Giddy over Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe at age 38. Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve often heard of German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but never really paid all that much attention to him. But I saw a quote by him the other night, and it inspired me to look up some of his other quotes and to learn more about him. I really have to find a biography on him; I bet it’ll be interesting reading.

It’s a funny thing. Ever though von Goethe and I are separated by a hundred years or so, he had some astute observations about life. J-Go (that’s the nickname I’m inventing for him) was one of those fortunate people who had a good, long and productive life. He was a prolific writer, composing poems, novels, plays and memoirs.

J-Go seems to have been the sociable type. He had long-term friends, especially Carl August, the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in Weimar. J-Go served as an adviser and confidant to the Duke, so I’m thinking Johann was a smart guy, too. I bet there were some interesting conversations about affairs of state; it’s easy to picture them at court, discussing some matter or another while sipping from tankards.

So to entertain all of you today, here’s a collection of J-Go’s finest. I hope they inspire you!

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. (This was the quote I enjoyed so much.)

Thinking is easy, acting as difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. (Amen, pal.)

The way you see people is how you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.

I love those who yearn for the impossible.

There are only two bequests that we can hope to give to our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings. (Parents, take note.)

I call architecture frozen music.

Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.

Magic is believing in yourself; if you can do that, you can make anything happen.

As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.

In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm…in the real world, all rests on perseverance.

Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing. 

Do not give in too much to feelings. A overly sensitive heart is an unhappy possession on this shaky earth.

If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.

It is not doing the thing we like to do, but liking the thing we have to do, that makes life blessed.

Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes.

There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at.



Filed under Writing

11 responses to “Giddy over Goethe

  1. Servetus

    Character is right. My favorite book about him is actually a study of him as seen through the eyes of his long-year paramour, Christiane, by Sigrid Damm, but it looks like it’s never been translated into English. He was a very contradictory man — Enlightenment ideals, and wrote some of the enduring classics of the German heritage, esp Faust I, but never really got past the fact that he was born bourgeois and so wasn’t fully capable of socializing with the nobles he favored, thus loving a noblewoman from afar and hiding his actual lover, Christiane, from view. Christiane saved his life, rather late in their relationships, and he married her apparently out of gratitude but seems to have returned rather quickly to treating her poorly. When I’m reading Goethe, I really try hard not to think about Goethe the person.

  2. Thank you for the quotes (I especially like the one about correction and encouragement) but most of all thank you for the wonderful nickname – J-Go it is! 😉

  3. This quote stopped me in my tracks: “I call architecture frozen music.” Wowza! Thanks for enlightening me. 🙂

  4. “Thinking is easy, acting as difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

    Oh, does that describe the writing process to a T! As well as so many other aspects of life!


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