“The Night” – A poem by Johann W. Goethe

Context: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was one of the most well-known writers during Weimar Classicism and Sturm und Drang periods. He wrote Novels and Poetry but also a number of non-fictional works. He became a celebrity much thanks to the success of his literary debut; a novella called The Sorrows of young Werther (1774). In civil life Goethe was a manager at the theatre in Weimar and a prominent member of the City Council as well. At the age of 16 he went to the University of Leipzig and studied Law. As a student he also discovered a life long passion for Literature. The poem “Die Nacht” (1768) exists in several versions since it’s also a Song (Lied), but with minor variations.

Themes: I’ve translated the poem from German 🙂 and we can discover some themes typical of Romanticism (Heart, Feelings, Nature, Nostalgia). The major theme is undoubtedly the Night itself. Goethe wrote many poems on this theme and is famous for his quote: “‘Night is the other half of life, and the better half.'” Make some attention to the place where the narrator is present – a forest. He’s leaving his hut as the nightly adventure begins. Luna, the Moon is used as a personification here and she’s real. Pay some attention to the use adjectives.

The Night

1768

Gladly I left this hut
My beautiful residence.
And with quiet steps through
This extinct forest.
Luna breaks through the Oaks of the Night
Zephyrs report on their way,
And the bowing birches scatter with tilt
Their most sweetest incense.

Showers, the heart feels
Makes the soul melt
To walk among the bushes in the cooling air
What a beautiful, sweet Night!
Happiness, sensuality can hardly be grasped
And still I will make a Heaven
From a thousand of your Nights
And to my maidservant, one.

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