Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Biographical information

  1. Another
  2. Apparent Death
  3. April
  4. As Broad As It's Long
  5. At Midnight Hour
  6. Authors
  7. Ballad Of The Banished And Returning Count
  8. Book Of Contemplation: Five Things
  9. Book Of Contemplation: For Woman
  10. Book Of Love: Love's Torments
  11. Book Of Love: The Types
  12. By The River: Flow on, ye lays so loved, so fair
  13. By The River: When by the broad stream thou dost dwell
  14. Calm At Sea
  15. Celebrity
  16. Comfort In Tears
  17. Declaration Of War
  18. Dedication - The Poems of Goeth
  19. Divine Power Is Spread Everywhere
  20. Farewell
  21. Finnish Song
  22. From The Mountain
  23. Gipsy Song
  24. Living Remembrance
  25. Neither This Nor That

    Biographical information

      Name: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
      Place and date of birth: Free Imperial City of Frankfurt, Holy Roman Empire (Germany); August 28, 1749
      Place and date of death: Weimar, Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (Germany); March 22, 1832 (aged 82)



        Go! obedient to my call,

        Turn to profit thy young days,

        Wiser make betimes thy breast

        In Fate's balance as it sways,

        Seldom is the cock at rest;
        Thou must either mount, or fall,

        Thou must either rule and win,

        Or submissively give in,
        Triumph, or else yield to clamour:
        Be the anvil or the hammer.


      Apparent Death

        Weep, maiden, weep here o'er the tomb of Love;

        He died of nothing -by mere chance was slain.
        But is he really dead? -oh, that I cannot prove:

        A nothing, a mere chance, oft gives him life again.



        Eyes tell, tell me, what you tell me,
        telling something all too sweet,
        making music out of beauty,
        with a question hidden deep.

        Still I think I know your meaning,
        there behind your pupils’ brightness,
        love and truth are your heart’s lightness,
        that, instead of its own gleaming,

        would so truly like to greet,
        in a world of dullness, blindness,
        one true look of human kindness,
        where two kindred spirits meet.


      As Broad As It's Long

        Modest men must needs endure,

        And the bold must humbly bow;
        Thus thy fate's the same, be sure,

        Whether bold or modest thou.


      At Midnight Hour

        At midnight hour I went, not willingly,

        A little, little boy, yon churchyard past,
        To Father Vicar's house; the stars on high.

        On all around their beauteous radiance cast,
        At midnight hour.

        And when, in journeying o'er the path of life,

        My love I follow'd, as she onward moved,
        With stars and northern lights o'er head in strife,

        Going and coming, perfect bliss I proved

        At midnight hour.

        Until at length the full moon, lustre-fraught,

        Burst thro' the gloom wherein she was enshrined;
        And then the willing, active, rapid thought

        Around the past, as round the future twined,

        At midnight hour.



        Over the meadows, and down the stream,

        And through the garden-walks straying,

        He plucks the flowers that fairest seem;

        His throbbing heart brooks no delaying.
        His maiden then comes--oh, what ecstasy!
        Thy flowers thou giv'st for one glance of her eye!

        The gard'ner next door o'er the hedge sees the youth:
        "I'm not such a fool as that, in good truth;
        My pleasure is ever to cherish each flower,
        And see that no birds my fruit e'er devour.
        But when 'tis ripe, your money, good neighbour!
        'Twas not for nothing I took all this labour!"
        And such, methinks, are the author-tribe.

        The one his pleasures around him strews,

        That his friends, the public, may reap, if they choose;
        The other would fain make them all subscribe.


      Ballad Of The Banished And Returning Count

        Oh, enter old minstrel, thou time-honour'd one!
        We children are here in the hall all alone,

        The portals we straightway will bar.
        Our mother is praying, our father is gone

        To the forest, on wolves to make war.
        Oh sing us a ballad, the tale then repeat,

        'Till brother and I learn it right;
        We long have been hoping a minstrel to meet,

        For children hear tales with delight.

