top of page

'Found' by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,

translated by Michael Hamburger

                                 Listen on bandcamp


Once in the forest

I strolled content,

To look for nothing

My sole intent.

I saw a flower,

Shaded and sly,

Shining like starlight,

Bright as an eye.

I went to pluck it;

Gently it said:

Must I be broken,

Wilt and be dead.

Then whole I dug it

Out of the load

And to my garden

Carried it home.

There to replant it

Where no wind blows.

More bright than ever,

It blooms and grows.'

Goethe is often described--as by Matthew Arnold in the middle 19th century and by Stephen Spender in the middle 20th century--as the 

last, possible universalist--the last writer to embody wide-ranging curiosity with at least fundamental knowledge of the Western world's leading arts and sciences. A Renaissance person, in another term, before such fundamental knowledge was precluded by the intricate specialities of astronomy, theoretical physics, molecular biology, and much more. He was a researcher and intellectual adventurer like the 20th-century African Cheikh Anta Diop. He wrote a book, a Divan of poetry, inspired by the 14th-century Sufi mystic and poet Hafiz.

Born in 1747 and ascended to ancestors in 1830, Goethe was great in

his openness even as he spent decades as an administrator-in-Court in

Weimar, Germany. His writing is like Tolstoy's and D.H. Lawrence's in its keen rendering of palpable experience. He's like the poet and playwright he most admired, Shakespeare, in making psychological and philosophical complexities and conflict both lyrical as alchemy and compelling, even heart-breaking, as drama. You may feel Goethe's play 'Faust' and its heroic/tragic protagonist in depths of your mind and of your chest. Goethe's is a great world to explore!

Goethe on hearing a little song, ....png
bottom of page