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date: 19 May 2022

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749–1832
German poet, novelist, and dramatist 

  1. Age does not make us childish, as men tell,
    It merely finds us children still at heart.
    Faust pt. 1 (1808) ‘Prologue in the Theatre’
  2. Man will err while yet he strives.
    Faust pt. 1 (1808) ‘Prolog im Himmel’
  3. Deny yourself! You must deny yourself!
    That is the song that never ends.
    Faust pt. 1 (1808) ‘Studierzimmer’
  4. All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the golden tree of actual life springs ever green.
    Faust pt. 1 (1808) ‘Studierzimmer’
  5. Just trust yourself and you'll learn the art of living.
    Faust pt. 1 (1808) ‘Studierzimmer’
  6. Meine Ruh' ist hin,
    Mein Herz ist schwer.
    My peace is gone,
    My heart is heavy.
    Faust pt. 1 (1808) ‘Gretchen am Spinnrad’
  7. Die Tat ist alles, nichts der Ruhm.
    The deed is all, the glory nothing.
    Faust pt. 2 (1832) ‘Hochgebirg’
  8. Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan.
    Eternal Woman draws us upward.
    Faust pt. 2 (1832) ‘Hochgebirg’ closing words
  9. It's exactly where a thought is lacking
    That, just in time, a word shows up instead.
    Faust (1808)
  10. In art the best is good enough.
    Italienische Reise (1816–17) 3 March 1787
  11. Superstition is the poetry of life.
    Maximen und Reflexionen (1819) ‘Literatur und Sprache’ no. 908
  12. He who does not know foreign languages knows nothing of his own.
    Maximen und Reflexionen (1821) pt. 2, no. 91
  13. Doubt grows with knowledge.
    Maxims and Reflections (1826) ‘Art and Antiquity’ no. 281
  14. Nothing is more terrible than to see ignorance in action.
    Maxims and Reflections (1826) ‘Art and Antiquity’ no. 367
  15. Mathematicians are like a certain type of Frenchman: when you talk to them they translate it into their own language, and then it soon turns into something completely different.
    Maxims and Reflections (1998) tr. E. Stopp
  16. What one wishes for in youth, one has in abundance in old age.
    Poetry and Truth (1812) pt. 2, motto
  17. Talent develops in quiet places, character in the full current of human life.
    Torquato Tasso (1790) act 1, sc. 2
  18. Die Wahlverwandtschaften.
    Elective affinities.
    title of novel (1809)
  19. He who thinks to realize when he is older the hopes and desires of youth is always deceiving himself, for every decade of a man's life possesses its own kind of happiness, its own hopes and prospects.
    Elective Affinities (1809) pt. 2, ch. 12
  20. Oh, how I am tired of the struggle!
    Wandrers Nachtlied (1821)
  21. Über allen Gipfeln
    Ist Ruh'.
    Over all the mountain tops is peace.
    Wandrers Nachtlied II (1815)
  22. Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde
    Warte nur, balde
    Ruhest du auch.
    The birds in the forest are silent
    Just wait, soon
    You will rest as well.
    ‘Wandrers Nachtlied II’ (1815)
  23. Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn?
    Im dunkeln Laub die Gold-Orangen glühn.
    Know you the land where the lemon-trees bloom? In the dark foliage the gold oranges glow.
    Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–6) bk. 3, ch. 1
  24. If I love you, what does that matter to you!
    Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–6) bk. 4, ch. 9
  25. None but the lonely heart
    Knows what I suffer!
    Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–6) bk. 4, ch. 11 ‘Mignons Lied’
  26. When we take people, thou wouldst say, merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.
    sometimes quoted as ‘Treat a man as he is, and that is what he remains. Treat a man as he can be, and that is what he becomes’
    Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjare (1795–6) bk. 8, ch. 4, tr. Thomas Carlyle
  27. Ohne Hast, aber ohne Rast.
    Without haste, but without rest.
    Zahme Xenien (with Schiller, 1796) sect. 2, no. 6, l. 281
  28. If you wish to advance into the infinite, explore the finite in all directions.
    epigram, in David Luke Goethe: Selected Verse (1964)
  29. I do not know myself, and God forbid that I should.
    J. P. Eckermann Conversations with Goethe in the Last Years of his Life (1836–48) 10 April 1829; see Anonymous
  30. Mehr Licht!
    More light!
    abbreviated version of his last words: ‘Open the second shutter, so that more light can come in’
    K. W. Müller Goethes letze literarische Thätigkeit (1832)