17+ Best Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Poems You Must Read

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer and statesman. His works include: four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; and treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour.

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Famous Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Threatening Signs

IF Venus in the evening sky
Is seen in radiant majesty,
If rod-like comets, red as blood,
Are ‘mongst the constellations view’d,
Out springs the Ignoramus, yelling:
“The star’s exactly o’er my dwelling!
What woeful prospect, ah, for me!
Then calls his neighbour mournfully:
“Behold that awful sign of evil,
Portending woe to me, poor devil!
My mother’s asthma ne’er will leave her,
My child is sick with wind and fever;
I dread the illness of my wife,
A week has pass’d, devoid of strife,–
And other things have reach’d my ear;
The Judgment Day has come, I fear!”

His neighbour answered: “Friend, you’re right!
Matters look very had to-night.
Let’s go a street or two, though, hence,
And gaze upon the stars from thence.”–
No change appears in either case.
Let each remain then in his place,
And wisely do the best he can,
Patient as any other man.

The Mountain Castle

THERE stands on yonder high mountain

A castle built of yore,
Where once lurked horse and horseman

In rear of gate and of door.

Now door and gate are in ashes,

And all around is so still;
And over the fallen ruins

I clamber just as I will.

Below once lay a cellar,

With costly wines well stor’d;
No more the glad maid with her pitcher

Descends there to draw from the hoard.

No longer the goblet she places

Before the guests at the feast;
The flask at the meal so hallow’d

No longer she fills for the priest.

No more for the eager squire

The draught in the passage is pour’d;
No more for the flying present

Receives she the flying reward.

For all the roof and the rafters,

They all long since have been burn’d,
And stairs and passage and chapel

To rubbish and ruins are turn’d.

Yet when with lute and with flagon,

When day was smiling and bright,
I’ve watch’d my mistress climbing

To gain this perilous height,

Then rapture joyous and radiant

The silence so desolate brake,
And all, as in days long vanish’d,

Once more to enjoyment awoke;

As if for guests of high station

The largest rooms were prepared;
As if from those times so precious

A couple thither had fared;

As if there stood in his chapel

The priest in his sacred dress,
And ask’d: ‘Would ye twain be united?’

And we, with a smile, answer’d, ‘Yes!’

And songs that breath’d a deep feeling,

That touched the heart’s innermost chord,
The music-fraught mouth of sweet echo,

Instead of the many, outpour’d.

And when at eve all was hidden

In silence unbroken and deep,
The glowing sun then look’d upwards,

And gazed on the summit so steep.

And squire and maiden then glitter’d

As bright and gay as a lord,
She seized the time for her present,

And he to give her reward.

The Friendly Meeting

IN spreading mantle to my chin concealed,
I trod the rocky path, so steep and grey,
Then to the wintry plain I bent my way
Uneasily, to flight my bosom steel’d.
But sudden was the newborn day reveal’d:
A maiden came, in heavenly bright array,
Like the fair creatures of the poet’s lay
In realms of song. My yearning heart was heal’d.
Yet turn’d I thence, till she had onward pass’d,
While closer still the folds to draw I tried,
As though with heat self-kindled to grow warm;
But follow’d her. She stood. The die was cast!
No more within my mantle could I hide;
I threw it off,-she lay within mine arm.

To Charlotte

MIDST the noise of merriment and glee,

‘Midst full many a sorrow, many a care,
Charlotte, I remember, we remember thee,

How, at evening’s hour so fair,
Thou a kindly hand didst reach us,

When thou, in some happy place

Where more fair is Nature s face,

Many a lightly-hidden trace
Of a spirit loved didst teach us.

Well ’tis that thy worth I rightly knew,–

That I, in the hour when first we met,

While the first impression fill’d me yet,
Call’d thee then a girl both good and true.

Rear’d in silence, calmly, knowing nought,

On the world we suddenly are thrown;
Hundred thousand billows round us sport;

All things charm us–many please alone,
Many grieve us, and as hour on hour is stealing,

To and fro our restless natures sway;
First we feel, and then we find each feeling

By the changeful world-stream borne away.

Well I know, we oft within us find

Many a hope and many a smart.
Charlotte, who can know our mind?

Charlotte, who can know our heart?
Ah! ‘twould fain be understood, ‘twould fain o’erflow

In some creature’s fellow-feelings blest,
And, with trust, in twofold measure know

All the grief and joy in Nature’s breast.

Then thine eye is oft around thee cast,

But in vain, for all seems closed for ever.
Thus the fairest part of life is madly pass’d

Free from storm, but resting never:
To thy sorrow thou’rt to-day repell’d

By what yesterday obey’d thee.
Can that world by thee be worthy held

Which so oft betray’d thee?

Which, ‘mid all thy pleasures and thy pains,

Lived in selfish, unconcern’d repose?
See, the soul its secret cells regains,

And the heart–makes haste to close.
Thus found I thee, and gladly went to meet thee;

“She’s worthy of all love!” I cried,
And pray’d that Heaven with purest bliss might greet thee,

Which in thy friend it richly hath supplied.

To The Kind Reader

No one talks more than a Poet;
Fain he’d have the people know it.

Praise or blame he ever loves;
None in prose confess an error,
Yet we do so, void of terror,

In the Muses’ silent groves.

