Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes 146 Sourced 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.

Here are 146 real Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quotes ordered by their popularity online. The most quoted quotes on the web appear first. Questionable and fake quotes are excluded. Sources and related information are shown after each quote. We hope you find these quotes useful. If there is anything we can do to improve this article, your feedback is welcome. If you find these quotes helpful, please share them.

1. “Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#1

Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 2 (1832) All perishable is but an allegory
 • Act V, Chorus mysticus, last sentence, immediately before:

2. “Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 15 November 2017, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#2

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#2

Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 2 (1832) The Eternal Feminine draws us on.
• Act V, Heaven, last line

3. “Die Botschaft hör ich wohl, allein, mir fehlt der Glaube”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) The message well I hear, my faith alone is weak
 • Faust's Study

4. “Mehr Licht!”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#4

Source and Related Info: More light!
• Last words, as quoted in The Medico-chirurgical Review and Journal of Medical Science, Vol. 24 (1834), p. 501 [He apparently, here, asking for the shutters to be opened to admit more light, nothing more.]

5. “Doesn't surprise me that Christ our Lord preferred to live with whores & sinners, seeing I go in for that myself.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#5

Source: Venetian Epigrams (1790) As translated by Jerome Rothenberg

6. “Ich bin der Geist der stets verneint.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) I am the Spirit that always denies!
 • Faust's Study

7. “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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Source and Related Info: 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)

8. “‘I have found a paper of mine among some others in which I call architecture 'petrified music.' Really there is something in this; the tone of mind produced by architecture approaches the effect of music.’”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Conversations with Eckermann (23 March 1829) - Often quoted as "Architecture is frozen music."

9. “''Meine Ruh' ist hin,Mein Herz ist schwer.''”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy.
 • Gretchen's Room

10. “Es irrt der Mensch, so lang er strebt.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Man errs as long as he strives.
  • Prologue in Heaven

11. “Wo viel Licht ist, ist starker Schatten.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: There is strong shadow where there is much light.
 • Götz von Berlichingen, Act I (1773)

12. “Blut ist ein ganz besondrer Saft.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Blood is a juice of rarest quality.
• (Also translated as:) Blood is a very special juice.
 • Faust's Study

13. “Wer immer strebend sich bemüht, Den können wir erlösen.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 2 (1832) Who strives always to the utmost,
For him there is salvation.
• Act V, Mountain Gorges

14. “A useless life is an early death.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#14

Source: Iphigenie auf Tauris (1787) Act I, sc. ii

15. “Alles Gescheite ist schon gedacht worden. Man muss nur versuchen, es noch einmal zu denken.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Wilhelm Meister's Wanderjahre (Journeyman Years) (1821-1829) All intelligent thoughts have already been thought;
what is necessary is only to try to think them again.
  • Bk. II, Observations in the Minset of the Wanderer: Art, Ethics, Nature

16. “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) Bk. V, Ch. 1

17. “I love those who yearn for the impossible.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Faust, Part 2 (1832) Act II, Classical Walpurgis Night

18. “''Was glänzt, ist für den Augenblick geboren;das Echte bleibt der Nachwelt unverloren.''”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) What dazzles, for the Moment spends its spirit:
What's genuine, shall Posterity inherit.
 • Prelude on the Stage

19. “Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Elective Affinities (1809) None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
 • Bk. II, Ch. 5; source: Die Wahlverwandtschaften, Hamburger Ausgabe, Bd. 6 (Romane und Novellen I), dtv Verlag, München, 1982, p. 397 (II.5)

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

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter (3 December 1812)

21. “Nur der verdient sich Freiheit wie das Leben Der täglich sie erobern muß.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 2 (1832) Of freedom and of life he only is deserving
Who every day must conquer them anew.
• Freedom and life are earned by those alone
Who conquer them each day anew (tr. Walter Kaufmann)
One earns freedom like life,they must win it daily
• Act V, Court of the Palace

22. “''Ein echter deutscher Mann mag keinen Franzen leiden,Doch ihre Weine trinkt er gern.''”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) A true German can't stand the French,
Yet gladly he drinks their wines.
 • Auerbach's Cellar

23. “Bin ich ein Gott? Mir wird so licht!”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Am I a god? I see so clearly!
 • Night, Faust in His Study

24. “‘As Goethe remarked, all eras in a state of decline and dissolution are subjective, while in all great eras which have been really in a state of progression, every effort is directed from the inward to the outward world; it is of an objective nature. I have always believed, as Goethe did, that here one comes on a true sense of the term classic.’”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: p. 184

25. “Ich singe, wie der Vogel singt Der in den Zweigen wohnet.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) I sing as the bird sings
That lives in the boughs.
• Bk. II, Ch. 11

26. “Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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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)

27. “''Das Alter macht nicht kindisch, wie man spricht,Es findet uns nur noch als wahre Kinder.''”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Age does not make us childish, as they say.
It only finds us true children still.
 • Prelude on the Stage

28. “Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine tätige Unwissenheit.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819) Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.

