Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes 1–30 of 187 Quotes

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German novelist, dramatist, poet, humanist, scientist, philosopher, and for ten years chief minister of state at Weimar.

Below are 30 of 187 sourced Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Letter to A. F. Oeser (9 November 1768), Early and miscellaneous letters of J. W. Goethe, including letters to his mother. With notes and a short biography (1884)

“Wo viel Licht ist, ist starker Schatten.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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More on this quote: There is strong shadow where there is much light.
 • Götz von Berlichingen, Act I (1773)

“So gewiß ist der allein glücklich und groß, der weder zu herrschen noch zu gehorchen braucht, um etwas zu sein!”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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More on this quote: He alone is great and happy who fills his own station of independence, and has neither to command nor to obey.Goethe’s Works, vol. 3, Götz Von Berlichingen (With the Iron Hand)
  • Götz von Berlichingen, Act I (1773), p. 39

“I hold to faith in the divine love — which, so many years ago for a brief moment in a little corner of the earth, walked about as a man bearing the name of Jesus Christ — as the foundation on which alone my happiness rests.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: (1773), translated by Albert Schweizer in Goethe: Five Studies (1961), Beacon Press, p. 53

“One lives but once in the world.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Clavigo, Act I, sc. i (1774)

“Getting along with women, Knocking around with men, Having more credit than money, Thus one goes through the world.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Claudine von Villa Bella (1776)

“When young, one is confident to be able to build palaces for mankind, but when the time comes one has one's hands full just to be able to remove their trash.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Letter to Johann Kaspar Lavatar (6 March 1780)

“Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind? Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind; Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm, Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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More on this quote: Who rides, so late, through night and wind?
It is the father with his child.

He holds the boy in the crook of his arm
He holds him safe, he keeps him warm.
 • Der Erlkönig (1782)

“Noble be man, Helpful and good! For that alone Sets hims apart From every other creature On earth.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Das Göttliche (The Divine) (1783)

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“Only mankind Can do the impossible: He can distinguish, He chooses and judges, He can give permanence To the moment.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Das Göttliche (The Divine) (1783)

“Let the noble man Be generous and good, Tirelessly achieving What is just and useful: Let him be a model For those beings whom he surmises.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Das Göttliche (The Divine) (1783)

“In der Kunst ist das Beste gut genug.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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More on this quote: In art the best is good enough.
Italian Journey (March 3, 1787)

“A noble person attracts noble people, and knows how to hold on to them.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Torquato Tasso, Act I, sc. i (1790)

“A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world's torrent.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Torquato Tasso, Act I, sc. ii (1790)

“Untersuchen was ist, und nicht was behagt”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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More on this quote: Investigate what is, and not what pleases.
 • Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt (The Attempt as Mediator of Object and Subject) (1792)

“Die Liebe herrscht nicht, aber sie bildet; und das ist mehr!”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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More on this quote: Love does not dominate, it cultivates. And that is more.
 • Das Märchen (1795), as translated by Hermann J. Weigand in Wisdom and Experience (1949); also translated elsewhere as The Fairy-Tale, The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, and simply The Tale]
• Variant translations:
Love does not rule; but it trains, and that is more.
 • As translated by Thomas Carlyle The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily (1832)
Love rules (and reigns) not, but it forms (builds and 'trains'); and that is more!
 • As quoted in "'Human Immortalities : The Old and the New" by Thaddeus Burr Wakeman, in The Open Court Vol. XX, No. 1 (January 1906), p. 104

“We can't form our children on our own concepts; we must take them and love them as God gives them to us.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#18

Quote source: Hermann und Dorothea (1797)

“The spirits that I summoned up I now can't rid myself of.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Der Zauberlehrling (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) (1797)

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“The true, prescriptive artist strives after artistic truth; the lawless artist, following blind instinct, after an appearance of naturalness. The one leads to the highest peaks of art, the other to its lowest depths.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#21

Quote source: Propylaea (1798) Introduction

“In limitations he first shows himself the master, And the law can only bring us freedom.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#22

Quote source: Was Wir Bringen (1802)

“One never goes so far as when one doesn't know where one is going.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Quote source: Letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter (3 December 1812)

“I have often felt a bitter sorrow at the thought of the German people, which is so estimable in the individual and so wretched in the generality. A comparison of the German people with other peoples arouses a painful feeling, which I try to overcome in every possible way.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#24

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#24

Quote source: Goethes Gespraeche (December 13, 1813)

“Von andern Seiten her vernahm ich ähnliche Klänge, nirgends wollte man zugeben, daß Wissenschaft und Poesie vereinbar seien. Man vergaß, daß Wissenschaft sich aus Poesie entwickelt habe, man bedachte nicht, daß, nach einem Umschwung von Zeiten, beide sich wieder freundlich, zu beiderseitigem Vorteil, auf höherer Stelle, gar wohl wieder begegnen könnten.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#25

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#25

More on this quote: Nowhere would anyone grant that science and poetry can be united. They forgot that science arose from poetry, and failed to see that a change of times might beneficently reunite the two as friends, at a higher level and to mutual advantage.
 • Zur Morphologie (On Morphology), (1817)

“Patriotism ruins history.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#26

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Quote source: Conversation with Friedrich Wilhem Riemer (July, 1817)

“Who wants to understand the poem Must go to the land of poetry; Who wishes to understand the poet Must go to the poet's land.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#27

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Quote source: West-östlicher Diwan, motto (1819)

“For I have been a man, and that means to have been a fighter.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#28

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#28

Quote source: West-östlicher Diwan, Buch des Paradies (1819)

“Should I not be proud, when for twenty years I have had to admit to myself that the great Newton and all the mathematicians and noble calculators along with him were involved in a decisive error with respect to the doctrine of color, and that I among millions was the only one who knew what was right in this great subject of nature?”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#29

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html#29

Quote source: Letter to Eckermann (30 December 1823)

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 1–30 of 187 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-quotes.html

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