Who was this guy, Go-‘ee-thee (Goethe)?

Who was this guy, Go-ee’-thee?

I know.  I write about German things and especially Goethe a lot.  A century ago that would have been the norm.  German was taught in the secondary schools.  Until the Kaiser thought it neat to try to link up with the Mexicans in WW1 to invade the US, it was a neck and neck race in public opinion as to whether we would enter the war on their side.

Germans, not Englishmen, were amongst the first immigrants to the New World.  Buy the time the English got here, they were so settled in that nobody thought of them as foreign.

So right off the bat, pronunciation.  I owe it to the last polymath (universal genius) of the Western world to get folks at least a bit closer to how he would have said his name.

  1. SaY Ger-tuh,  Go on, do it—out loud.
  2. Add a little change to the [-er-]:  as you say it, try wrapping your lips around it as if you were trying to say the [w] in [wood].   Yes, you who thinks this is rinky-dink, try it.
  3. that little change is called an Umlaut, or altered sound.  It appears in today’s German as two dots above [a]. [o] and [u] in certain spots:  ä (or in older German ae), ö (or in older German as oe  – like Goethe—today his name could and would most likely be written Göte or Göthe—[th] is pronounced just the same as our [t] in Getman) and ü (or in older German as ue).

OK, I am done doing German training for old time’s sake.

Now Goethe/Göte/Göthe.

He was born in 1749 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, he died in 1832 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  The [von] was added when someone had been elevated into the nobility.  The French use, I believe, the prefix d’ or de’ before a family name to indicate nobility, von (of or from) does the same in German.

What he did between those dates made him the very first international celebrity —Napoleon thought his first novel, The Sufferings of Young Werther, one of the greatest works in western literature.  He wrote that at age 24—but I am getting ahead of myself.

When you read the short bio of him below, remember this:  by our standards, his way of life was hard, possibly even primitive. The shortest way to describe life in 18th and early 18th century Central Europe is the titis of a great book about life before that time: A World Lit only by Fire.

  • you wrote everything by hand: no spell check, no moving paragraphs around, no grammar checks.  Lots of crossings out, arrows, etc.  Some of Goethes most famous works were written without any edits at all — including the most famous poem in german, considered by many (including me) to be a perfect work.
  • he wrote in German when the languages of culture then were French and Italian. 
  • He did some jail time for having taken philandering too far and too lightly.
  • No easy way to compare notes with other like minded folks. Want to share a document? It had to be carried by a friend, or the Post–but only to the borders of the little dukedom in which you lived. It was one of 100+ German speaking little -doms in Central Europe, and you had to arrange visas permits, yellow coach mail service in every one between your home and the end target. Things were MUCH slower.
  • Getting sick could well be fatal. No antibiotics, not even antiseptic treatments: bleeding was a favorite, using leeches to draw blood (yours). Surgeons traveled like barbers, announced their arrivals with drums, music: no setting up ahead of time. Some were not too bad, most were quacks.
  • Democracy? No. At best, an enlighlened absolute monarch/ Goethe lucked out that way with a supportive, enlightend Duke in Weimar – -but still an absolute ruiler. Lots of mother-may-I to do just routine stuff, like go to the next -dom for a vacation.
  • Travel: by yellow coach (yellow easily seen, meant mail too). Dusty, hot, crowded over rutted, bumpy dirt roads that could and did break wheels, axles out where the only help was passengers and lawlessness was more likely than in town. Rest areas? No–inns, to feed horses, have a fast beer, climb. back up and rumble off again. Overnight: unlikely a room of your own. MOre likely sleeping in same bed with one or two others, and having o keep your valuables safe on your own.
  • Sanitation? Perhaps partly indoors and private, more than likely outdoors, or even just dump the night pan out the window into the street gutter. That may have been on the wane by then, and bathing … there was a reason for perfumes.

That’s just a short overview. Bottom line is double edged: a life hard physically, mentally, spiritually but at the same time, one that left anyone who lived it on its terms with a very up close and personal experience of all the pluses and minuses of human life. And one that landed in one of the most productive times for great art ever: Goethe, Schiller (poem of Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s 9th Symphon), Mozart, Beethoven and so on.  A hard time alive with the spark of learning and creating.

