Welcome to our collection of quotes by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. We hope you enjoy pondering them and please share widely.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, critic, and amateur artist. His works include plays, poetry, literary, and aesthetic criticism, and treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour. He is considered to be the greatest German literary figure of the modern era.
Goethe took up residence in Weimar in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). He was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August, in 1782. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe became a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace.
Goethe's first major scientific work, the Metamorphosis of Plants, was published after he returned from a 1788 tour of Italy. In 1791 he was made managing director of the theatre at Weimar, and in 1794 he began a friendship with the dramatist, historian, and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, whose plays he premiered until Schiller's death in 1805. During this period Goethe published his second novel, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship; the verse epic Hermann and Dorothea, and, in 1808, the first part of his most celebrated drama, Faust. His conversations and various shared undertakings throughout the 1790s with Schiller, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Johann Gottfried Herder, Alexander von Humboldt, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and August and Friedrich Schlegel have come to be collectively termed Weimar Classicism.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer named Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship one of the four greatest novels ever written, while the American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson selected Goethe as one of six "representative men" in his work of the same name (along with Plato, Emanuel Swedenborg, Montaigne, Napoleon, and Shakespeare). Goethe's comments and observations form the basis of several biographical works, notably Johann Peter Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe (1836).
Every situation-- nay, every moment-- is of infinite worth; for it is the representative of a whole eternity.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough we must do.
Night's the better half of life.
Nothing is more dangerous for a new truth than an old misconception.
There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.
The soul is indestructible and its activity will continue through eternity.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Choose well. Your choice is brief, and yet endless.
The ridiculous arises out of a moral contrast, in which two things are brought together before the mind in an innocent way.
For as human beings who may be well inclined to each other by nature, yet hold more firmly together when the law cements them, so are stones also, whose forms may already fit together, united far better by these binding forces.
Glib tongues frill up their hash of knowledge
for mankind in polished speeches
that are no more than vaporous winds
rustling the fallen leaves in autumn.
I am the spirit of perpetual negation. (Mephistopheles).
Men grieve Mephistopheles so with the days of their lamenting, he even hates to plague them with his torments.
Being full of mischief, they love to listen;
they gladly obey, for they like to betray you,
pretending to be sent from Heaven,
and lisping like angels, while they lie.
When he comes to the door
he always looks mocking and half-way angry.
You can see he has sympathy for nothing.
It's written on his forehead
that he can love no one.
What you inherit from your father
must first be earned before it's yours.
Nothing is more frightful than to see ignorance in action.
Man is a true Narcissus; he delights to see his own image everywhere; and he spreads himself underneath the universe, like the amalgam behind the glass.
If the whole world I once could see
On free soil stand, with the people free
Then to the moment might I say,
Linger awhile...so fair thou art.
The fate of the architect is the strangest of all in this way. How often he expends his whole soul, his whole heart and passion, to produce buildings into which he himself may never enter.
Gird thee for the high endeavor;
Shun the crowd's ignoble ease!
Fails the spirit never,
Wise to think, and prompt to seize.
Goethe, Faust, Part II, act 1, 50 -- 53.
The limits of my language are the limits of my universe.
The greatest evil that can befall man is that he should come to think ill of himself.
No one has ever learned fully to know themselves.
Every person above the ordinary has a certain mission that they are called to fulfill.
He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.
The important thing in life is to have great aim and to possess the aptitude and the perseverance to attain it.
Even dirt glitters when the sun is shining upon it.
Let memory fail as long as our judgement remains intact when needed.
A nation that doesn't honor its past, has no future.
Then, indecision brings its own delays, And days are lost lamenting o'er lost days.
There is no surer method of evading the world than by following Art and no surer method of linking oneself to it than by Art.
So divinely is the world organized that every one of us, in our place and time, is in balance with everything else.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
Don't judge anyone harshly until you yourself have been through his experiences.
It is delightful to transport one's self into the spirit of the past, to see how a wise man has thought before us.
The coward threatens when he is safe.
To quit smoking, you must first want to quit, but then you must also do the quitting.
When you lose interest in anything, you also lose the memory for it.
No kitchen my grate Yet roasts it and boils it Both early and late.
A wife is a gift bestowed upon man to reconcile him to the loss of paradise.
Talents are best nurtured in solitude. Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.
He alone is great and happy who requires neither to command nor to obey in order to secure his being of some importance in the world.
Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though t'were his own.
It is day still, you better get busy! Night will intrude when no one can be active.
For a man to achieve all that is demanded of him he must regard himself as greater than he is.
There is a courtesy of the heart it is allied to love. From its springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.
I will not be as those who spend the day in complaining of headache, and the night in drinking the wine that gives it.
To tremble before anticipated evils is to bemoan what thou hast never lost.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Begin it now.
One man's word is no man's word; we should quietly hear both sides.
Once you have missed the first buttonhole you'll never manage to button up.
Colours are the deeds of light, its deeds and sufferings.
Genius feels no dread within his heart at the tempest nor the rain.
Modest men must needs endure, And the bold must humbly bow; Thus thy fate's the same, be sure, Whether bold or modest thou.
A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.
Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.
These auspicious aspects, which the astrologers subsequently interpreted for me, may have been the causes of my preservation.
Duty is the demand of the hour.
Habit is the most imperious of all masters.
Because everyone uses language to talk, everyone thinks he can talk about language.
Against great advantages in another, there are no means of defending ourselves except love.
The realization of the self is only possible if one is productive, if one can give birth to one's own potentialities.
Great possessions and great want of them are both strong temptations.
Men are much more apt to agree in what they do than in what they think.
The shudder of awe is humanity's highest faculty,
Even though this world is forever altering its values.
Thou tremblest before anticipated ills, and still bemoanest what thou never losest.
To tremble before anticipated evils is to bemoan what thou hast never lost.
Oh God, how do the world and heavens confine themselves, when our hearts tremble in their own barriers!
In every artist there is a touch of audacity without which no talent is conceivable.
I can promise to be upright, but not to be without bias.
Blood is a very special juice.
Behaviour is a mirror in which every one displays his own image.
You don't love if you don't take the beloved's faults for virtues.
Our hands we open of our own free will, and the good flies, which we can never recall.
Colour itself is a degree of darkness.
To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.
If you miss the first buttonhole, you will not succeed in buttoning up your coat.
Deny yourself! You must deny yourself! That is the song that never ends.
Solitude is fine when you are at peace with yourself and have something definite to do.
All that is noble is in itself of a quiet nature, and appears to sleep until it is aroused and summoned forth by contrast.
There is no outward sign of true courtesy that does not rest on a deep moral foundation.
A man may twist as he pleases, and do what he pleases, but he inevitably comes back to the track to which nature has destined him.
No one feels himself easy in a garden which does not look like the open country.
As beauteous is the world, and many a joy Floats through its wide dominion. But, alas, When we would seize the winged good, it flies.
What then is your duty? What the day demands.
If it is the greatest truth that you seek, the plants can direct you.
Always to distrust is an error, as well as always to trust.
What I possess, seems far away to me, and what is gone becomes reality.
Excellence is rarely found, more rarely valued.
For that is love's nature that it lays claim to exclusive right and that all other claims are nil.
I prefer an injurious truth to a useful error. Truth heals any pain it may inflict on us.
There are men who never err, because they never propose anything rational.