Goethe: Selected Poetry

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von. Selected Poetry trans. David Luke. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.

Goethe belongs in the same breath as Shakespeare and Dante, albeit a definite third place.  He doesn’t have their Christian vision, though.  While Romanticism is never boring, it’s hard to synthesize within a Christian worldview.  Goethe’s value, though, is showing what Romanticism looks like in the real world.  Ideas are never in abstraction.

While I might criticize Goethe at times, one can only stand in awe of his lyrical power.  His poem “Erlkonig,” for example, has few equals.

I want to call attention to some passages that have a pan(en)theistic flavor to them.  

I don’t know if I want to call Goethe a pantheist.  He might have been, but that accusation is so cliche.  I think panentheist might be closer. Goethe notes, 

“Lightlier now I pass through all the
Timeless cycles God created
Which by his pure word and living
Motion all are penetrated” (“Higher and Highest Matters,” 181).

He goes on to speak that we “vanish” in “visions of eternal/Love.” In “On Contemplating Schiller’s Skull” he does broach full pantheism: “Than knowing God and nature, which are one” (225).  Indeed, he claims he can “A beauty eternal/In all things I see” (243).  That’s not necessarily pantheistic, though.

Fate and Destiny

“Yourself and from yourself you cannot run’
For neither time nor any power can shatter
The evolving life-form of imprinted matter” (191).


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