Which is why Faust, which Goethe honed into a great work for a long time, is in its story of selling the soul to the devil not just some theory but the literary-distillation of an unassailable depth and breadth of living by its author.

That legacy is well worth studying, loving, embracing and advocating.  100 years of wars with the Germans on the other side has left us out of touch with their huge contributions to Western Civilization. IT needs to be brought back. After all, we almost went into World War I on the side of the Kaiser. That is why I mention him so much.  .

About his life:

Goethe https://api.poets.org/sites/default/files/styles/poem_a_day_portrait/public/images/biographies/JohannWolfgangvonGoethe_NewBioImage.png?itok=UCja0V4Q

“By the time he completed his studies, he had composed a satirical crime comedy, fallen in love with folk poetry, and developed a deep affinity for Shakespeare, the figure responsible for what he termed his “personal awakening.”

Throughout the 1770s, Goethe practiced a unique, progressive version of law across Germany, while maintaining a side career as an editor, playwright, and poet. He wrote his first widely-read novel, the loosely-autobiographical, joyfully-romantic tragedy, The Sorrows of Young Werther, in 1774, at the age of 24. The book was an instant international success. Napolean Bonaparte called it one of the greatest works of European Literature. It sparked the phenomenon “Werther-Fieber” (“Werther Fever”), in which young men throughout Europe began dressing like the tragic protagonist, and brought Goethe to the court of Carl August, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, where he would become an important advisor….

Despite his success and influence as a poet, Goethe expressed that he took no pride in his literary accomplishments, and believed instead that his work as a philosopher and scientist—in particular his theories about color—would be his true legacy. However, his writings—emotive, far-reaching, prophetic, and formal—stimulated generations of Western literature and thought. Randall Jarrell, who translated Faust from his Poet Laureate’s office at the Library of Congress, called him his “own favorite daemon, dear good great Goethe.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, deeply influenced by Goethe’s merging of science and art, called Goethe the “surpassing intellect of modern times,” and said of his life:

Such was his capacity, that the magazines of the world’s ancient or modern wealth, which arts and intercourse and skepticism could command,—he wanted them all. Had there been twice so much, he could have used it as well. Geologist, mechanic, merchant, chemist, king, radical, painter, composer,—all worked for him, and a thousand men seemed to look through his eyes. He learned as readily as other men breathe. Of all the men of this time, not one has seemed so much at home in it as he. He was not afraid to live.

Goethe died in Weimar on March 22, 1832. He is buried in the Ducal Vault at Weimar’s Historical Cemetery.”

Amerika/America, du hast/you had….

We are nowhere near the end of the Trump-thumping we are taking.. We are not at the beginnig of the end, nor the end of the beginning.  We may be at the start of the beginning.  And that makes it all even more sad and urgent.  We have already lost so much; it is such a great shame.

Towards the end of his life, the great German poet, scientist, lawyer, statesman etc;, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) became very enchanted with the energy, robust freedom and lack of a haunting past in the young American Republic.  During those later years he wrote the following poem (here in English translation praising and expressing an important hope about us and  our republic:

(If you want to know more about who Goethe was, read my post “Who is this guy Go-ee’-thee (Goethe)?

Amerika du hast es besser

America, you have it better

Than our old continent.

You have no tumbledown castles

And no basalt deposits.

Your present is not disturbed deep down by

Useless remembrance and vain strife.

Use the present with good fortune!

And if your children write poetry,

May a kindly fate guard them from writing

Stories of knights, rascals, and specters.

http://www.bachlund.org/Amerika.htm

 translation by Marilyn Barnett

One of DT’s first targets for negation remains our fragile, wilting ecosystem.  We must get it back under control —and fast—.  Before DT touched nature with his cold, dead hands, an annual reduction of atmospheric hydrocarbons by 2% would have saved us-but we were barely making that. Now after he has negated our environmental protection, the yearly target for a timespan 4 years shorter than in 2016 is 5%.  And we had been barely eking out a scrawny 2%…. If we fail now, there will not be a second chance, the resulting inhospitable, lethal climate will make this planet uninhabitable.

