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Thread: How widely read is he?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by TEND
    Ahh, I'm halfway through Faust and absolutely in love with Goethe. He has such an eloquent and beautiful writing style, I get butterflies in my stomach everytime I read. Can anyone recommend some other works of Goethe worth reading?
    Indeed, I would highly recommend The Sorrows Of Young Werther (I loved this one), and I have heard good things of Elective Affinities and The German Refugees, but have yet to read them myself.

  2. #17
    Registered User TEND's Avatar
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    The Goethe stories I currently own aside from Faust, are 'Egmont' and 'Hermann and Dorothea.' Can someone give a suggestion to either or both of these works? I'm very interested in Goethe now and am in pursuit of a copy of 'The Sorrows of Young Werther.' As it is now though, I'd like to read what I have first.
    "Americans should know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls."
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    They have their worries, they’re counting the miles, they’re thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they’ll get there—and all the time they’ll get there anyway, you see.
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  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by TEND
    The Goethe stories I currently own aside from Faust, are 'Egmont' and 'Hermann and Dorothea.' Can someone give a suggestion to either or both of these works? I'm very interested in Goethe now and am in pursuit of a copy of 'The Sorrows of Young Werther.' As it is now though, I'd like to read what I have first.
    Unfortunately, I apologize, TEND, I have only read Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther, but I have heard especially good things of Hermann and Dorothea. Hopefully, sooner or later, I will get around to reading more Goethe, to support my love and passion for his literature; until then, I only recommend by what I have heard in works I have not read.

  4. #19
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    I loved Faust, and The Sorrows of Young Werther. There are a good many poems by Goethe that I greatly admire, especially "Gretchen at the Spinningwheel". I still have just barely enough German that I can read this work through in the original (with the help of a German-English dictionary).:

    Meine Ruh ist hin
    Mein Herz ist schwer,
    Ich finde sie nimmer
    Und nimmermehr

    Wo ich ihn nicht hab,
    Ist mir das Grab,
    Die ganze Welt
    Ist mir vergallt.

    Mein armer Kopf
    Ist mir verruckt,
    Mein armer Sinn
    Ist mir zerstuckt.

    Meine Ruh ist hin
    Mein Herz ist schwer,
    Ich finde sie nimmer
    Und nimmermehr.

    Nach ihm nur schau ich
    Zum Fenster hinaus,
    Nach ihm nur geh ich
    Aus dem Haus.

    Sein hoher Gang
    Sein edle Gestalt,
    Seines Mundes Lacheln,
    Seiner Augen Gewalt.

    Und seiner Rede
    Zauberfluss,
    Sein Handedrucke,
    Und, ach, sein Kuss!

    Meine Ruh ist hin,
    Meine Herz ist schwer
    Iche finde sie nimmer
    Und nimmermehr

    Meine Busen drangt
    Sich nach ihm hin,
    Ach durch ich fassen
    Und halten ihn.

    Und kussen ihn,
    So wie ich wollt,
    An seinen Kussen
    Vergehen sollt!

    The German original throbs and lurches just like the spinning wheel of the song (to my mind) although it may seem to do so even more due to my having experienced it often in Schubert's great song-setting. The English translation (by the way) goes like this:

    No peace of mind
    Heartache and pain,
    No peace I find
    Ever again

    Wher he is not
    For me to have
    Is a bitter spot
    For me the grave

    Poor head of mine
    Turned upside-down
    Poor heart of mine
    To shreds is torn

    No peace.....

    Go to the window
    Only to see,
    Or out of doors
    If there he be.

    His gracious figure
    Lofty walk,
    His mouth, the smile!
    That piercing look,

    And speech that flows
    With sorceries
    His hand, his touch,
    And, ah!, his kiss!

    No peace....

    For him I long
    with al my might,
    Could I but touch
    And hold him tight.

    And kiss him, kiss him,
    Just as I may,
    Under his kisses,
    Melt away.