29. “Patriotism ruins history.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Conversation with Friedrich Wilhem Riemer (July, 1817)

30. “‘Goethe suggested, in the interest of clearness one might very well make a clean sweep of all terms like classic, modernist, realist, naturalist and substitute the simple terms healthy and sickly.’”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: p. 184

31. “Wer Wissenschaft und Kunst besitzt, / Hat auch Religion / Wer jene beiden nicht besitzt / Der habe Religion”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) Who science has and art
He has religion too
Who neither of them owns
Religion is his due.

• As quoted in Jost Lemmerich's "Science and Conscience: The Life of James Franck" (2011), p. 261.

32. “Alles ist einfacher, als man denken kann, zugleich verschränkter, als zu begreifen ist.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Everything is simpler than we can imagine, at the same time more complex and intertwined than can be comprehended.
 • Maxim #1209

33. “Welche Regierung die beste sei? Diejenige, die uns lehrt, uns selbst zu regieren.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.
The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe as translated by Bailey Saunders (1893) Maxim 225

34. “''Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie,Und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.''”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Dear friend, all theory is gray,
And green the golden tree of life.
 • Mephistopheles and the Student

35. “The sum which two married people owe to one another defies calculation. It is an infinite debt, which can only be discharged through all eternity.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Elective Affinities (1809) Bk. I, Ch. 9

36. “‘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.’ Goethes Gespraeche, December 13, 1813”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Other Works

37. “Doubt grows with knowledge.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#37

Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

38. “A man's manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

39. “Was uns alle bändigt, das Gemeine.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: That which holds us all in bondage, the common and ignoble.
 • p. 227

40. “In der Kunst ist das Beste gut genug.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: In art the best is good enough.
Italian Journey (March 3, 1787)

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

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: 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

42. “‘No matter how far our spiritual culture may continue to progress, no matter how much the natural sciences may grow, becoming ever more profound and more inclusive, no matter how much the human spirit may will to expand, that human spirit will never escape from the majesty and ethical sublimity of Christianity, as it shimmers and shines in the Gospels.’”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: A message to Eckermann on March 11, (1832), translated by Albert Schweizer in Goethe: Five Studies (1961), Beacon Press, p. 56

43. “First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

44. “One lives but once in the world.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Clavigo, Act I, sc. i (1774)

45. “[…] misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther), May 4 (1774–1787).

46. “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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Source: Hermann und Dorothea (1797)

47. “Willst du immer weiterschweifen? Sieh, das Gute liegt so nah. Lerne nur das Glück ergreifen, denn das Glück ist immer da.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Do you wish to roam farther and farther?
See the good that lies so near.
Just learn how to capture your luck,
for your luck is always there.
 • Erinnerung

48. “Schön war ich auch, und das war mein Verderben.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Fair I was also, and that was my ruin.
 • A Prison

49. “Nothing is more damaging to a new truth than an old error.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

50. “All intelligent thoughts have already been thought; what is necessary is only to try to think them again.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

51. “Der umgang mit frauen ist das element guter sitten.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source:  • Alternate: Intercourse with women is the element of good manners.