Let us remember the hopes and faith that so many had for us so many years ago.

But we can only get to the end of the beginning by accepting without filtering where we are today. That’s the first step.

To that end, today Goethe’s hopeful poem could only be written something like this:

Amerika, du hattest es besser…

America, you had it better

Than our old continent.

But you failed to save your forests and oceans, 

You permanently poisoned pristine waters.

Shame! your present is blighted by leaders of

Useless remembrance and vain strife.

You misused the present in bad faith!

And your children will never write verse,

Condemned by drudge lackeys and their bumbling boss, to

end with a whimper: 

as nature winds down in reverse..

Where indeed have all the flowers gone, long time passing? How much pain must good men endure, before they throw off this yoke?

  

Step One

General Henning von Tresckow was the leader of plots to kill Hitler, including the Valkyrie plot. After the failure of Valkyrie, he killed himself with his pistol so that the Gestapo or Schutzstaffel could not extort or torture information from him about his co-conspirators.

The time for elegant analysis of why we are vulnerable to autocracy, to rule by whim replacing the rule of law has passed. We no longer need be concerned about the advent of autocracy and arbitrary rule. It is our government now.

What we need to know is that Barr and Trump are sparring about whether the President can intervene into cases being handled by the Attorney General. This may be about legal powers: I do not know. More fundamentally it is about norms for behavior. It is about maintaining one of the reasons for the revolution of 1776: making sure that the prosecuting arm of the highest executive function does not become both investigator and judge without jury or habeas corpus.

Trump has callously violated the rule of law and the life of liberty. That is not an inference, it is a manifest fact. Regardless of the toady subversion called the Impeachment Acquittal, if we want our almost three centuries of building, trying failing re-trying to have been for naught, we just let DT continue to intimidate and subvert. If we want to say that our national heritage leaders —Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Lincoln, TR, FDR, Reagan, etc — all were wrong, we just let DT continue to twitter his way to crony governance, crony economy, and broken nation.

The love of that tradition, pride in our achievements in that tradition, highest respect and honor to those who did their duties in liberty, who gave it all in war, who challenged us to be better with their own words and examples, who taught us what our past and our heritage are—that all was made part of my soul starting on De ember 7, 1941, three months after I was born. The lessons continued — uninterrupted but often taught in grave conflict and meted out in dangerous situations—until the 2016 election. It was there to see in Trumps behavior: read the motivational tea leaves—he wanted and wants to control it all. Worse, he believes he can do it— just as did Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and every other tyrant who has ever made life for the rest of us close to unbearable.

The hope that being in office might shape DT to our historical norms was in vain. It died when the Senate acquitted him and in so doing, thumbed their cowards’ noses to liberty under the rule of law. Breathing the sweet air of liberty has been the foundation, the sine qua non, of me, my soul. It is the first joy upon awakening, the last gratitude before sleep. It was The Default.

Now I can see that I was wrong. Shame on me for having been unwilling to accept that sad development. Shame on us for having spawned it.

One exception to that shaming,however: : a hesitant attaboy to the A. G for having told Trump to keep out of the Attorney General’s affairs, to stop tweeting about ongoing cases in the Department of Justice. That was the right direction, it was the right thing to do despite Trumps threatening response that he could take over if he wanted to.

All we need to see

Here are some of the examples of commitment to duty and the sweet land of liberty, that make me proud and drive me today:

My uncle, who was Director of Physical Education for the State of Michigan, and who as a commissioned officer with Gene Tunney designed the physical education program for the US Navy in World War Two.
Left to right: Mom, me riding piggy back on my uncle, 1st Lieutenant US Army FIeld Infantry, his wife: mid 1944 before he was sent to Europe and fought in the Battle of the Huertgen Forest. He never spoke of it, but after his return home, he destroyed the hundreds of letters he had written while overseas.
General Lucian Truscott and his staff at Anzio. He led the doomed US force out of the death pocket in Anzio. In a nearly hopeless situation, he and his omen are optimistic; American ended in I CAN for them. Some months later he spoke at the new US Cemetery in Nettuno. Instead of addressing the guests, he turned and addressed the dead, many of whom were under his command. He said he apologized, because there was no glory in dying at 19 years and he was responsible. And if he met any old men who thought otherwise, he would set them straight.
My Mom posing in a photo campaign to support rationing during World War Two;

The situation is clear, at least to me: this is unacceptable. It violates my own sense of self. Standing for our constitutional structure, honoring our heritage of democratic norms in leadership, defending them as the right moral way —that will always be what our duty is. It boils down to two important burning questions:

How much will I give out of love for the sweet clear mental, physical, spiritual air of liberty under law?

