Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

While reading a volume of The Story of Civilization by Durant, I’ve spent the last few days reading about the life of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, perhaps the greatest poet of the eighteen and nineteenth century. I’ve found most of his writing quoted by Durant as fascinating as any I’ve read. And I also was taken with the following poem:

Let man be noble,
Helpful and good.
For that alone
Marks him off
From all beings
That we know. . . .
Quite unfeeling 
Is Nature:
The sun shines
Upon the base and the good;
And upon the lawbreaker
Gleam, as upon the best,
The moon and the stars.
Winds and streams,
Thunder and hail,
Roar on their way,
And snatch up
And sweep before them
One after another. . . .
By eternal, ironclad
Great laws
Must we all,
Of our existence,
Fulfill the round.
But man alone
Can do the impossible;
He distinguishes,
Chooses, and judges;
He can to the fleeting moment
Give duration.
He alone can
Reward the good,
Punish the bad,
Heal and save.
And to the erring and straying
Bring wise counsel.
Let the noble man
Be helpful and good.

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