        "At midnight, when darkness its fearful veil weaves,
        His lofty and stately old castle he leaves,

        But first he has buried his wealth.
        What figure is that in his arms one perceives,

        As the Count quits the gateway by stealth?
        O'er what is his mantle so hastily thrown?.

        What bears he along in his flight?
        A daughter it is, and she gently sleeps on"-

        The children they hear with delight.

        "The morning soon glimmers. the world is so wide,
        In valleys and forests a home is supplied,

        The bard in each village is cheer'd.
        Thus lives he and wanders, while years onward glide,

        And longer still waxes his beard;
        But the maiden so fair in his arms grows amain,

        'Neath her star all-protecting and bright,
        Secured in the mantle from wind and from rain--"

        The children they hear with delight.

        "And year upon year with swift footstep now steals,
        The mantle it fades, many rents it reveals,

        The maiden no more it can hold.
        The father he sees her, what rapture he feels!

        His joy cannot now be controll'd.
        How worthy she seems of the race whence she springs,

        How noble and fair to the sight!
        What wealth to her dearly-loved father she brings!"-

        The children they hear with delight.

        "Then comes there a princely knight galloping by,
        She stretches her hand out, as soon as he's nigh,

        But alms he refuses to give.
        He seizes her hand, with a smile in his eye:

        'Thou art mine!' he exclaims, 'while I live!'
        'When thou know'st,' cries the old man, 'the treasure that's there,

        A princess thou'lt make her of right;
        Betroth'd be she now, on this spot green and fair--'"

        The children they hear with delight.

        "So she's bless'd by the priest on the hallowed place,
        And she goes with a smiling but sorrowful face,

        From her father she fain would not part.
        The old man still wanders with ne'er-changing pace,

        He covers with joy his sad heart.
        So I think of my daughter, as years pass away,

        And my grandchildren far from my sight;
        I bless them by night, and I bless them by day"-

        The children they hear with delight.

        He blesses the children: a knocking they hear,
        The father it is! They spring forward in fear,

        The old man they cannot conceal-
        "Thou beggar, wouldst lure, then, my children so dear?.

        Straight seize him, ye vassals of steel!
        To the dungeon most deep, with the fool-hardy knave!"

        The mother from far hears the fight;
        She hastens with flatt'ring entreaty to crave-

        The children they hear with delight.

        The vassals they suffer the Bard to stand there,
        And mother and children implore him to spare,

        The proud prince would stifle his ire,
        'Till driven to fury at hearing their prayer,

        His smouldering anger takes fire:
        "Thou pitiful race! Oh, thou beggarly crew!

        Eclipsing my star, once so bright!
        Ye'll bring me destruction, ye sorely shall rue!"

        The children they hear with affright.

        The old man still stands there with dignified mien,
        The vassals of steel quake before him, I ween,

        The Count's fury increases in power;
        "My wedded existence a curse long has been,

        And these are the fruits from that flower!
        'Tis ever denied, and the saying is true,

        That to wed with the base-born is right;
        The beggar has borne me a beggarly crew,-"

        The children they hear with affright.

        "If the husband, the father, thus treats you with scorn,
        If the holiest bonds by him rashly are torn,

        Then come to your father -to me!
        The beggar may gladden life's pathway forlorn,

        Though aged and weak he may be.
        This castle is mine! Thou hast made it thy prey,

        Thy people 'twas put me to flight;
        The tokens I bear will confirm what I say"-

        The children they hear with delight.

        "The king who erst govern'd returneth again,
        And restores to the Faithful the goods that were ta'en,

        I'll unseal all my treasures the while;
        The laws shall be gentle, and peaceful the reign"-

        The old man thus cries with a smile-
        "Take courage, my son! all hath turned out for good,

        And each hath a star that is bright,
        Those the princess hath borne thee are princely in blood,"-

        The children thy hear with delight.


      Book Of Contemplation: Five Things

        What makes time short to me?


        What makes it long and spiritless?

        'Tis idleness!
        What brings us to debt?

