« AnteriorContinuar »
Who vice in all its pomp and power, can treat with just
neglect; And piety, though clothed in rags, religiously respect;
Who to his plighted vows and trust has ever firmly
stood; And though he promise to his loss, he makes his promise
Whose soul in usury disdains his treasure to employ; Whom no rewards can ever bribe the guiltless to destroy ;
The man who, by this steady course, has happiness in
sured, When earth's foundations shake, shall stand by Providence
A Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical
Life. 1. Never put off till to-morrow what you can do today.
2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. 3. Never spend your money before you have it.
4. Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold. 6. We never repent of having eaten too little. 7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened !
9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
10. When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.
(A. D. 1749–1832.)
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, the greatest of German poets, was born at Frankfort-on-the-Main on the 28th of August, 1749.
His family was one of comparative wealth and good social position. He was educated for the law, but gave it little attention in practice, devoting himself to literature from his youth. In 1775, on the invitation of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he fixed his residence at Weimar, which became, through his influence, the literary capital of Germany. He was made privy councillor and president of the ducal chamber. His earliest tragedy, “Götz von Berlichingen," was produced in 1773; his youthful novel, “The Sorrows of Young Werther ” was written in 1774. His greater work in prose fiction, “Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre,' was begun in 1777 and finished in 1796. His greatest dramatic work, the tragedy of “Faust, was under his
for nearly sixty years, from 1772, when some of its scenes were sketched, until 1831. The first part of the drama was published in 1808; the second only a few months before his death, which occurred at Weimar on the 22d of March, 1832.
“Goethe is a perfect Solomon for proverbs; they pour from him in floods. He has such an abundance of them to communicate that he is often at a loss where to find room for them, and puts them recklessly into the mouths of personages who cannot reasonably be credited with such a rare talent for generalization. . He is a sage as truly as he is a poet, and never, unless in Shakespeare, has such another combination of the generalizing with the imaginative faculty been witnessed. But when we examine his wisdom, we find that it is much more than a mere instinctive habit of observation combined with an unrivalled power of expression. His sentences are not mere detached fragments, or momentary
flashes, of insight. They are the coherent aphorisms of a sort of practical philosophy. He is not merely a sage, he is even a philosopher. He is a philosopher in a higher degree than any other literary man, and has produced a deeper impression than any literary man upon thinkers and students. Though in the modern sense we hesitate to call him a philosopher, yet in the old sense, and in the highest sense of the name, few of the recognized philosophers have nearly so good a title to it as he. For to him philosophy is not merely a study, but a life; it is not summed up in thinking and classifying and constructing systems, but extends to all departments of activity. And it would be difficult to name the philosopher who has devoted himself with more methodical seriousness than Goethe to the problem of leading, and then of teaching, the best and most desirable kind of life. He conceives the problem in its largest possible extent. From prudential maxims in the style of Johnson, he rises to more general precepts on the choice of a vocation, pouring out a fund of wisdom peculiarly his own on the mistakes men make about their own aptitudes; then he dwells more particularly on the life of the artist, a subject till then scarcely noticed by moralists, but treated by Goethe with the greatest comprehensiveness; then he rises to morality and religion. On all subjects alike he is serious; on all subjects perfectly unfettered.
He has the advantage of a vast experience, for he has practised many arts, tasted almost every literature, informed himself about every science." —J. R. SEELEY, "Goethe reviewed after Sixty Years," ch. 3.
GOETHE’S MAXIMS AND REFLECTIONS.
(Selected from “Maxims and Reflections from the German of Goethe ; “Fraser's Magazine,” March, 1876.)
All that is wise has been thought already; we must try, however, to think it again.
How shall you learn to know yourself ? Not by contemplation, but action. Strive to do your duty, and you will soon discover what stuff you are made of.
But what is your duty ? — To fulfil the claims of the
Every one must think in his own way; for he will always discover some sort of truth or approximation to truth which helps him through his life. But he must not let himself drift along ; he must exercise self-control; it beseems not man to allow himself to be ruled by mere instinct.
Unlimited activity of whatever kind must at last end in bankruptcy.
What we plan, what we undertake, should already be so clearly mapped out and so beautiful in its proportions that the World by interfering could only mar it. We should thus be in an advantageous position to adjust what might have got out of joint, and to replace what had been destroyed.
A great mistake: to hold oneself too high and rate oneself too cheap.
We are only really alive when we enjoy the goodwill of others.
- One must do more when one is old than when one was young."
Even the fulfilment of duty leaves a sense of being indebted, because we are never thoroughly satisfied with ourselves.
In contemplation, as well as in action, we must distinguish between what is attainable and what is not : fail
ing this, we can accomplish little either in life or knowledge.
Errors are not of much consequence in youth, but we must guard against dragging them with us into our old age.
Superannuated errors are fusty, unprofitable lumber.
Let memory fail so long as you can rely on your judgment at a moment's notice.
I should say the happiest man is he who can link the end of his life with its commencement.
(Selected from “Maxims and Reflections of Goethe,” translated
by Thomas Bailey Saunders.)
One need only grow old to become gentler in one's judgments. I see no fault committed which I could not have committed myself.
It is much easier to recognize error than to find truth ; for error lies on the surface and may be overcome;
but truth lies in the depths, and to search for it is not given to every one.
Ingratitude is always a kind of weakness. I have never known men of ability to be ungrateful.
There are people who make no mistakes because they never wish to do anything worth doing.
If a man knows where to get good advice, it is as though he could supply it himself.
In the world people take a man at his own estimate ; but he must estimate himself at something. Disagreeableness is more easily tolerated than insignificance.
A man's manners are the mirror in which he shows his portrait.
There is a politeness of the heart, and it is allied to love. It produces the most agreeable politeness of outward demeanour.