Sub specie Absolutus - Under the aspect of Absolute

Selected Poems of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  Goethe’s Works, vol. 1 (Poems) [1885] Editor: Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen



HOW fair doth Nature

Appear again!

How bright the sunbeams!

How smiles the plain!

The flowers are bursting

From ev’ry bough,

And thousand voices

Each bush yields now.

And joy and gladness

Fill ev’ry breast:

O earth!—O sunlight!

Oh, rapture bless’d!

O love! O lov’d one!

As golden bright,

As clouds of morning

On yonder height!


Thou blessest gladly

The smiling field,—

The world in fragrant

Vapor conceal’d.

Oh, maiden, maiden,

How love I thee!

Thine eye, how gleams it!

How lov’st thou me!

The blithe lark loveth

Sweet song and air,


The morning floweret

Heav’n’s incense fair,

As I now love thee

With fond desire,

For thou dost give me

Youth, joy and fire,

For new-born dances

And minstrelsy.

Be ever happy,

As thou lov’st me!



HEART! my heart! what means this feeling?

What oppresseth thee so sore?

What strange life is o’er me stealing!

I acknowledge thee no more.

Fled is all that gave thee gladness,

Fled the cause of all thy sadness,

Fled thy peace, thine industry—

Ah, why suffer it to be?

Say, do beauty’s graces youthful,

Does this form so fair and bright,

Does this gaze, so kind, so truthful,

Chain thee with unceasing might?

Would I tear me from her boldly,

Courage take, and fly her coldly,

Back to her I’m forthwith led

By the path I seek to tread.

By a thread I ne’er can sever,

For ’tis ’twin’d with magic skill,

Doth the cruel maid forever

Hold me fast against my will.

While those magic chains confine me,

To her will I must resign me.

Ah, the change in truth is great!

Love! kind love! release me straight!




I DRINK fresh nourishment, new blood

From out this world more free;

The Nature is so kind and good

That to her breast clasps me!

The billows toss our bark on high,

And with our oars keep time,

While cloudy mountains tow’rd the sky

Before our progress climb.

Say, mine eye, why sink’st thou down?

Golden visions, are ye flown?

Hence, thou dream, tho’ golden-twin’d;

Here, too, love and life I find.


Over the waters are blinking

Many a thousand fair star;

Gentle mists are drinking

Round the horizon afar.

Round the shady creek lightly

Morning zephyrs awake,

And the ripen’d fruit brightly

Mirrors itself in the lake.




THROUGH rain, through snow,

Through tempest go!

’Mongst steaming caves,

O’er misty waves,

On, on! still on!

Peace, rest have flown!

Sooner through sadness

I’d wish to be slain,

Than all the gladness

Of life to sustain;

All the fond yearning

That heart feels for heart,

Only seems burning

To make them both smart!

How shall I fly?

Forestwards hie?

Vain were all strife!

Bright crown of life,

Turbulent bliss,—

Love, thou art this!



CARELESSLY over the plain away,

Where by the boldest man no path

Cut before thee thou canst discern,

Make for thyself a path!

Silence, lov’d one, my heart!

Cracking, let it not break!

Breaking, break not with thee!



IN this noble ring to-day

Let my warning shame ye!

Listen to my solemn voice,—

Seldom does it name ye.

Many a thing have ye intended,

Many a thing have badly ended,

And now I must blame ye.

At some moment in our lives

We must all repent us!

So confess, with pious trust,

All your sins momentous!

Error’s crooked pathways shunning,

Let us, on the straight road running,

Honestly content us!

Yes! we’ve oft, when waking, dream’d,

Let’s confess it rightly;

Left undrain’d the brimming cup,

When it sparkl’d brightly;

Many a shepherd’s-hour’s soft blisses,

Many a dear mouth’s flying kisses

We’ve neglected lightly.

Mute and silent have we sat,

Whilst the blockheads prated,

And above e’en song divine

Have their babblings rated;

To account we’ve even call’d us

For the moments that enthrall’d us,

With enjoyment freighted.

If thou’lt absolution grant

To thy true ones ever,

We, to execute thy will,

Ceaseless will endeavor,

From half-measures strive to wean us,

Wholly, fairly, well demean us,

Resting, flagging never.

At all blockheads we’ll at once

Let our laugh ring clearly,

And the pearly-foaming wine

Never sip at merely.

Ne’er with eye alone give kisses,

But with boldness suck in blisses

From those lips lov’d dearly.




MY trust in nothing now is plac’d,


So in the world true joy I taste,


Then he who would be a comrade of mine

Must rattle his glass, and in chorus combine,

Over these dregs of wine.

I plac’d my trust in gold and wealth,


But then I lost all joy and health,


Both here and there the money roll’d,

And when I had it here, behold,

From there had fled the gold!

I plac’d my trust in women next,


But there in truth was sorely vex’d,


The False another portion sought,

The True with tediousness were fraught,

The Best could not be bought.

My trust in travels then I plac’d,


And left my native land in haste,


But not a single thing seem’d good,

The beds were bad, and strange the food,

And I not understood.

I plac’d my trust in rank and fame,


Another put me straight to shame,


And as I had been prominent,

All scowl’d upon me as I went,

I found not one content.

I plac’d my trust in war and fight,


We gain’d full many a triumph bright,


Into the foeman’s land we cross’d,

We put our friends to equal cost,

And there a leg I lost.

My trust is plac’d in nothing now,


At my command the world must bow,


And as we’ve ended feast and strain,

The cup we’ll to the bottom drain;

No dregs must there remain!




ONCE through the forest

Alone I went;

To seek for nothing

My thoughts were bent.

I saw in the shadow

A flower stand there;

As stars it glisten’d,

As eyes ’twas fair.


I sought to pluck it,—

It gently said:

“Shall I be gather’d

Only to fade?”

With all its roots

I dug it with care,

And took it home

To my garden fair.

In silent corner

Soon it was set;

There grows it ever,

There blooms it yet.




YES, the lips that kiss’d me were her lips,

Hers the eyes that shone upon me.

Body round and slender hips,—

All of Eden’s joyance won me.

Was she there? where has she fled?

Yes! ’twas she, my soul enraptur’d,

Gave me life, and as she sped

Held my life forever captur’d.




WHAT makes time short to me?


What makes it long and spiritless?

’Tis idleness!

What brings us to debt?

To delay and forget!

What makes us succeed?

Decision with speed!

How to fame to ascend?

Oneself to defend!

For woman due allowance make!

Form’d of a crooked rib was she,—

By Heaven she could not straight’ned be.

Attempt to bend her, and she’ll break;

If left alone, more crooked grows madam;

What well could be worse,
my good friend, Adam?—

For woman due allowance make;

’Twere grievous, if thy rib should break! 





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