        To delay and forget!
        What makes us succeed?.

        Decision with speed
        How to fame to ascend?.

        Oneself to defend!


      Book Of Contemplation: For Woman

        For woman due allowance make!.

        Form'd of a crooked rib was she,-

        By Heaven she could not straightened be.
        Attempt to bend her, and she'll break;
        If left alone, more crooked grows madam;
        What well could be worse, my good friend, Adam?-
        For woman due allowance make;
        'Twere grievous, if thy rib should break!.


      Book Of Love: Love's Torments

        Love's torments sought a place of rest,
        Where all might drear and lonely be;
        They found ere long my desert breast,
        And nestled in its vacancy.


      Book Of Love: The Types

        List, and in memory bear
        These six fond loving pair.
        Love, when aroused, kept true
        Rustan and Rad!
        Strangers approach from far
        Joseph and Suleika;
        Love, void of hope, is in
        Ferhad and Schirin.
        Born for each other are
        Medschnun and Lily;
        Loving, though old and grey,
        Dschemil saw Boteinah.
        Love's sweet caprice anon,
        Brown maid and Solomon!
        If thou dost mark them well,
        Stronger thy love will swell.


      By The River: Flow on, ye lays so loved, so fair

        Flow on, ye lays so loved, so fair,

        On to Oblivion's ocean flow!
        May no rapt boy recall you e'er,

        No maiden in her beauty's glow!.

        My love alone was then your theme,

        But now she scorns my passion true.

        Ye were but written in the stream;

        As it flows on, then, flow ye too!


      By The River: When by the broad stream thou dost dwell

        When by the broad stream thou dost dwell,

        Oft shallow is its sluggish flood;
        Then, when thy fields thou tendest well,

        It o'er them spreads its slime and mud.

        The ships descend ere daylight wanes,

        The prudent fisher upward goes;
        Round reef and rock ice casts its chains,

        And boys at will the pathway close.

        To this attend, then, carefully,

        And what thou wouldst, that execute!
        Ne'er linger, ne'er o'erhasty be,

        For time moves on with measured foot.


      Calm At Sea

        Silence deep rules o'er the waters,

        Calmly slumb'ring lies the main,
        While the sailor views with trouble.

        Nought but one vast level plain

        Not a zephyr is in motion!.

        Silence fearful as the grave!
        In the mighty waste of ocean

        Sunk to rest is ev'ry wave.



        On bridges small and bridges great
        Stands Nepomucks in ev'ry state,
        Of bronze, wood, painted, or of stone,
        Some small as dolls, some giants grown;
        Each passer must worship before Nepomuck,
        Who to die on a bridge chanced to have the ill luck,
        When once a man with head and ears
        A saint in people's eyes appears,
        Or has been sentenced piteously
        Beneath the hangman's hand to die,
        He's as a noted person prized,
        In portrait is immortalized.
        Engravings, woodcuts, are supplied,
        And through the world spread far and wide.
        Upon them all is seen his name,
        And ev'ry one admits his claim;
        Even the image of the Lord
        Is not with greater zeal ador'd.
        Strange fancy of the human race!
        Half sinner frail, half child of grace
        We see Herr Werther of the story
        In all the pomp of woodcut glory.
        His worth is first made duly known,
        By having his sad features shown
        At ev'ry fair the country round;
        In ev'ry alehouse too they're found.
        His stick is pointed by each dunce
        "The ball would reach his brain at once!"
        And each says, o'er his beer and bread:
        "Thank Heav'n that 'tis not we are dead!".


      Comfort In Tears

        How happens it that thou art sad,

        While happy all appear?
        Thine eye proclaims too well that thou

        Hast wept full many a tear.

        "If I have wept in solitude,

        None other shares my grief,
        And tears to me sweet balsam are,

        And give my heart relief."

        Thy happy friends invite thee now,-

        Oh come, then, to our breast!
        And let the loss thou hast sustain'd

        Be there to us confess'd!.

