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1783 | Weimar

Goethe in Love

Nature! We are surrounded and embraced by her: powerless to separate ourselves from her, and powerless to penetrate beyond her.

Without asking or warning, she snatches us up into her circling dance, and whirls us on until we are tired and drop from her arms.

She is ever shaping new forms: what is, has never yet been; what has been, comes not again. Everything is new, and yet nought but the old.

We live in her midst and know her not. She is incessantly speaking to us, but betrays not her secret. We constantly act upon her, and yet have no power over her.

The one thing she seems to aim at is individuality; yet she cares nothing for individuals. She is always building up and destroying; but her workshop is inaccessible.

Her life is in her children; but where is the mother? She is the only artist, working up the most uniform material into utter opposites, arriving without a trace of effort at perfection, at the most exact precision, though always veiled under a certain softness.

JOHANN WOLFGANG von GOETHE, “On Nature.” The German poet, playwright, and privy councilor cultivated a lifelong interest in geology, and, in the years 1786–1788, climbed Mount Vesuvius and explored the ruins of Pompeii. He began his masterwork Faust around 1771, publishing Faust: A Fragment in 1790 and Faust: Part One eighteen years after that.

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