    As strong as Christopher Middleton's translation is (he is one of the greatest modern translators from German) his poem is but a pale echo of the magic in the original. One wonders how seemingly simple poems like Blake's "Tyger, Tyger" or Yeat's "When You are Old" translate into another language. Unlike a great narrative epic (The Divine Comedy or Paradise Lost) such lyrics seem to rely on the most subtle influections and suggestions of the language and the music they make. How must Emily Dickenson lose out in French or Spanish... all the suggestions of Milton, Puritan church hymns, old English children's songs are thus lost.
    Other favorite poems by Goethe include his "Erlkonig" (also familiar through a Schubert setting) in which a father races against time on a stormy night to rush his sick child to medical care, while the boy hallucinates (?) the "Erlkonig" (death) seeking to seduce him, which the father suggests are merely the shadows of the trees or the howls of the wind... and yet... the boy ends up dead. Another beloved Goethe poem is the very short, "Another Night Song":

    Uber allen Gipfeln
    Ist Ruh
    In allen Wipfeln
    Spurest du
    Kaum einen Hauch;
    Die Vogelein schweigen im Wald
    Warte nur, balde
    Ruhest du auch.

    Which is beautifully rendered by R.W. Longfellow:

    O'er all the hill-tops
    Is quiet now
    In all the tree-tops
    Hearest thou
    Hardly a breath;
    The birds are asleep in the trees:
    Wait, soon like these
    Thou, too, shalt rest.

    I am much more fond, however, of the oeuvres of Rilke and Holderlin. I don't know if this is simply because Goethe has not been as well served by translators... or if his manner or style is merely something which does not translate well... at least on the scale of the lyric poem.

    Beyond these works I would greatly recommend Goethe's Italian Jouney. This journal or travelog is beautifully written and has been very well translated into English by Auden.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
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  5. #20
    semper eadem
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    I's quite amazing how many people still read Goethe, and they are not even German or have to attend German schools!!! I've read all of the Fausts of course, Werther, Wahlverwandtschaften, Wilhem Meister, Egmont, Tasso, Iphigenie and a few more which I don't remember. Faust I was excellent and I still can recite the Osterspaziergang (outing at Eastern - or so) but which ex-school kid in Germany cannot? Faust I is not only full of insight and theatrical claptrap (which makes it so enjoyable) but it is also witty. I never cared for Gretchen, but this may just be my personal taste. I've never seen her as the innocent she is supposed to be but rather as a naive and quite coquettish gal (Bin weder Jungfrau, noch bin ich schön, kann ungeleit' nach Hause gehn). The best character is clearly Mephisto the great deceiver.
    Anyways, Goethe's poems are truly sublime. Although the Erlkönig or the Heidenröslein are the most famous ones (Heidenröslein is something like a folk song in Germany) they may not be the best. If you can, find "Mignon" (Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt, weiß was ich leide). There never, in my opinion, was a poem that expresses longing, yearning, loneliness better without being depressive or tired of life. That's the great difference to the earlier Werther which was romantically received at the time and caused a big craze among the educated classes in Germany including some Werther-inspired suicides. I believe they even tried to ban it for that reason.
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

  6. #21
    Registered User ElizabethBennet's Avatar
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    I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read anything by Goethe until now, although I am German originally. Thank you, Stlukesguild, for sharing some of his poetry with us. I mean to start reading Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther asap, seeing that they've been recommended the most - in German of course. Where can I find more posts on German literature? (I'm still new to this)
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  7. #22
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    "Mignon"? Oh yes! I have not forgot about that one. "Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn...?" He makes German... which can sound so harsh to non-German ears... sound absolutely ravishing. I agree that "Heidenröslein" is a lovely poem as well... although almost a folksong. Nothing wrong with that, in my book. I think that the folksong nature of Heinrich Heine is what allows him to translate so well. I also love the similar nature in the poems of Robert Burns and William Blake. Some of the other poems I have noted in my translations of Goethe as having been quite good include: "The Bride of Corinth", some of the "Roman Elegies", "The Song of the Spirits over the Waters", the narrative poem: "Explanation of an Old Woodcut Depicting Hans Sachs' Poetic Mission", "Night Song", the short little "Scicilian Song", "To the Full Moon Rising" and the elegie begining:"Was soll ich nun vom Wiedersehen hoffen..."

    I don't know if there are other posts on German literature here. You might check under the individual authors to see who's listed. Schiller, Novalis, Heinrich Heine, Rilke, Paul Celan, Hugo Hoffmansthal, Bertholt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Gunter Grass, Friederich Durrenmatt, Kafka, Holderlin... all should be listed... but I doubt they all are.
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    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
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  8. #23
    semper eadem
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    Stlukesguild, you are always so comforting. What strikes me about the Heidenröslein is how easily understandable it is, that it can touch people of any age. I always sing it to my daughters (now just 5 and 6) and the older one asked me if it means that the boy does not want to marry the rose/girl now that he has kissed her. (of course when you are 6 kissing means that you have to marry). They love that song and another one (no one knows who made it but its from Westfalia) "Es waren zwei Königskinder" a lot. I also remember that my mum sung them to me when I was small. Unfortunately, people have stopped doing this and our children know more about Italian folk songs than about our own. (the kindergartens teach now on an European level, at least ours does). Literature and an experience thereof need such tools as songs sung or stories orally told (like the Grimm Brother's fairytales or the Nibelungenlied, which I read to them in modern and medieval German). Goethe ( and Schiller and Heine) are such good ones because they provided literature that is enjoyable to the many (here you can see that all true perfection lies in simplicity), that could find a way into every flat or house or nursery room. However, you have to leave your door open so that it can come in. I am afraid we have forgotten how to do this.
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