        "Ye shout, torment me, knowing not

        What 'tis afflicteth me;
        Ah no! I have sustained no loss,

        Whate'er may wanting be."

        If so it is, arise in haste!

        Thou'rt young and full of life.
        At years like thine, man's blest with strength.

        And courage for the strife.

        "Ah no! in vain 'twould be to strive,

        The thing I seek is far;
        It dwells as high, it gleams as fair

        As yonder glitt'ring star."

        The stars we never long to clasp,

        We revel in their light,
        And with enchantment upward gaze,

        Each clear and radiant night.

        "And I with rapture upward gaze,

        On many a blissful day;
        Then let me pass the night in tears,

        Till tears are wip'd away!.


      Declaration Of War

        Oh, would I resembled

        The country girls fair,
        Who rosy-red ribbons

        And yellow hats wear!.

        To believe I was pretty

        I thought was allow'd;
        In the town I believed it

        When by the youth vow'd.

        Now that Spring hath return'd,

        All my joys disappear;
        The girls of the country

        Have lured him from here.

        To change dress and figure,

        Was needful I found,
        My bodice is longer,

        My petticoat round.

        My hat now is yellow.

        My bodice like snow;
        The clover to sickle

        With others I go.

        Something pretty, e'er long

        Midst the troop he explores;
        The eager boy signs me

        To go within doors.

        I bashfully go,-

        Who I am, he can't trace;
        He pinches my cheeks,

        And he looks in my face.

        The town girl now threatens

        You maidens with war;
        Her twofold charms pledges.

        Of victory are.


      Dedication - The Poems Of Goeth

        The morn arrived; his footstep quickly scared

        The gentle sleep that round my senses clung,
        And I, awak'ning, from my cottage fared,

        And up the mountain side with light heart sprung;
        At every step I felt my gaze ensnared

        By new-born flow'rs that full of dew-drops hung;
        The youthful day awoke with ecstacy,
        And all things quicken'd were, to quicken me.

        And as I mounted, from the valley rose

        A streaky mist, that upward slowly spread,
        Then bent, as though my form it would enclose,

        Then, as on pinions, soar'd above my head:
        My gaze could now on no fair view repose,

        In mournful veil conceal'd, the world seem'd dead;
        The clouds soon closed around me, as a tomb,
        And I was left alone in twilight gloom.

        At once the sun his lustre seem'd to pour,

        And through the mist was seen a radiant light;
        Here sank it gently to the ground once more,

        There parted it, and climb'd o'er wood and height.
        How did I yearn to greet him as of yore,

        After the darkness waxing doubly bright!
        The airy conflict ofttimes was renew'd,
        Then blinded by a dazzling glow I stood.

        Ere long an inward impulse prompted me

        A hasty glance with boldness round to throw;
        At first mine eyes had scarcely strength to see,

        For all around appear'd to burn and glow.
        Then saw I, on the clouds borne gracefully,

        A godlike woman hov'ring to and fro.
        In life I ne'er had seen a form so fair-
        She gazed at me, and still she hover'd there.

        "Dost thou not know me?" were the words she said

        In tones where love and faith were sweetly bound;
        "Knowest thou not Her who oftentimes hath shed

        The purest balsam in each earthly wound?
        Thou knows't me well; thy panting heart I led

        To join me in a bond with rapture crown'd.
        Did I not see thee, when a stripling, yearning
        To welcome me with tears, heartfelt and burning?"

        "Yes!" I exclaim'd, whilst, overcome with joy,

        I sank to earth; "I long have worshipp'd thee;
        Thou gav'st me rest, when passions rack'd the boy,

        Pervading ev'ry limb unceasingly;
        Thy heav'nly pinions thou didst then employ

        The scorching sunbeams to ward off from me.
        From thee alone Earth's fairest gifts I gain'd,
        Through thee alone, true bliss can be obtain'd.

