And through a mysterious psychological turn, which probably deserves investigation, I believe that I have risen to a type of production which with entire consciousness has brought forth that which I myself still approve of—though perhaps without being able ever again to swim in this current—but which Aristotle and other prose-writers would even ascribe to a sort of madness. The difficulty of succeeding consisted in the fact that the second part of Faust—to whose printed portions you have possibly devoted some attention—has been pondered for fifty years in its ends and aims, and has been elaborated in fragmentary fashion, as one or the other situation occurred to me; but the whole has remained incomplete.
Now, the second part of Faust demands more of the understanding than the first does, and therefore it was necessary to prepare the reader, even though he must still supply bridges. The filling of certain gaps was obligatory both for historical and for aesthetic unity, and this I continued until at last I deemed it advisable to cry:
“Close ye the wat’ring canal; to their fill have the meadows now drunken.”
And now I had to take heart to seal the stitched copy in which printed and unprinted are thrust side by side, lest I might possibly be led into temptation to elaborate it here and there; at the same time I regret that I cannot communicate it to, my most valued friends, as the poet so gladly does.
I will not send my Metamorphosis of Plants, translated, with an appendix, by M. Soret, unless certain confessions of life would satisfy your friendship. Recently I have become more and more entangled in these phenomena of nature; they have enticed me to continue my labors in my original field, and have finally compelled me to remain in it. We shall see what is to be done there likewise, and shall trust the rest to the future, which, between ourselves, we burden with a heavier task than would be supposed.
From time to time let us not miss on either side an echo of continued existence.
GOETHE TO WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT
Weimar, March 17, 1832.
After a long, involuntary pause I begin as follows, and yet simply on the spur of the moment. Animals, the ancients said, were taught by their organs. I add to this, men also, although they have the advantage of teaching their organs in return.
For every act, and, consequently, for every talent, an innate tendency is requisite, working automatically, and unconsciously carrying with itself the necessary predisposition; yet, for this very reason, it works on and on inconsequently, so that, although it contains its laws within itself, it may, nevertheless, ultimately run out, devoid of end or aim. The earlier a man perceives that there is a handicraft or an art which will aid him to attain a normal increase of his natural talents, the more fortunate is he. Moreover, what he receives from without does not impair his innate individuality. The best genius is that which absorbs everything within itself, which knows how to adapt everything, without prejudicing in the least the real fundamental essence—the quality which is called character—so that it becomes the element which truly elevates that quality and endows it throughout so far as may be possible.