52. “Man darf nur alt werden, um milder zu sein; ich sehe keinen Fehler begehen, den ich nicht auch begangen hätte.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German You’ve only got to grow old to be more lenient; I see no fault committed of which I too haven’t been guilty.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #240

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

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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

54. “Der Handelnde ist immer gewissenlos; es hat niemand Gewissen als der Betrachtende.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: The person engaged in action is always unconscionable; no one except the contemplative has a conscience.
 • Maxims and Reflections, Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #241

55. “Die Kunst ist lang, das Leben kurz, das Urteil schwierig, die Gelegenheit flüchtig.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) Art is long, life short; judgment difficult, opportunity transient.
• Bk. VII, Ch. 9
• Compare Hippocrates, Aphorisms 1:1

56. “Die Welt ist so leer, wenn man nur Berge, Flüsse und Städte darin denkt, aber hie und da jemand zu wissen, der mit uns übereinstimmt, mit dem wir auch stillschweigend fortleben, das macht uns dieses Erdenrund erst zu einem bewohnten Garten.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us, and though distant, is close to us in spirit — this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.
• "Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre," in Goethes Sämmtliche Werke, vol. 7 (Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1874), p. 520

57. “''Wer Recht behalten will und hat nur eine Zunge,Behält’s gewiß.''”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Whoever intends to have the right, if but his tongue be clever,
Will have it, certainly.
• (Sometimes translated as:) He who maintains he's right—if his the gift of tongues—
Will have the last word certainly.
 • Faust and Gretchen. A Street

58. “Individuality of expression is the beginning and end of all art.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

59. “Der Handelnde ist immer gewissenlos; es hat niemand Gewissen als der Betrachtende.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German The man of action is always unprincipled; none but the contemplative has a conscience.
 • Maxim #241

60. “If you inquire what the people are like here, I must answer, ‘The same as everywhere!’”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther), May 17 (1774–1787)

61. “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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Source: Propylaea (1798) Introduction

62. “Amerika, du hast es besser—als unser Kontinent, der alte.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: America, you have it better than our continent, the old one.
Wendts Musen-Almanach (1831)

63. “He is a prophet and not a poet and therefore his Koran is to be seen as Divine Law, and not as a book of a human being made for education or entertainment.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: On Muhammad, in Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Noten und Abhandlungen zum West-östlichen Diwan (1958), WA I, 7, 32; translator unknown

64. “Pleasure and love are the pinions of great deeds.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Iphigenie auf Tauris (1787) Act II, sc. i

65. “I'm gazing at church and palace, ruin and column, Like a serious man making sensible use of a journey, But soon it will happen, and all will be one vast temple, Love's temple, receiving its new initiate. Though you're a whole world, Rome, still, without Love, The world isn't the world, and Rome can't be Rome.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Roman Elegies (1789) Elegy 1

66. “Zwey Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Two souls alas! dwell in my breast.
 • Outside the Gate of the Town

67. “No one would talk much in society, if he knew how often he misunderstands others.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Elective Affinities (1809) Bk. II, Ch. 4

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

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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

69. “Untersuchen was ist, und nicht was behagt”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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

70. “One of the most striking signs of the decay of art is the intermixing of different genres.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Propylaea (1798) Introduction

71. “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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Source: Letter to Eckermann (30 December 1823)

72. “One must be something in order to do something.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Conversation with Eckermann (20 October 1828)

73. “The artist may be well advised to keep his work to himself till it is completed, because no one can readily help him or advise him with it...but the scientist is wiser not to withhold a single finding or a single conjecture from publicity.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Essay on Experimentation

74. “O'er all the hilltops Is quiet now, In all the treetops Hearest thou Hardly a breath; The birds are asleep in the trees: Wait; soon like these Thou too shalt rest.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Wandrers Nachtlied (Wanderer's Nightsong)

75. “Life teaches us to be less harsh with ourselves and with others.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Iphigenie auf Tauris (1787) Act IV, sc. iv

76. “Tell me you stones, O speak, you towering palaces! Streets, say a word! Spirit of this place, are you dumb? All things are alive in your sacred walls Eternal Rome, it's only for me all is still.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Roman Elegies (1789) Elegy 1

77. “Ah, how often I've cursed those foolish pages, That showed my youthful sufferings to everyone! If Werther had been my brother, and I'd killed him, His sad ghost could hardly have persecuted me more.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Roman Elegies (1789) Elegy 2 (First version)

78. “Beloved, don't fret that you gave yourself so quickly! Believe me, I don't think badly or wrongly of you. The arrows of Love are various: some scratch us, And our hearts suffer for years from their slow poison. But others strong-feathered with freshly sharpened points Pierce to the marrow, and quickly inflame the blood. In the heroic ages, when gods and goddesses loved, Desire followed a look, and joy followed desire.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Roman Elegies (1789) Elegy 3