        "Thy name I know not; yet I hear thee nam'd

        By many a one who boasts thee as his own;
        Each eye believes that tow'rd thy form 'tis aim'd,

        Yet to most eyes thy rays are anguish-sown.
        Ah! whilst I err'd, full many a friend I claim'd,

        Now that I know thee, I am left alone;
        With but myself can I my rapture share,
        I needs must veil and hide thy radiance fair.

        She smiled, and answering said: "Thou see'st how wise,

        How prudent 'twas but little to unveil!
        Scarce from the clumsiest cheat are clear'd thine eyes,

        Scarce hast thou strength thy childish bars to scale,
        When thou dost rank thee 'mongst the deities,

        And so man's duties to perform would'st fail!
        How dost thou differ from all other men?
        Live with the world in peace, and know thee then!".

        "Oh, pardon me," I cried, "I meant it well:

        Not vainly did'st thou bless mine eyes with light;
        For in my blood glad aspirations swell,

        The value of thy gifts I know aright!
        Those treasures in my breast for others dwell,

        The buried pound no more I'll hide from sight.
        Why did I seek the road so anxiously,
        If hidden from my brethren 'twere to be?"

        And as I answer'd, tow'rd me turn'd her face,

        With kindly sympathy, that god-like one;
        Within her eye full plainly could I trace

        What I had fail'd in, and what rightly done.
        She smiled, and cured me with that smile's sweet grace,

        To new-born joys my spirit soar'd anon;
        With inward confidence I now could dare
        To draw yet closer, and observe her there.

        Through the light cloud she then stretch'd forth her hand,

        As if to bid the streaky vapour fly:
        At once it seemed to yield to her command,

        Contracted, and no mist then met mine eye.
        My glance once more survey'd the smiling land,

        Unclouded and serene appear'd the sky.
        Nought but a veil of purest white she held,
        And round her in a thousand folds it swell'd.

        "I know thee, and I know thy wav'ring will.

        I know the good that lives and glows in thee!"-
        Thus spake she, and methinks I hear her still-

        "The prize long destined, now receive from me;
        That blest one will be safe from ev'ry ill,

        Who takes this gift with soul of purity,--"
        The veil of Minstrelsy from Truth's own hand,
        Of sunlight and of morn's sweet fragrance plann'd.

        "And when thou and thy friends at fierce noon-day

        Are parched with heat, straight cast it in the air!
        Then Zephyr's cooling breath will round you play,

        Distilling balm and flowers' sweet incense there;
        The tones of earthly woe will die away,

        The grave become a bed of clouds so fair,
        To sing to rest life's billows will be seen,
        The day be lovely, and the night serene."-

        Come, then, my friends! and whensoe'er ye find

        Upon your way increase life's heavy load;
        If by fresh-waken'd blessings flowers are twin'd

        Around your path, and golden fruits bestow'd,
        We'll seek the coming day with joyous mind!

        Thus blest, we'll live, thus wander on our road
        And when our grandsons sorrow o'er our tomb,
        Our love, to glad their bosoms, still shall bloom.


      Divine Power Is Spread Everywhere

        A bird and its young had been captured, and Eckermann was amazed to see
        that it went on feeding its young inside his house.
        `If you believed in God, you would not be surprised. If God did not inspire
        the bird with this powerful instinct towards its young, and if
        the same did not pervade every living thing in nature, the world would not be able to exist!
        But divine power is spread everywhere and eternal love is active everywhere.

        What kind of God would push only from outside,
        letting the cosmos circle round his finger?
        He likes to drive the world from inside,
        harbours the world in Himself, Himself in the world,
        so all that lives and weaves and is in Him
        never wants for his power or his spirit.

        If the eye were not sunlike,
        how could it ever spy the sun?
        If God's own power lay not inside us,
        how could divinity delight us?.

        If through infinity the same
        thing flows, eternally repeating,
        if an arch, though manifold, can mightily
        hold itself together,
        If all things pour out lust for life,
        the smallest and the biggest stars,
        Yet all this striving, all this struggle
        Is eternal peace in God the Lord.

