Talk:Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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The alternative name "Göthe" is wrong, since "von Goethe" is the german name itself. -- 23:17, 29 January 2006 (UTC) (from Germany)Reply[reply]

Misattributed quote?[edit]

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

Apparently no good sources for this being from Goethe. 03:21, 26 May 2022 (UTC)
Actually it's from a translation by John Anster. See p.20 here: ... See also

Missattributed Quote?[edit]

"The way you see people is the way you treat them. And the way you treat them is what they become."
This quote is widely attributed to Goethe by English speaking people. Is it his? In the affirmative case: what is the context? And the original Language version?
I couldn't find any similar phrase in deutsch.
In the negative case it would be interesting to find the real author and , if it belongs to a German author, the version in deutsch, in order to include it in the Missatributed section of both, german and english Wikiquote's Goethe Article.
-- 19:14, 12 September 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This seems to come from Apprenticeship from the site Bartleby translation:

‘When we take people,’ thou wouldst say, ‘merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.’

--Twifkak (talk) 20:31, 11 June 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Nothing is worth more than this day[edit]

"Nothing is worth more than this day." Is this quote misattributed? I can't find it anywhere except lame quote websites which list only his name and never the source work. I'd be disappointed if it were actually from some new wave guru jerk, since I really like the quote. 02:46, 7 June 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This seems to be a concise translation of Maxim 332 in Maxims and Reflections. 00:00, 11 January 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Wikiquote no longer allows unsourced quotations, and they are in process of being removed from our pages (see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations); but if you can provide a reliable and precise source for any quote on this list please move it to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. --Antiquary 19:30, 1 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • if only these treasures were not so fragile as they are precious and beautiful. --Jbgfour (talk) 14:57, 21 December 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • A collection of anecdotes and maxims is the greatest of treasures for the man of the world, for he knows how to intersperse conversation with the former in fit places, and to recollect the latter on proper occasions.
  • It seems to never occur to fools that merit and good fortune are closely united.
  • A man can stand anything except a succession of ordinary days.
  • A reasonable man needs only to practice moderation to find happiness.
  • Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him.
  • All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.
  • As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
  • Correction does much, but encouragement does more.
    • Sourced as Instruction does much, but encouragement everything
      • p.27: "the studio of the great artist develops sooner the developing philosopher and the developing poet, than the lecture-rooms of the philosopher and the critic. Instruction does much, but encouragement everything."
  • Create, artist! Do not talk!
    • Saying
  • Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes. (Quote seems to be from **Elective Affinites**[1].
  • Distrust those in whom the desire to punish is strong.
    • Also rendered: Mistrust all in whom the desire to punish is imperative. (Similar statements have definitely been made by Nietzsche, and attributed to Dostoevsky)
  • Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one.
  • Even the lowliest, provided he is whole, can be happy, and in his own way, perfect.
  • Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.
    • free translation of: Kein Mensch will etwas werden,/Ein jeder will schon was sein.from the poem Zahme Xenien IV, [2]; literal translation: No man wants to become something, Every man wants to be something already.
  • Everything in the world may be endured except continued prosperity.
  • Everything is simpler than you think and at the same time more complex than you imagine.
  • He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.
  • He who wishes to exert a useful influence must be careful to insult nothing. Let him not be troubled by what seems absurd, but concentrate his energies to the creation of what is good. He must not demolish, but build.
  • Hypotheses are lullabies for teachers to sing their students to sleep. The close and thoughtful observer more and more learns to recognize his limitations. He realizes that with the steady growth of knowledge more and more new problems keep on emerging.
  • [at the end of a long letter] I have no time to make it short
  • Not Goethe, this is actually by Blaise Pascal, "Lettres provinciales", letter 16, 1657
  • However, given as Goethe in Der grosse Duden, vol. 2, Stilwoerterbuch, 1963, p.14: "Da ich keine Zeit habe, Dir einen kurzen Brief zu schreiben, schreibe ich Dir einen langen."
  • If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.
  • If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.