79. “I feel I'm happily inspired now on Classical soil: The Past and Present speak louder, more charmingly. Here, as advised, I leaf through the works of the Ancients With busy hands, and, each day, with fresh delight. But at night Love keeps me busy another way: I become half a scholar but twice as contented. And am I not learning, studying the shape Of her lovely breasts: her hips guiding my hand?”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Roman Elegies (1789) Elegy 5

80. “All Nine often used to come to me, I mean the Muses: But I ignored them: my girl was in my arms. Now I’ve left my sweetheart: and they’ve left me, And I roll my eyes, seeking a knife or rope. But Heaven is full of gods: You came to aid me: Greetings, Boredom, mother of the Muse.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Venetian Epigrams (1790) Epigram 27

81. “Everything that emancipates the spirit without giving us control over ourselves is harmful.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

82. “Die Welt ist eine Glocke, die einen Riß hat: sie klappert, aber klingt nicht.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German The world is a bell that is cracked: it clatters, but does not ring out clearly.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #193

83. “One often says to oneself … that one ought to avoid having too many different businesses, to avoid becoming a jack-of-all-trades, and that the older one gets, the more one ought to avoid entering into new business. But … the very fact of growing older means taking up a new business; all our circumstances change, and we must either stop doing anything at all or else willing and consciously take on the new role we have to play on life’s stage.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Maxim #259

84. “Theories usually result from the precipitate reasoning of an impatient mind which would like to be rid of phenomena and replace them with images, concepts, indeed often with mere words.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #428

85. “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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Source and Related Info: 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

86. “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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Source: (1773), translated by Albert Schweizer in Goethe: Five Studies (1961), Beacon Press, p. 53

87. “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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Source: Claudine von Villa Bella (1776)

88. “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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Source: Letter to Johann Kaspar Lavatar (6 March 1780)

89. “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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Source: Das Göttliche (The Divine) (1783)

90. “As great, everlasting, Adamantine laws Dictate, we must all Complete the cycles Of our existence.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Das Göttliche (The Divine) (1783)

91. “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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Source: Das Göttliche (The Divine) (1783)

92. “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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Source: Das Göttliche (The Divine) (1783)

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

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Der Zauberlehrling (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) (1797)

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

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Was Wir Bringen (1802)

95. “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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Source: West-östlicher Diwan, motto (1819)

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

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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

97. “All poetry is supposed to be instructive but in an unnoticeable manner; it is supposed to make us aware of what it would be valuable to instruct ourselves in; we must deduce the lesson on our own, just as with life.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter (26 November 1825)

98. “If I work incessantly to the last, nature owes me another form of existence when the present one collapses.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Letter to Eckermann (4 February 1829)

99. “Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, And in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. Not in the morning alone, not only at mid-day he charmeth; Even at setting, the sun is still the same glorious planet.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: "Distichs" in The Poems of Goethe (1853) as translated in the original metres by Edgar Alfred Bowring

100. “And now the sagacious reader, who is capable of reading into these lines what does not stand written in them, but is nevertheless implied, will be able to form some conception of the serious feelings with which I then set foot in Emmendingen.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#100

Source: Autobiography: Truth and Poetry Book xviii. London 1884 p. 115 books.google.de

101. “Nun aber wird der einsichtige Leser, welcher fähig ist, zwischen diese Zeilen hineinzulesen, was nicht geschrieben steht, aber angedeutet ist, sich eine Ahnung der ernsten Gefühle gewinnen, mit welchen ich damals Emmendingen betrat. www.zeno.org”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#101

Source: Wikiquote: "Johann Wolfgang von Goethe" (Quotes)

102. “Wer nichts wagt, gerwinnt nichts. Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß, Wer nie die kummervollen Nächte Auf seinem Bette weinend saß, Der kennt euch nicht, ihr himmlischen Mächte.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) Nothing venture, nothing gain.
Who ne'er his bread in sorrow ate,
Who ne'er the mournful midnight hours
Weeping upon his bed has sate,
He knows you not, ye Heavenly Powers.
• Bk. II, Ch. 13; translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

103. “Knowst thou the land where the lemon trees bloom, Where the gold orange glows in the deep thicket's gloom, Where a wind ever soft from the blue heaven blows, And the groves are of laurel and myrtle and rose?”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) Bk. III, Ch. 1

104. “To know of someone here and there whom we accord with, who is living on with us, even in silence — this makes our earthly ball a peopled garden.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) Bk. VII, Ch. 5

