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A collection of poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe reflecting his Italian Journey and celebrating the sensuality and vigour of Italian and Classical culture. Written mainly after his return to Weimar, they contain poems on many sexual themes serving as a loving tribute to Goethe's companion, Christiane Vulpius.
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW
PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA
TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING
Published by Urban Romantics
First published in 2016
Copyright © 2016 Urban Romantics
All Rights Reserved.
ABOUT THE ELEGIES
ABOUT THE ELEGIES
Goethe cultivated a special, italianate hand for this portfolio of twenty-four “elegies,” so called because he was emulating the elegiasts of Imperial Rome, Tibullus, Propertius, Catullus. The Elegies have never before been published as here, together in the cyclical form of their original conception. Experts even denied that the two priapeia (I & XXIV) were by Goethe at all, although they are in the same hand as the rest. To be sure, these two are not numbered, so that I was long undecided as to just what their proper position might be. At one time I imagined they must belong at the middle of the cycle where at the end of Elegy XIII Priapus’ mother summons her son. Obviously Goethe, just returned north from his two years in Italy (1786-88), and alienated from prim, courtly friends (especially since he had taken a girlfriend into his cottage), had no thought of publication when he indited these remembrances of Ancient Rome. But he did show them to close friends, one of whom was the wonderful dramatist Friedrich Schiller. In 1795, Schiller undertook a new periodical, Die Horen. This thoughtful and responsible man initiated the journal with an essay of his own, explaining how forms of entertainment are actually at the same time our primary modes of education. It makes for pretty difficult reading in our present, less interested epoch. But he did break the essay up with diversions solicited from the best minds of his era. For a discussion of all this, see
Professor Worthy’s Page
For now, it is enough to say that among Schiller’s examples for “aesthetic education,” as he called it, were these Elegies by his much admired friend, Wolfgang Goethe. Editor and author made substantial changes for propriety’s sake—despite Goethe’s having lashed out to the contrary in the first Elegy (which he now suppressed, along with the final one). My attempt has been—for the very first time by the way, in any language—to restore Goethe’s cycle to his early conception. Since I have been unwilling to intrude with learned notes, I must apologize for Goethe’s many classical allusions, which were as familiar to his own readership as are, in our publications today, the dense references to media celebrities. Modern editors of what they call the “Roman Elegies” bring abundant annotation, and often detail Goethe’s own emendations. What I bring here is merely translated from his manuscript in the Goethe-Schiller Archive in Weimar.
Here’s where I’ve planted my garden and here I shall care for love’s blossoms—
As I am taught by my muse, carefully sort them in plots:
Fertile branches, whose product is golden fruit of my lifetime,
Set here in happier years, tended with pleasure today.
You, stand here at my side, good Priapus—albeit from thieves I’ve
Nothing to fear. Freely pluck, whosoever would eat.
—Hypocrites, those are the ones! If weakened with shame and bad conscience
One of those criminals comes, squinting out over my garden,
Bridling at nature’s pure fruit, punish the knave in his hindparts,
Using the stake which so red rises there at your loins.
Tell me ye stones and give me O glorious palaces answer.
Speak O ye streets but one word. Genius, art thou alive?
Yes, here within thy sanctified walls there’s a soul in each object,
ROMA eternal. For me, only, are all things yet mute.
Who will then tell me in whispers and where must I find just the window
Where one day she’ll be glimpsed: creature who’ll scorch me with love?
Can’t I divine yet the paths through which over and over
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