Goethe's House

For three days my wife and I shuffled around Frankfurt's cold streets, visiting museums, enjoying cheaper and better beer than can be easily found in Nancy, France, and practicing German phrases that translate to "Excuse me" and "Sorry (accompanied by a truly sincere face), I don't speak German."

The city of Frankfurt had much to offer but was blasted by most people in our hostel. Apparently, there wasn't as much to do here. For three days, though, we were able to keep busy and I wouldn't mind going back: the city was clean, the public transport was great, and costs were very reasonable. But enough about the city–let's talk about a house and someone who grew up in it: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Goethe wrote mainly between 1773 until his death in 1832. He wrote drama, fiction, poetry and scientific works, his most famous titles including the plays Faust Part 1 and Faust Part 2 (published posthumously), the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, the poems "Mignon's Song" and "Marienbad Elegy" and the scientific study Theory of Colours. Below is the poem "Mignon's Song," which comes from within The Sorrows of Young Werther and contains one of German poetry's most recognized opening lines. (the opening line supposedly refers to Italy, a country Goethe became infatuated with as a boy and where he lived for some time, inspiring many German youth to follow in his footsteps.)

[This universally known poem is also to be found in Wilhelm Meister.]

KNOW'ST thou the land where the fair citron blows,
Where the bright orange midst the foliage glows,
Where soft winds greet us from the azure skies,
Where silent myrtles, stately laurels rise,
Know'st thou it well?

'Tis there, 'tis there,
That I with thee, beloved one, would repair.

Know'st thou the house? On columns rests its pile,
Its halls are gleaming, and its chambers smile,
And marble statues stand and gaze on me:
"Poor child! what sorrow hath befallen thee?"
Know'st thou it well?

'Tis there, 'tis there,
That I with thee, protector, would repair!

Know'st thou the mountain, and its cloudy bridge?
The mule can scarcely find the misty ridge;
In caverns dwells the dragon's olden brood,
The frowning crag obstructs the raging flood.
Know'st thou it well?

'Tis there, 'tis there,
Our path lies--Father--thither, oh repair!


The "Marianbad Elegy" is too long to post here, but is worth reading if you have the time.

So then, the refresher course on Goethe is over, along with vacation. Now, time to find some new poetry to start the new year! New post in two days.

image source


Julia | January 2, 2011 at 8:10 AM

Thanks for the reminder/refresher on Goethe! Happy New Year, Joe!

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