strange construction would be poorly rewarded--broken up and stranded like a wreck, and covered up with the flotsam and jetsam of the hour” (17 March 1832).

Goethe's contempt for public opinion was not unfounded. Some arbiters of taste, for instance, have expressed amusement at his presumed musical “misjudgments” such as an off-hand remark to his secretary Eckermann that only Mozart or Meyerbeer could have composed suitable music for Faust. During Goethe's twenty-six years as director (1791-1817), the Weimar Court Theater performed seven different Mozart operas in a total of 304 performances — Die Zauberflöte alone eighty-two times. He composed several “Singspiele”, and incidental music for Egmont, eventually furnished voluntarily by Beethoven, was always part of the plan. Goethe hosted the twelve-year-old Felix Mendelssohn, among other musicians, at his house in Weimar. Famously Goethe once said, “Classical is what is healthy, romantic what is sick”. That Goethe and Schiller exemplify German Classicism (see Weimar Classicism) has been asserted, qualified, and denied. An emphasis on the commonalities rather than the differences in human experience informs Goethe's writings from 1779 until Elective Affinities, described by Stuart Atkins as a “novel of German Classicism”. Goethe coined the term “Weltliteratur” which he defined as the socially productive interaction among the world's “living and striving literati” (he translated works by Aristophanes, Cellini, Diderot, Voltaire, and Byron). He did not glorify the Christian Middle Ages after the fashion of the Nazarenes and Novalis or Arnim and Brentano, who dedicated their anthology of German folk poetry, Des Knaben Wunderhorn [The Boy's Horn of Plenty], to him. His program for the arts and sciences, as set forth in his tribute to Winckelmann (in Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert [Winckelmann and His Century, 1805]) and in the journal Propyläen [Propylaea, 1798-1800], proposed to extract from the ancients themes and principles he deemed natural and universal. As René Wellek has shown, however, “Goethe perfectly fits into the European romantic movement which he, as much as any single writer, helped to create.” Every important feature of romanticism can be found in Goethe—“the concern for the reconciliation of subject and object, man and nature, consciousness and unconsciousness, language and reality”; the mixing of genres; the view of the artist as an alter deus and antithesis both to thoughtless philistinism and to healthy innocence; the stronger interest in character than in event, and in the weird, the occult and the supernatural; fascination with dreams, the subconscious and the dark side of human consciousness; a “dynamic, organic view of nature”; a refusal to privilege the mundane and commonsensical over a unique vision or intuition; espousal of original genius; and “a use of imagery, symbolism, and myth which is clearly distinct from that of eighteenth-century neoclassicism”. Weimar classicism is a romantic epiphenomenon, its symmetries and its celebration of the ancients notwithstanding.

Throughout his life Goethe found time and resources to help persons less fortunate than himself. Fellow Sturm und Drang writers Klinger, Müller, and Bürger “all received financial support from him, or through his efforts” (Boyle), not to mention lesser beneficiaries of his kindness. While on a walking tour through the Hartz mountains, he visited the melancholic F. V. L. Plessing (and afterward wrote the poem “Harzreise im Winter” [“Winter Journery through the Hartz”, 1777], described by Rilke as “one of the most valid poems ever written, invulnerable to the ravages of time”).

Goethe's Faust is counted as one of literature's greatest and most influential works, prompting imitations or adaptations by Hawthorne, Turgenev, Valéry, Bulgakov, Thomas Mann, and Lawrence Durrell, among others. It inspired operas by Spohr, Gounod, Boito, and Busoni, Schumann's oratorio, and the concert opera by Berlioz, as well as the Faust symphonies by Liszt and Mahler. Massenet's Werther, like Gounod's Faust, is a staple in the opera repertory, and Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, and Charles Ives have set Goethe poems to music. His works have been illustrated by countless artists, including Kaulbach, Delacroix, Barlach, and Beckmann, and translated into many languages, Faust over fifty times into English alone. George Henry Lewes, accompanied by Marianne Evans (George Eliot), did research on site in Weimar and its environs for the first of many biographies (1855).

Goethe died on 22 March 1832. His legendary last words, “Mehr Licht!” (“More light!”), might have been fitting for a man who took more pride in his theory of light than in his belletristic brilliance. But Goethe was no simple enlightener. “There is so much in our experience that cannot be roundly articulated and conveyed directly”, he said, “that I long ago decided to reveal the more arcane meanings to thoughtful readers through opposed and, as it were, mutually interreflective images”. Whether he will someday again be recognized as one of the greatest minds of all time and any place may be less important than the certainty that thinkers and poets in many places will continue to be enriched by his quests, his questions, and his luminous example.

Citation: Dye, Ellis. "Johann Wolfgang von Goethe". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 28 June 2006; last revised 10 January 2008. [, accessed 29 November 2021.]

1781 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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