105. “Not to keep from error, is the duty of the educator of men, but to guide the erring one, even to let him swill his error out of full cups — that is the wisdom of teachers. Whoever merely tastes of his error, will keep house with it for a long time, … but whoever drains it completely will have to get to know it.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre (Apprenticeship) (1786-1830) Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Teil 1, Buch 7, Kapitel 9

106. “Seeking with the soul the land of the Greeks.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Iphigenie auf Tauris (1787) Act I, sc. i

107. “One says a lot in vain, refusing; The other mainly hears the ‘No.’”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Iphigenie auf Tauris (1787) Act I, sc. iii

108. “Is it so big a mystery what god and man and world are? No! but nobody knows how to solve it so the mystery hangs on.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Venetian Epigrams (1790) As translated by Jerome Rothenberg

109. “Much there is I can stand. Most things not easy to suffer I bear with quiet resolve, just as a God commands it. Only a few things I find as repugnant as snakes and poison. These four: tobacco smoke, bedbugs and garlic and Christ.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Venetian Epigrams (1790) Epigram 60

110. “Much there is I can stand, and most things not easy to suffer I bear with quiet resolve, just as a god commands it. Only a few I find as repugnant as snakes and poison — These four: tobacco smoke, bedbugs, garlic, and †.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source:  • Epigram 67, as translated by Jerome Rothenberg

111. “''Da stehe ich nun, ich armer Thor!Und bin so klug als wie zuvor.''”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) And here, poor fool! with all my lore
I stand! no wiser than before.
 • Night, Faust in His Study

112. “Gut! Ein Mittel, ohne Geld Und Arzt und Zauberei zu haben: Begib dich gleich hinaus aufs Feld, Fang an zu hacken und zu graben, Erhalte dich und deinen Sinn In einem ganz beschraunken Kreise, Ernauhre dich mit ungemischter Speise, Leb Mit dem Vieh als Vieh, and acht es nicht fur Raub, Den Acker, den du erntest, selbst zu dungen; Das ist das beste Mittel, glaub, Auf achtzig Jahr dich zu verjungenl”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Faust, Part 1 (1808) Good! A method can be used
without physicians, gold, or magic,
Go out into the open field
and start to dig and cultivate;
keep your body and your spirit
in a humble and restricted sphere,
sustain yourself by simple fare,
live with your herd and spread your own manure
on land from which you reap your nourishment.
Believe me, that's the best procedure
to keep your youth for eighty years or more.

 • A Witch's Kitchen, Mephistopheles to Faust

113. “Three things are to be looked to in a building: that it stand on the right spot; that it be securely founded; that it be successfully executed.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Elective Affinities (1809) Bk. I, Ch. 9

114. “One is never satisfied with a portrait of a person that one knows.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Elective Affinities (1809) Bk. II, Ch. 2

115. “The fate of the architect is the strangest of all. How often he expends his whole soul, his whole heart and passion, to produce buildings into which he himself may never enter.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Elective Affinities (1809) Bk. II, Ch. 3

116. “Let us live in as small a circle as we will, we are either debtors or creditors before we have had time to look round.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Elective Affinities (1809) Bk. II, Ch. 4

117. “A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows on rows of natural objects, classified with name and form.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Elective Affinities (1809) Bk. II, Ch. 7

118. “My son, whoever wishes to keep a secret, must hide from us that he possesses one. Self complaisance over the concealed destroys its concealment.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Wilhelm Meister's Wanderjahre (Journeyman Years) (1821-1829) Bk. I, Ch. 5

119. “Law is mighty, mightier necessity.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Faust, Part 2 (1832) Act I, A Spacious Hall

120. “Once a man's thirty, he's already old, He is indeed as good as dead. It's best to kill him right away.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Faust, Part 2 (1832) Act II, The Gothic Chamber

121. “What wise or stupid thing can man conceive That was not thought of in ages long ago?”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Faust, Part 2 (1832) Act II, The Gothic Chamber

122. “The deed is everything, the glory nothing.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Faust, Part 2 (1832) Act IV, A High Mountain Range

123. “‘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.’ (‘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.’) On Morphology (Zur Morphologie), 1817”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Other Works

124. “Neuere Poeten tun viel Wasser in die Tinte.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819) Modern poets mix a lot of water with their ink.