Do you and I know in our souls that it is our moral and patriotic duty to oppose Trump’s American Tyranny—and if we, the weak, do not, the US will be Trump’s forever? Am I clear that if we do not, then who will?

CATEGORICALLY Unacceptable

This is the time to be ramping up defenses against Coronavirus. Does it look in the picture above that Donald gives a damn about anything besides his fake tan? Well, he does not and we will pay a huge price for his malfeasance. Just when we face a pandemic with no treatments and need to put on the greatest push, he takes away the funding.

The German Robert Koch Institute reported yesterday that the number of cases of the Coronavirus in China (yesterday 45000 with 1100 deaths) had possibly stabilized. That was cause for tentative, cautious relief. In the same breath, however, it warns that a worldwide pandemic of Coronavirus is still entirely possible.

And today Die Zeit reporrts that a professor at the Berlin Charité said that the worldwide count had reached 60000 with ~1300 deaths from the virus. (ca 2%–about where it has been all along). He also said that a new variant of the disease is spreading, and that experts estimate high numbers of infections worldwide, although for most the infection would be mild and not life threeatening. The major concern was and is Africa where public health institutions are weakest. Africa could be the cannon that shoots the virus around the world and soon. The best estimates are, according to the DIe Zeit reports, that the virus could infect 60% of the worlds population.

From the report yesterday, it is clear tha despite all out efforts around the globe to hold back the virus and then to stop it, help is not just around the corner. There are three or four good candidates for vaccines, but human testing will not begin for ar least three months. And the WHO reports that a working vaccine distribution is probably still 18 months away.

The US had in 2018 a population of 327.2 million. That would mean 196, 320,000 people sick with corona virus. If the death rate remains around 2.1-2.4 %, that means 4,711.680 people dyiing from this. It could happen very soon. And there will be no vaccine.

We, those 327 million people, who rely on CDC and NIH to help us in such emergencies, have been thrown under the bus in the President’s budget proposal. Ir will reduce all Federal funding for just about every aspect of healthcare we have. And as is usual with the Reaganomics infected Republican minds, those least able to defend themselves will be hit the hardest. That means Trumps base still some Evangelicals and the blue collar sector. As they as a group will certainly rely at least as much as the rest of us on Medicare, Medicaid, federal aid, vaccines, hospitals which take Medicare and Medicaid, this time their boy will be goring their ox.

Listen up for once! Your Man on the White Golf Cart threw me and you under the bus so that his rich buddies and controllers can keep on sucking the wealth out of your pockets.

Wake up Red State dreamers! Forget all the blather from the highl paid verbal bullies at Fox News. Follow the one thing that their well greased propaganda cannot hide for long: the money. It is NOT GOING TO YOU OR ME. It is going to those at the top of the wealth pile here who do not need it, who have not earned it and whose loyalty is to their own assets, not us the people who do the work that keeps their systems alive.

Is this what a Great America looks like: 60% of its citizens ill, 2% dying and no resources, no care, nothing at all available to help?

Does a Great country have a President who will sacrifice YOU so that he can set up an economy to do only for himself and his controllers what he has never been able to do: grow wealth–?

What is wrong with your perceptions? Follow the money, it does not flow into your pockets or mine.

The emergency alarms are all clanging frantically. He is letting pollutin slow down cleaning of your air, when we must MUSTR speed it up to save our planet. And if that were nor bad enough, now he wants to cripple your health. Both the budget and its dangerous, callous, dead-soul champion are categorically unacceptable and deserve only maximum contempt . Pray for him, yes: and until God exacts His vengeance onto DT, give Donald the gold treatment: do unto Donald only Donald has done unto you.