        Eternal, living action works
        to recreate the created
        so it never rigidifies.
        What was not, it must become:
        bright suns, coloured worlds,
        never can it rest.



      To break one's word is pleasure-fraught,

        To do one's duty gives a smart;
        While man, alas! will promise nought,

        That is repugnant to his heart.

        Using some magic strains of yore,

        Thou lurest him, when scarcely calm,
        On to sweet folly's fragile bark once more,

        Renewing, doubling chance of harm.

        Why seek to hide thyself from me?

        Fly not my sight -be open then!
        Known late or early it must be,

        And here thou hast thy word again.

        My duty is fulfill'd to-day,

        No longer will I guard thee from surprise;
        But, oh, forgive the friend who from thee turns away,

        And to himself for refuge flies!.


      Finnish Song

        If the loved one, the well-known one,
        Should return as he departed,
        On his lips would ring my kisses,
        Though the wolf's blood might have dyed them;
        And a hearty grasp I'd give him,
        Though his finger-ends were serpents.

        Wind! Oh, if thou hadst but reason,
        Word for word in turns thou'dst carry,
        E'en though some perchance might perish
        'Tween two lovers so far distant.

        All choice morsels I'd dispense with,
        Table-flesh of priests neglect too,
        Sooner than renounce my lover,
        Whom, in Summer having vanquish'd,
        I in Winter tamed still longer.


      From The Mountain

        If I, dearest Lily, did not love thee,

        How this prospect would enchant my sight!
        And yet if I, Lily, did not love thee,

        Could I find, or here, or there, delight?.


      Gipsy Song

        In the drizzling mist, with the snow high-pil'd,
        In the Winter night, in the forest wild,
        I heard the wolves with their ravenous howl,
        I heard the screaming note of the owl:

        Wille wau wau wau!

        Wille wo wo wo!

        Wito hu!

        I shot, one day, a cat in a ditch-
        The dear black cat of Anna the witch;
        Upon me, at night, seven were-wolves came down,
        Seven women they were, from out of the town.

        Wille wau wau wau!

        Wille wo wo wo!

        Wito hu!

        I knew them all; ay, I knew them straight;
        First, Anna, then Ursula, Eve, and Kate,
        And Barbara, Lizzy, and Bet as well;
        And forming a ring, they began to yell:

        Wille wau wau wau!

        Wille wo wo wo!

        Wito hu!

        Then call'd I their names with angry threat:
        "What wouldst thou, Anna? What wouldst thou, Bet?"
        At hearing my voice, themselves they shook,
        And howling and yelling, to flight they took.

        Wille wau wau wau!

        Wille wo wo wo!

        Wito hu!.


      Living Remembrance

        Half vex'd, half pleased, thy love will feel,
        Shouldst thou her knot or ribbon steal;
        To thee they're much -I won't conceal;

        Such self-deceit may pardon'd be;
        A veil, a kerchief, garter, rings,
        In truth are no mean trifling things,

        But still they're not enough for me.

        She who is dearest to my heart,
        Gave me, with well dissembled smart,
        Of her own life, a living part,

        No charm in aught beside I trace;
        How do I scorn thy paltry ware!
        A lock she gave me of the hair

        That wantons o'er her beauteous face.

        If, loved one, we must sever'd be,
        Wouldst thou not wholly fly from me,
        I still possess this legacy,

        To look at, and to kiss in play.--
        My fate is to the hair's allied,
        We used to woo her with like pride,

        And now we both are far away.

        Her charms with equal joy we press'd,
        Her swelling cheeks anon caress'd,
        Lured onward by a yearning blest,

        Upon her heaving bosom fell.
        Oh rival, free from envy's sway,
        Thou precious gift, thou beauteous prey.

        Remain my joy and bliss to tell!.


      Neither This Nor That

      If thou to be a slave shouldst will,
      Thou'lt get no pity, but fare ill;
      And if a master thou wouldst be,
      The world will view it angrily;
      And if in status quo thou stay,
      That thou art but a fool, they'll say.