Happy Birthday, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Happy Birthday to the German poet, scientist, dramatist, and humanist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, born on August 28, 1749. Goethe is best remembered for Faust (1808, 1832), his two-part dramatic poem about the man who sold his soul to the devil. My personal favorites are his novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774 ) and Italian Journey (1786-1788), his fascinating record of travel and study in Italy.
Goethe died on March 22, 1832.
Here are a couple of paragraphs from Italian Journey:
There is a tale about a fisherman who was caught at night by a storm and was trying to steer his boat homeward. His little son clung to him and asked: "Father, what is that funny little light I see, now above us, now below?" His father promised to give him the answer the next day. It turned out to have been the beacon of the lighthouse, which to the child's eyes, as the boat rocked up and down in the wild waves, had appeared now below him, now above.
I too am steering my boat towards port over a wild sea and am keeping a steady eye on the lighthouse beam, even though to me it seems to be constantly shifting its position, so that at last I come safe and sound to shore.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey (1786-1788), from the entry for February 21, 1787; translated by W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer (North Point Press, 1982).
The painting is "Goethe in the Roman Campagna" (1786) by Johann Heinrich Tischbein, Goethe's companion during the Italian Journey.