  9. #24
    Registered User Dark Star's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    I am going to read Faust as soon as I can find an edition I think will be good (any suggestions?)
    Try this one.

    It comes well recommended and I've been slowly working my way through it. A wonderful translation thus far, if only judging by the literary quality (I admit that I cannot read German yet, so I'm not well qualified to speak on it).

  10. #25
    Registered User Dark Star's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TEND View Post
    Ahh, I'm halfway through Faust and absolutely in love with Goethe. He has such an eloquent and beautiful writing style, I get butterflies in my stomach everytime I read. Can anyone recommend some other works of Goethe worth reading?
    I'll note that I haven't read most of these, however, they generally come highly recommended:

    The Sorrows of Young Werther
    Venetian Epigrams
    Roman Elegies
    The Western-Eastern Divan (good luck finding THAT in an English translation!)
    The Italian Journey
    Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
    Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years
    Elective Affinities
    Goetz von Berlichingen (very early work)
    Egmont
    Iphigenia in Tauris
    Hermann and Dorothea

    You may also want to try a compilation of his poetry if you can find it. That should include selections from the Venetian Epigrams, Roman Elegies, and the Western-Eastern Divan.

  11. #26
    Registered User Dark Star's Avatar
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    As for how widely read he is....not nearly enough here in America. We're lucky if a big book store like Barnes & Noble even carries a single copy of The Sorrows of Young Werther in a store.

  12. #27
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    Goethe is a genius, especially stunning is that he was a master of all literary genres: poetry, drama and prose. The variety of his works is truly amazing.

    I am German so I had to read quite a few of his works in school: a lot of poetry (what I believe to be the most essential part of his work), Faust I and The Sorrows of Young Werther. I disliked the latter, but this is actually the only one of Goethe's work of which I have to say that.

    Other works by Goethe that I read are Götz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Egmont, Faust II and the West-Eastern Divan, a poetry collection that I return to frequently. I intend to read much more, especially the Tasso and Wilhelm Meister.

    I'm not a person to re-read books often, so if I do it tells me how much I appreciate a work. Goethe's opus (especially Faust I+II and his poetry) is something I explore again and again and always derive new pleasure and knowledge from.

  13. #28
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    I've read Faust (both parts) and Werther, and I'm planning to read Wilhelm and Elective Affinities (Is that the English title?) some time this year probably, once I get through a couple of books I want to go through.
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  14. #29
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    William Meister's Apprenticeship translates well and shows more the mature Goethe than Werther. Its right up there with Cervantes and George Eliot, numerous wonderfully insightful passages. Strongly recommend the Norton Critical Edition 2000 of Faust for the brilliant Walter Arndt translation. Stuart Atkins translation is lazy and inept.
    Last edited by fb0252; 02-22-2009 at 09:48 PM. Reason: es

  15. #30
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    I began reading Goethe with some trepidation, assuming that it would be full of stolid German angst and that I would give up after a couple of pages. How wrong could I be ! I loved my first book - Werther isn't an entirely sympathetic character with his fits of pique and occasional tantrums - but he is entirely credible. I imagine this novel must have almost kick-started the Romantic Movement all on its own. It is a perfect portrayal of unrequited love and shows graphically how obsession can ultimately lead to personal emptiness. Poor Werther, pathetic and pitiful

    Now moving on to Elective Affinities and Wilhelm Meister lies ahead...

    Of the latter I love this metaphor of each man as an artist : "All the world lies before us, like a vast quarry before the architect. He does not deserve the name if he does not compose with these accidental natural materials an image whose source is in his mind, and if he does not do it with the greatest possible economy, solidity, and perfection. All that we find outside of us, nay, within us, is object-matter; but deep within us lives also a power capable of giving an ideal form to this matter. This creative power allows us no rest till we have produced that ideal form in one or the other way, either without us in finished works or in our own life."

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