  • If Switzerland were flat as a pancake, it would be larger than Prussia.
  • If you must tell me your opinions, tell me what you believe in. I have plenty of doubts of my own.
  • In art the best is good enough.
  • It is quite beyond me how anyone can believe God speaks to us in books and stories. If the world does not directly reveal to us our relationship to it, if our hearts fail to tell us what we owe ourselves and others, we shall assuredly not learn it from books, which are at best designed but to give names to our errors.
  • It's not that age brings childhood back again, age merely shows what children we remain.
    • I found a less modern translation (published in 1889) of what I think is this quote in the Prelude to Faust: "Age childish makes, they say, but 'tis not true; / We're only genuine children still, in Age's season!" The Google books version of this can be found here. --Hughh (talk) 16:19, 22 June 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Joy and sorrow both have part in my solitude.
  • Know thyself? If I knew myself, I'd run away.
  • Live dangerously and you live right.
  • Man is not born to solve the problem of the universe, but to find out what he has to do; and to restrain himself within the limits of his comprehension.
  • Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it.
  • Mathematicians are [like] a sort of Frenchmen; if you talk to them, they translate it into their own language, and then it is immediately something quite different.
  • Men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable.
  • One has only to grow older to become more tolerant. I see no fault that I might not have committed myself.
  • Only when we know little do we know anything; doubt grows with knowledge.
  • [Prague is the] prettiest gem in the stone crown of the world...
  • Reason can never be popular. Passions and feelings may become popular, but reason will always remain the sole property of a few eminent individuals.
  • Should I not be proud, when for twenty years I have had to admit to myself that the great Newton and all the mathematicians and noble calculators along with him were involved in a decisive error with respect to the doctrine of color, and that I among millions was the only one who knew what was right in this great subject of nature?
  • Since I have heard often enough that everyone in the end has his own religion, nothing seemed more natural to me than to fashion my own.
  • Talent develops in quiet places, character in the full current of human life.
  • The best genius is that which absorbs and assimilates everything without doing the least violence to its fundamental destiny — that which we call character — but rather improving it and enhancing it as far as possible.
  • The decline in literature indicates a decline in the nation. The two keep pace in their downward tendency.
  • The deed is everything, the glory naught.
  • The effects of good music are not just because it's new; on the contrary music strikes us more the more familiar we are with it.
  • The highest happiness of man as a thinking being is to have probed what is knowable and quietly to revere what is unknowable.
    • Maxims and Reflections, 1907
  • The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.
    • Sometimes phrased as: An intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, a wise man hardly anything.
  • The man is born with a talent which he has meant to use finds his greatest happiness in using it.
  • The phrases that men hear or repeat continually, end by becoming convictions and ossify the organs of intelligence.
  • There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.
  • There is nothing more dreadful than imagination without taste.
  • Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.
  • Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.
  • To be pleased with one's limits is a wretched state.
    • This is an accurate English rendering of the original German "Sich in seiner Beschränktheit gefallen ist ein elender Zustand" from Maximen und Reflexionen, cf Maximen und Reflexionen, page 155
  • To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.
  • To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.
  • Truth is a torch but a tremendous one. That is why we hurry past it, shielding our eyes, indeed, in fear of getting burned.
  • We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.
  • We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.
  • We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others.
  • What one knows, one sees.
    • Variant translation: What man knows, man sees.
  • When a man stops to ponder his physical or moral condition, he generally finds he is ill.
  • When ideas fail, words come in very handy.
  • Apparently Goethe did write this, or something very much like it. In Faust, Part 1, Mephistopheles says: “Denn eben wo Begriffe fehlen, Da stellt ein Wort zur rechten Zeit sich ein.” (tr. as “For if your meaning's threatened with stagnation, Then words come in to save the situation.”) [von Goethe: 'Faust, Volume 1' tr. Philip Wayne, (Penguin Classics, 1958), p.97.] George963 au (talk) 16:46, 29 June 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Without haste, but without rest.
    • Ohne Hast, aber ohne Rast
  • Yet we all kill the thing we love
    by all let this be heard
    some do it with a bitter look
    some with a flattering word...
    • [Chacun tue ce qu'il aime, le brave avec son épée, le lâche avec son baiser.] Oscar Wilde, La Ballade de la geôle de Reading (1898), Début

