is repelled, sensing behind the letters a lonelynabstractionmonger, a man afraid to live. Another yearnpasses. Then, in the course of a travel, Goethe stops at thenvillage where the letters were posted. He inquires, andnwithout unmasking his own identity, presents himself at thenyoung man’s house. The latter receives him with passionatenreverence, then tells him the story of his vain efforts. Hisnpersonality is fully revealed to the poet, who flees. The nextnday he leaves town, sending only a note of excuse.nOne evening’s conversation made clear to the poet thatnthis passionate and somber young man was living throughnothers, fichonal figures or their authors. An advancenmessenger of the new age, romantic and subjective. Goethenindeed was to make remarks similar to those of Chateaubriandnabout the new age in which experience will dry up andnpeople li’e as behind a screen. From Italy, where hisnhungry senses were filled to the brim, he wrote to Fran vonnStein these sober lines: “The new age will transform societyninto a huge hospital, and all of us into patients and nurses.”nThe welfare state, human rights, social protest,npsychoanalysis—everything is there, anticipated in thisnsingle obser-ation.nHe also foresaw the fashionable philosophies, phenomenology,nexistentialism. The first was an effort to prove that,nalthough I do not know the real, I know myself in thenprocess of knowing; the second was an effort to prove that 1nam so much I that I must regard the world as hostile—andnfeel nausea when it intrudes. Goethe had no such problems,nfor, as Claude] said of Rimbaud, for him, too, then”outside world exists.” Such a statement is toda’ the greatestnscandal for writers, philosophers, and the ubiquitous “artists.”nEen students in their ery first philosophy class inncollege are taught, not that the world exists, but that theynmust doubt een their own existence—in- the shadows ofnDescartes, Kant (whom Goethe could not stand), andnWittgenstein.nYet, Goethe was incurably an “inner man,” struggling allnhis life, until about 70, to achieve the state of a “balancednman,” to incarnate the harmony between the lyrical andnthe severe. Ludwig quotes Schiller, the only friend of hisnmind, who said of Goethe at 50 that he was equilibriumnpersonified, an Apollonian statue. Quite rightiy, the biographernberates the witness, and we know why from Goethe’snnotes. Fbre’er torn, yet making the correct choices; everythingnalways sacrificed for the creative work, for penetrationninto secrets: of the nature of light, the life of plants,nconciseness in exposition, the human heart.nWith all that, discretion, withdrawal, form imposed onncontent, sense of duty, measure. These aspects are perhapsnmost in contrast with today’s fashion defined by prizes givennaccording to the number of copulations and defecations onnpage, stage, and screen. Ludwig tells us of torrid love affairsnin young and older Goethe’s life, something you wouldnneer guess from the poet’s own diary. Fifty years later, henis still protecting reputations. Here and there a personalnremark, although his soul and dreams are otherwise open tonthe reader. Always, he is simple. He writes about thencampaign against the revolutionary French armies: “Theyngathered around me eagerly [the German soldiers justndefeated at Valmy] knowing I would cheer them up withngood-natured stories, pertinent remarks.” “The young mann[himself, in third person] had littie to recommend him tonthe ladies, except perhaps his dark, intense eyes and hisnability to write poems anywhere, any time, on any subject.”n”I left Frederike [a great love of his twenty years] on thenroad, I on horseback, kissing her hand. We both knew thatnit was the last time.”nPeople, and students in “creative writing” classes, nonlonger write like this—or do they now only use tapenrecorders? It used to be not Goethe’s style alone, it was thatnof his age: Voltaire and Dr. Johnson, the sentimentalnRousseau and the Rousseauist/Wertherian Chateaubriand,nthe eroticising Choderlos de Laclos, Stendahl—thev allnwrote like this; with ease, flowing sentences, the welltemperednword. In music, Mozart.nHow did they do it? Well, for one thing, by writing manynletters, then recopying them, reading them later in intimatencompany, publishing them in volumes for the like-minded.nToday, we regard the epistolary novel as a bore, yetnletter-writing taught people how to measure sentences onnan internal metronome, choose the one effective word,ncatch the fitting tone. In short, the method and thenobjective, in writing as in portrait or landscape painting,nadjusted to the concrete world, neither runaway subjectivism,nnor experience filtered through other people’s lies.nThis is how simplicity was mastered.nOnce at the top of mastery—of oneself and one’snstle—a barely breathed poem may express the entirenhuman cosmos. At 28, Goethe carved this in the woodennwall of a log cabin, in the mountains:nAlles ist Ruh in dem Walde,nWarte nur, BaldenRuhest du auch.nAll is quiet in the woods,n• Wait a little. SoonnYou too will know rest.nnnA dream at 28, achieved by 70. Between the two, he wasnpaying the price. ccnFEBRUARY 1986 / 27n