Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

German Poet, Dramatist, Natural Philosopher, Novelist, Courtier

"Altogether, national hatred is something peculiar. You always find it strongest and most violent where there is the lowest degree of culture."

"An old man forfeits one of the greatest of human rights: no longer is he judged by his peers."

"Architecture is frozen music."

"Art is long, life short; judgment difficult, opportunity transient."

"As our inclinations, so our opinions."

"As soon as any one belongs to a narrow creed in science, every unprejudiced and true perception is gone."

"As students of nature we are pantheists, as poets polytheists, as moral beings monotheists."

"At bottom, no real object is unpoetical, if the poet knows how to use it properly."

"Be always resolute with the present hour. Every moment is of infinite value; for it is the representative of eternity."

"Beauty is at once the ultimate principle and the highest aim of art."

"Beauty vanishes; virtue is lasting."

"Beware of dissipating your powers; strive constantly to concentrate them. Genius thinks it can do whatever it sees others doing, but it is sure to repent of every ill-judged outlay."

"Character develops itself in the stream of life."

"Devote each day to the object then in time, and every evening will find something done."

"Do not, I beg you, look for anything behind phenomena. They are themselves their own lesson."

"Duty is carrying on promptly and faithfully the affairs now before you. It is to fulfill the claims of to-day."

"Every great idea exerts, on first appearing, a tyrannical influence: hence the advantages it brings are turned all too soon into disadvantages."

"Every solution of a problem is a new problem."

"Everyone believes in his youth that the world really began with him, and that all merely exist for his sake."

"Fools and wise men are equally harmless. It is the half-fools and the half-wise that are dangerous."

"Generally speaking, an author's style is a faithful copy of his mind. If you would write a lucid style, let there first be light in your own mind; and if you would write a grand style, you ought to have a grand character."

"Girls we love for what they are; young men for what they promise to be."

"Go to the place where the thing you wish to know is native; your best teacher is there. Where the thing you wish to know is so dominant that you must breathe its very atmosphere, there teaching is most thorough, and learning is most easy. You acquire a language most readily in the country where it is spoken; you study mineralogy best among miners; and so with everything else."

"Give me the benefits of your convictions, if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself, for I have enough of my own."

"Happy the man who early learns the wise chasm that lies between his wishes and his powers."

"Hatred is active, and envy passive dislike; there is but one step from envy to hate."

"He only is happy as well as great who needs neither to obey nor command in order to be something."

"He who does not know the mechanical side of a craft cannot judge it."

"He who enjoys doing and enjoys what he has done is happy."

"He who is firm and resolute in will molds the world to himself."

"He who is plenteously provided for from within, needs but little from without."

"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. He must raise temples where mankind may come and partake of the purest pleasure."

"Hypotheses are only the pieces of scaffolding during the course of construction, and which are taken away as soon as the edifice is finished."

"I reverence the individual who understands distinctly what he wishes; who unweariedly advances, who knows the means conducive to his object, and can seize and use them."

"I will listen to any one’s convictions, but pray keep your doubts to yourself."

"If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses."

"If you treat an individual as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be"

"Imagination is nature's equal, sensuality her slave."

"In every artist there is a touch of audacity without which no talent is conceivable."

"In his youth, everybody believes that the world began to exist only when he was born, and that everything really exists only for his sake."

"Inside yourself or outside, you never have to change what you see, only the way you see it."

"It is better to be deceived by one's friends than to deceive them."

"It is better to do the most trifling thing in the world than to regard half an hour as a trifle."

"It is delightful to transport one’s self into the spirit of the past, to see how a wise man has thought before us, and to what a glorious height we have at last reached."

"It is easier to perceive error than to find truth, for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen, while the later lies in the depth, where few are willing to search for it."

"It is natural to man to regard himself as the object of the creation, and to think of all things in relation to himself, and the degree in which they can serve and be useful to him."

"It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise."

"It is not just as we take it, this mystical world of ours: life's field will yield as we make it."

"Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together."

"Law is mighty, necessity is mightier."