<Ballade écrite peu après sa sortie de prison.> <Phrase que De Gaulle dit avoir méditée, en 1920, alors qu'il servait en Pologne.> <Ce qu'on aime avec violence finit toujours par vous tuer. Guy de Maupassant, La Nuit (1887) (Bouquins I:600)> <Ainsi l'amour devient fureur, et tue ce qu'il aime. Alain, Propos d'un Normand, 18 février 1912> <Cette fatalité est dans toute les passions jeunes... L'on tue ce qu'on aime. Alain, 81 chapitres sur l'esprit et les passions (1917), V, ii (Pléiade:1196)> <C'est toujours l'attachement à l'objet qui amène la mort du possesseur. Marcel Proust, Le Temps retrouvé (1927) (Bouquins III:657)> <On ne tue bien que ce qu'on aime. Jean Giraudoux, La guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu (1935), Acte 1, sc. 3 [Andromaque] (Poche:22)> <Il faut bien tuer ce qu'on aime. Jean-Paul Sartre, Le Diable et le Bon Dieu (1951)> <Celui qui aime est la mort de ce qu'il aime. Henry de Montherlant, Garder tout en composant tout (2001), (1970-1972) (Gallimard/NRF:383)> <On échoue toujours à parler de ce qu'on aime. Roland Barthes (1980) au sujet de l'amour de l'Italie de Stendhal ds Oeuvres complètes (Seuil V:913)> <Je pense le contraire, plutôt "Chacun est tué par ce qu'il aime". Jorge Luis Borges, Nouveaux dialogues (1985), Sur Henry James (Pocket I:336)> <On est toujours tué par ce qu'on refoule. Régis Debray, Plaidoyer pour le clair-obscur ds Le Nouvel Observateur, 21 décembre 2006> <Othello sera conduit à tuer ce qu'il aime.> <We are shaped and fashioned by what we love. Attribué à Wolfgang Goethe (1832), mais référence non retrouvée.> <Non, on est aisément dupé par ce qu'on aime. / Et l'amour-propre engage à se tromper soi-même. Molière, Tartuffe (1669), Acte IV, sc. 3 [Elmire à Dorine]>


This page gives:

[…] misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.

February 10 translates the same quote to:

And I have again observed, my dear friend, in this trifling affair, that misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent occurrence.

I consider "confusion" and "mischief" as quite different. Can someone verify that "confusion" is a correct translation? [4] gives "mischief". --Chealer (talk) 02:18, 9 July 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Irrelevant paintings[edit]

I don't see any relevance for the paintings chosen to accompany these quotes, particularly the one about the inherent virtue of art. 16:43, 10 April 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Talking is a necessity, listening is an art.[edit]

I just removed an addition to the misattributed section made without reference to any notable citation: "Talking is a necessity, listening is an art." An internet search of the phrase returned only 23 results, mostly on obscure internet posts, so if such a statement is attributed to Goethe, it is not currently widely attributed in this form. ~ Kalki·· 22:15, 27 August 2015 (UTC) The sentence is in various sites in Germany: "Reden ist ein Bedürfnis. Zuhören ist eine Kunst" attributed to Goethe but without mention of books.Reply[reply]

Comment about the la out of the article[edit]

Tonight, User: added the following comment in the article, see here...

This section needs a heading that has a sufficiently clear meaning. If all the quotations, that are in the long list which follows this section's heading, are from Goethe, and if each quotation (for some reason) is not going to be immediately followed by Goethe's name (nor placed within quotation marks), then the heading needs to reflect that all the quotations in the section are from Goethe. Instead of "Quotes," perhaps the heading (or at least a clear sentence of introduction immediately following the heading) could say, "Quotations of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe." (Also, one might bear in mind that some of the people who visit this webpage have come to check for misattributing, misquoting, and the like related to quotations that they have seen which other websites have attributed to Goethe. These accuracy seekers are sometimes coming from websites that list or discuss related references. Perhaps the page author or someone with experience could make appropriate adjustments. Thank you kindly for any consideration.)"