What I err’d in, what corrected,
What I suffer’d, what effected,

To this wreath as flow’rs belong;
For the aged, and the youthful,
And the vicious, and the truthful,

All are fair when viewed in song.

The Same

HUSH’D on the hill

Is the breeze;

Scarce by the zephyr

The trees

Softly are press’d;
The woodbird’s asleep on the bough.
Wait, then, and thou

Soon wilt find rest.

The Maiden Speaks

How grave thou lookest, loved one! wherefore so?
Thy marble image seems a type of thee;
Like it, no sign of life thou giv’st to me;
Compared with thee, the stone appears to glow.
Behind his shield in ambush lurks the foe,
The friend’s brow all-unruffled we should see.
I seek thee, but thou seek’st away to flee;
Fix’d as this sculptured figure, learn to grow!
Tell me, to which should I the preference pay?
Must I from both with coldness meet alone?
The one is lifeless, thou with life art blest.
In short, no longer to throw words away,
I’ll fondy kiss and kiss and kiss this stone,
Till thou dost tear me hence with envious breast.

The Spirit’s Salute

THE hero’s noble shade stands high

On yonder turret grey;
And as the ship is sailing by,

He speeds it on his way.

“See with what strength these sinews thrill’d!

This heart, how firm and wild!
These bones, what knightly marrow fill’d!

This cup, how bright it smil’d!

“Half of my life I strove and fought,

And half I calmly pass’d;
And thou, oh ship with beings fraught,

Sail safely to the last!”

The Way To Behave

THOUGH tempers are bad and peevish folks swear,
Remember to ruffle thy brows, friend, ne’er;
And let not the fancies of women so fair
E’er serve thy pleasure in life to impair.

The Pariah – The Pariah’s Thanks

MIGHTY Brama, now I’ll bless thee!

‘Tis from thee that worlds proceed!
As my ruler I confess thee,

For of all thou takest heed.

All thy thousand ears thou keepest

Open to each child of earth;
We, ‘mongst mortals sunk the deepest,

Have from thee received new birth.

Bear in mind the woman’s story,

Who, through grief, divine became;
Now I’ll wait to view His glory,

Who omnipotence can claim.

To The Husbandman

SMOOTHLY and lightly the golden seed by the furrow is cover’d;

Yet will a deeper one, friend, cover thy bones at the last.
Joyously plough’d and sow’d! Here food all living is budding,

E’en from the side of the tomb Hope will not vanish away.

The Prosperous Voyage

THE mist is fast clearing.
And radiant is heaven,
Whilst AEolus loosens
Our anguish-fraught bond.
The zephyrs are sighing,
Alert is the sailor.
Quick! nimbly be plying!
The billows are riven,
The distance approaches;
I see land beyond!

The New Amadis

IN my boyhood’s days so drear

I was kept confined;
There I sat for many a year,

All alone I pined,
As within the womb.

Yet thou drov’st away my gloom,

Golden phantasy!
I became a hero true,

Like the Prince Pipi,
And the world roam’d through,

Many a crystal palace built,

Crush’d them with like art,
And the Dragon’s life-blood spilt

With my glitt’ring dart.
Yes! I was a man!

Next I formed the knightly plan

Princess Fish to free;
She was much too complaisant,

Kindly welcomed me,–
And I was gallant.

Heav’nly bread her kisses proved,

Glowing as the wine;
Almost unto death I loved.

Sun-s appeared to shine
In her dazzling charms.

Who hath torn her from mine arms?

Could no magic band
Make her in her flight delay?

Say, where now her land?
Where, alas, the way?

The New Amor

AMOR, not the child, the youthful lover of Psyche,
Look’d round Olympus one day, boldly, to triumph inured;
There he espied a goddess, the fairest amongst the immortals,–
Venus Urania she,–straight was his passion inflamed.
Even the holy one powerless proved, alas! ‘gainst his wooing,–
Tightly embraced in his arm, held her the daring one fast.
Then from their union arose a new, a more beauteous Amor,
Who from his father his wit, grace from his mother derives.
Ever thou’lt find him join’d in the kindly Muses’ communion,
And his charm-laden bolt foundeth the love of the arts.

To Lina

SHOULD these songs, love, as they fleet,

Chance again to reach thy hand,
At the piano take thy seat,

Where thy friend was wont to stand!

Sweep with finger bold the string,

Then the book one moment see:
But read not! do nought but sing!

And each page thine own will be!

Ah, what grief the song imparts

With its letters, black on white,
That, when breath’d by thee, our hearts

Now can break and now delight!

The Wrangler

ONE day a shameless and impudent wight
Went into a shop full of steel wares bright,
Arranged with art upon ev’ry shelf.
He fancied they were all meant for himself;
And so, while the patient owner stood by,
The shining goods needs must handle and try,
And valued,–for how should a fool better know?–
The bad things high, and the good ones low,
And all with an easy self-satisfied face;
Then, having bought nothing, he left the place.

The tradesman now felt sorely vex’d,
So when the fellow went there next,
A lock of steel made quite red hot.
The other cried upon the spot:
“Such wares as these, who’d ever buy?
the steel is tarnish’d shamefully,”–
Then pull’d it, like a fool about,
But soon set up a piteous shout.
“Pray what’s the matter?” the shopman spoke;
The other scream’d: “Faith, a very cool joke!”

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