Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

German Poet, Dramatist, Natural Philosopher, Novelist, Courtier

"A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows and rows of natural objects, classified with name and form."

"Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute. What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Begin it and the work will be completed."

"As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live."

"Austere perseverance, harsh and continuous, may be employed by the least of us and rarely fails of its purpose, for its silent power grows irreversibly greater with time."

"Behavior is a mirror, in which everyone shows his image."

"Confronted by outstanding merit in another, there is no way of saving one's ego except by love."

"Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower."

"Courage and modesty are the most unequivocal of virtues, for they are of a kind that hypocrisy cannot imitate; they too have this quality in common, that they are expressed by the same color."

"Death is a commingling of eternity with time; in the death of a good man, eternity is seen looking through time."

"Don't judge anyone harshly until you yourself have been through his experiences."

"Each one sees what he carries in his heart."

"Enjoy when you can, endure when you must."

"Errors belong to libraries; truth, to the human mind."

"Every man bears something within him that, if it were publicly announced, would excite feelings of aversion."

"Every situation - nay, every moment - is of infinite worth, for it is the representative of a whole eternity."

"Everybody wants to be somebody: nobody wants to grow."

"Excessive scruple is only hidden pride."

"Few are open to conviction, but the majority of men are open to persuasion."

"Forget not that the man who cannot enjoy his own natural gifts is silence, and find his reward in the; exercise of them, will generally find himself badly off."

"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home."

"He who is resolute conquers grief."

"He who moves not forward goes backward."

"He who seizes on the moment, he is the right man."

"He who serves the public is a poor animal; he worries himself to death and no one thanks him for it."

"How can you come to know yourself? Never by thinking; always by doing. Try to do your duty, and you'll know right away what you amount to. And what is your duty? Whatever the day calls for."

"How shall we learn to know ourselves? By reflection? Never; but only through action. Strive to do thy duty; then shalt thou know what is in thee."

"I am fully convinced that the soul is indestructible, and that its activity will continue through eternity. It is like the sun, which, to our eyes, seems to set at night; but it has in reality only gone to diffuse its light elsewhere."

"I can promise to be sincere, but I cannot promise to be impartial."

"I respect the man who knows distinctly what he wishes. The greater part of all the mischief in the world arises from the fact that men do not sufficiently understand their own aims. They have undertaken to build a tower, and spend no more labor on the foundation than would be necessary to erect a hut."

"If a man thinks about his physical or moral state, he usually discovers that he is ill."

"If everyone sweeps before his own front door, then the street is clean."

"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 you must tell me your opinions, tell me what you believe in. I have plenty of doubts of my own."

"If you wish the blossom of the early and fruit of the late years, Wish what is charming and exciting, as well as nourishing and substantial. Wish to capture in one name heaven and earth."

"If you would create something, you must be something."

"In all things it is better to hope than to despair."

"In the works of man as in those of nature, it is the intention which is chiefly worth studying."

"Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes."

"Life is the childhood of our immortality."

"Life teaches us to be less harsh with ourselves and with others."

"Man can only endure a certain degree of unhappiness; what is beyond that either annihilates him or passes by him and leaves him apathetic."

"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."

"Men are much more apt to agree in what they do than in what they think."

"Most people work for the greater part of their time for a mere living; and the little freedom which remains to them so troubles them that they use every means of getting rid of it."

"Necessity is cruel, but it is the only test of inward strength. Every fool may live according to his own likings."

"No one knows what he is doing so long as he is acting rightly; but of what is wrong one is always conscious."

"No wonder we are all more or less pleased with mediocrity, since it leaves us at rest, and gives the same comfortable feeling as when one associates with his equals."

"Nothing serves better to illustrate a man’s character than the things which he finds ridiculous. the ridiculous arises from a moral contrast which is innocently placed before the senses. The sensual man will often laugh when there is nothing to laugh at. Whatever it may be that moves him, he will always reveal the fact that he is pleased with himself."

"Of all thieves, fools are the worst; they rob you of time and temper."

"One always has time enough if only one applies it well."