which is now moved to the talk page. -- Mdd (talk) 01:18, 20 March 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I must say I don't disagree with the intention of the comment. I also think each quote in the "quote" section should contain the name of the author (unless this is already given on top of any subsection). This is also a service to the audience: if they want to copy/paste the quote, then they have all the data at once available. -- Mdd (talk) 01:22, 20 March 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think a page heading is sufficient. It does not need to be repeated in section headings or with each quotation. ~ Ningauble (talk) 13:42, 20 March 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I noted a quote in the front matter of "the Statesman's Year-Book" for 1929 attributed to Goethe which translates as thus: It is often said; Numbers rule the world. The age is certain to show numbers how it is governed." I have no further corroboration of its veracity. The book can be accessed at <'S%20RUIN%22%20book%201919&f=false>.

From the Memoirs of a Superflous Man (1943), Albert Jay Nock[edit]

Relevance of these quotes to the page to be ascertained, and relevant quotes reinserted in appropriate section.
  • Niebuhr was right when he saw a barbarous age coming. It is already here, we are in it, for in what does barbarism consist, if not in the failure to appreciate what is excellent?
    • p. 97
  • "As Goethe remarked, all eras in a state of decline and dissolution are subjective, while in all great eras which have been really in a state of progression, every effort is directed from the inward to the outward world; it is of an objective nature. I have always believed, as Goethe did, that here one comes on a true sense of the term classic."
    • p. 184
  • "Goethe suggested, in the interest of clearness one might very well make a clean sweep of all terms like classic, modernist, realist, naturalist and substitute the simple terms healthy and sickly."
    • p. 184
  • [Those who make the assumption that literacy carries with it the ability to read] do not know what time and trouble it costs to learn to read. I have been working at it for eighteen years, and I can't say yet that I am completely successful.
    • Goethe at the age of seventy-nine
      • p. 194
  • Man will become more clever and sagacious, but not better, happier or showing more resolute wisdom; or at least, only at periods.
    • p. 214
  • Was uns alle bändigt, das Gemeine.
    • That which holds us all in bondage, the common and ignoble.
      • p. 227
  • [The next sentence after predicting that great progress is coming:] I foresee the time when God will have no further pleasure in man, but will break up everything for a new creation.
    • p. 273

Encourage the beautiful, the useful will take care of itself[edit]

I have come across many, many instances of "encourage the beautiful, the useful will take care of itself" attributed to Goethe, without anybody bothering to tell us where it is written. I am tempted to put this is in the "dubious" category, which I will do after a reasonable time. TomS TDotO (talk) 20:52, 21 August 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Attribution located for "Ignorant men raise questions..."[edit]

"Ignorant men raise questions that wise men answered a thousand years ago."

Have seen this attributed to Goethe all over the internet and cannot find one single source. It's not listed here (though there is at least one that is slightly similar). Any insight on this quote? --2600:1702:1110:2AF0:A80A:B713:C217:1645 11:58, 26 April 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

+1 Indeed, it looks misattributed, and it is such great quote so that I wanted to know the original one. 33fb3342355478b423f197b2015e89fb 15:33, 19 May 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ok, this website www dot notable-quotes dot com slash goethe_quotes_iii.html claims "JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, attributed, Day's Collacon". Although from an old book, I couldn't find it to download, and even difficult to buy. Someone is selling at "Day's collacon: an encyclopaedia of prose quotations,: Consisting of beautiful thoughts, choice extracts and sayings, of the most eminent writers of ... and an alphabetical list of subjects quoted Unknown Binding – January 1, 1884". A reviwer note: "found this very large leather-skin bound book at Salvation Army and bought it for $6.00. I just love it. There are portraits of the authors in there from the 1800's and each portrait is covered with tissue paper or something like it. The book is packed with amazing quotes from the 1800's and earlier." 33fb3342355478b423f197b2015e89fb 19:46, 19 May 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You'll find it here, although 'men' was in this translated as 'people'. Thomas Bailey Saunders, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, 532 (p. 187)