Saturday, 1 September 2012

Mediterranean Travels (Goethe)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: (trans. —okei)
Do you know the land of lemon groves and pines?
Where in leafy shade, the orange golden shines.
A soft sea breeze descends from an azure sky,
The myrtle standing calm and the laurel high.
                     There! There!
Would I with you, oh my dearest!, like to roam.

Painting: The Bridesmaid by John Everett Millais.


  1. I know a little bit. Not as much as I'd like, but enough to understand how such poetry might be inspired.

  2. Goethe's poem was actually written to his Father! And is referring to Italy where Germans were encouraged to go when they came of age to learn about the "good life": art, culture, love, nature etc.

    There are two more verses, but they are personal (remembering his father's house perhaps) and difficult for me to understand (wish I knew what was meant by dragons?), so I didn't translate them...

    Know’st thou the house?
    On columns rests its roof;
    Glitters the hall, the
    chambers gleam aloof;
    And marble statues stand
    and gaze at me;—
    “What have they done,
    poor little child, to thee?”
    Know’st thou the house?
    Ah, there, ah, there
    Would I with thee, O my
    protector, go.

    Know’st thou the mount,
    with cloud-enveloped track?
    The mule seeks out his
    way in mist and rack;
    In caverns dwells the
    dragon’s ancient brood;
    Down leaps the crag, and
    over it the flood!
    Know’st thou the mount?
    Ah, there, ah, there
    Leadeth our road, O
    father, let us go!

    By the way Jon, you know how Phae has dragon imagery in her poetry, the dragon seen as a negative force unlike in far Eastern mythology. But interestingly, I read some quote translating from old Chinese texts saying "the man must tame the tiger, the woman the dragon" so the positive connotations of dragons was maybe for the male!

  3. The tiger is a big cat, and of course cats are symbolically feminine...

    The dragon I think was a symbol of fertility, and also a bringer or rain.