Today (August 28, 2014) is Goethe’s 265’th birthday. He was a poet, writer, philosopher, scientist, and a statesmen. His ideas and words still resonate with us.
When I was 10 years old, my 4’th grade teacher gave me the “The Sorrows of Young Werther” as a gift. Why did she think I was ready for it? Maybe because she knew that I was in love with a girl in my 4’th grade class. I have read the Turkish translation of “The Sorrows of Young Werther” with great fascination. That’s how I was introduced to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832)
I wrote a piece titled “Remembering Goethe” 3 years ago. In that piece I wanted to remind readers about his scientist side. He wrote treatises on botany, anatomy, and color. According to Pierre Hadot, Goethe advocated the Orphic attitude towards Nature. Orphic attitude can be described as penetrating the secrets of nature not through violence (experimentation and technology) but through melody, rhythm, and harmony. The Orphic attitude is unveiling the secrets of nature through discourse, poetry, and art. I was intrigued by Goethe’s approach to science.
When I was writing Albert Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore I realized how similar Tagore was to Goethe. Maybe that’s why Tagore was so loved in Germany. In 1921, during his visit to Germany, Tagore was treated as a hero. Apparently, his poetry and philosophy, resonated strongly in the post war (WW I) Germany. Goethe was very interested in science and philosophy and he was also a great poet and author. Tagore was a mystical poet and philosopher and he was deeply interested in science as well. Both Tagore and Goethe followed the works of the scientists of their era.
The Poems of Goethe, translated by Edgar Alfred Bowring in 1853 in the original metres can be found here.
I will close with a poem by Goethe (translation by A.S. Kline)
The Lovely Night
Now I leave this little hut,
Where my beloved lives,
Walking now with veiled steps
Through the shadowy leaves.
Luna shines through bush and oak,
Zephyr proclaims her path,
And the birch trees bowing low
Shed incense on her track.
How beautiful the coolness
Of this lovely summer night!
How the soul fills with happiness
In this true place of quiet!
I can scarcely grasp the bliss!
Yet, Heaven, I would shun
A thousand nights like this,
If my darling granted one.