125. “The greatest happiness for the thinking man is to have fathomed the fathomable, and to quietly revere the unfathomable.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

126. “Of all peoples the Greeks have dreamt the dream of life best.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Sprüche in Prosa (Proverbs in Prose, 1819)

127. “Die Kunst an und für sich selbst ist edel; deßhalb fürchtet sich der Künstler nicht vor dem Gemeinen. Ja indem er es aufnimmt, ist es schon geadelt, und so sehen wir die größten Künstler mit Kühnheit ihr Majestätsrecht ausüben.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Art is in itself noble; that is why the artist has no fear of what is common. This, indeed, is already ennobled when he takes it up.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. Maxim #61

128. “Und doch sehr oft, wenn wir uns von dem Beabsichtigten für ewig getrennt sehen, haben wir schon auf unserm Wege irgend ein anderes Wünschenswerthe gefunden, etwas uns Gemäßes, mit dem uns zu begnügen wir eigentlich geboren sind.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Very often when we have found ourselves forever separated from what we had intended to achieve, we have already, on our way, found something else worth desiring.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. Maxim #68

129. “Ich bedauere die Menschen, welche von der Vergänglichkeit der Dinge viel Wesens machen und sich in Betrachtung irdischer Nichtigkeit verlieren. Sind wir ja eben deßhalb da, um das Vergängliche unvergänglich zu machen; das kann ja nur dadurch geschehen, wenn man beides zu schätzen weiß.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German I’m sorry for people who make a great to-do about the transitory nature of things and get lost in meditations of earthly nothingness. Surely we are here precisely so as to turn what passes into something that endures; but this is possible only if you can appreciate both.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. Maxim #155

130. “Man sagt: „Studire, Künstler, die Natur!” Es ist aber keine Kleinigkeit, aus dem Gemeinen das Edle, aus der Unform das Schöne zu entwickeln.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German People say, “Artist, study nature!” But it is no small matter to develop what is noble out of what is common, beauty out of what lacks form.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #191

131. “Mysteries do not as yet amount to miracles.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #210

132. “Just as, out of habit, one consults a run-down clock as though it were still going, so too one may look at the face of a beautiful woman as though he still loved her.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Maxim #246

133. “Der thörigste von allen Irrthümern ist, wenn junge gute Köpfe glauben, ihre Originalität zu verlieren, indem sie das Wahre anerkennen, was von andern schon anerkannt worden.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German It is the most foolish of all errors for young people of good intelligence to imagine that they will forfeit their originality if they acknowledge truth already acknowledged by others.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #254

134. “Die Wahrheit widerspricht unserer Natur, der Irrthum nicht, und zwar aus einem sehr einfachen Grunde: die Wahrheit fordert, daß wir uns für beschränkt erkennen follen, der Irrthum schmeichelt uns. wir seien auf ein- oder die andere Weise unbegränzt.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Truth demands that we should recognize ourselves as limited, error flatters us that, in one way or another, we are unlimited.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #310

135. “Der Irrthum verhält sich gegen das Wahre wie der Schlaf gegen das Wachen. Ich habe bemerkt, daß man aus dem Irren sich wie erquickt wieder zu dem Wahren hinwende.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Error is related to truth as sleeping is to waking. … When one has been in error, one turns to truth as though revitalized.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #331

136. “Die Wissenschaft hilft uns vor allem, daß sie das Staunen, wozu wir von Natur berufen find. Die Wissenschaft hilft uns vor allem, daß sie das Staunen, wozu wir von Natur berufen find.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German Scientific knowledge helps us mainly because it makes the wonder to which we are called by nature rather more intelligible.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #417

137. “Piety is not an end but a means to attain … the highest degree of culture. This is why … those who parade piety as a purpose and an aim mostly turn into hypocrites”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 15 November 2017, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#137

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#137

Source: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German

138. “Wenn mancher sich nicht verpflichtet fühlte, das Unwahre zu wiederholen, weil er’s einmal gefügt hat, fo wären es ganz andere Leute geworden.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes: 146 Sourced Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 15 November 2017, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/goethe-quotes.html#138

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Source and Related Info: Maxims and Reflections (1833): Full text in German If some people hadn’t felt obliged to repeat what is untrue simply because they had at one point maintained it, they would have turned into quite different people.
 • Elisabeth Stopp, trans. (Penguin: 1998) #586

139. “When you see some evil you proceed to immediate action, you make an immediate attack to cure the symptom.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe