Thursday, 5 November 2015


“Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.” 
- St. Augustine

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born on August 28, 1749, in Frankfurt am Main in Germany and died on March 22, 1832, in Weimar. He was a German poet, novelist, playwright, and natural philosopher, the greatest figure of the German Romantic period and of German literature as a whole. Goethe was perhaps the last European to attempt the mastery and many-sidedness of the great Renaissance personalities: Critic, journalist, painter, theatre manager, statesman, educationalist, natural philosopher. His writings on science alone fill about 14 volumes. In poetry he displayed a command of a unique variety of theme and style; in fiction he ranged from fairy tales, to shorter novels and novellas. In the theatre, from historical, political, or psychological plays in prose through blank-verse drama to his Faust, one of the masterpieces of modern literature.

He achieved in his 82 years a great wisdom yet to the end of his life he retained a willingness to let himself be shaken by love or sorrow. His masterpiece “Faust” was completed a few months before his death, and he bequeathed it with irony to the critics of posterity to discover its faults. Its final lines, “Das Ewig-Weibliche/Zieht uns hinan” (“Eternal Womanhead/Leads us on high”), summarises his own philosophy, with Woman being the ultimate ideal, man’s energiser and source of creative force and life.

Here is one of Goethe’s short poems today, that has as its theme the universal and ever relevant topic that of love and the tyranny of distance between lovers.

Nearness of the Beloved

I think of you when from the sea the shimmer
Of sunlight streams;
I think of you when on the brook the dimmer
Moon casts her beams.

I see your face when on the distant highway
Dust whirls and flakes,
In deepest night when on the mountain byway
The traveller quakes.

I hear your voice when, dully roaring, yonder
Waves rise and spill;
Listening, in silent woods I often wander
When all is still.

I walk with you, though miles from you divide me;
Yet you are are near!
The sun goes down, soon stars will shine to guide me.
Would you were here!
                           Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Poetry about the pain of being apart from one’s beloved is certainly something that has inspired poets throughout the ages. Loving and being apart seems to be an ever-repeated and universal theme.


  1. Who is the romantic woman in the painting - Lady Hamilton?
    I know Goethe had a lot of lady loves, but sadly the only one he actually married died young.

    1. Hello Hels, it is the Portrait of Anne Rodbard, Mrs. Blackburn, by George Romney.