Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

German dramatist, novelist, poet, & scientist (1749 - 1832)

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I can tell you, honest friend, what to believe: believe life; it teaches better that book or orator.

Categorized under Beliefs

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Every step of life shows much caution is required.

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What I possess I would gladly retain. Change amuses the mind, yet scarcely profits.

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The coward only threatens when he is safe.

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To appreciate the noble is a gain which can never be torn from us.

Categorized under Culture

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

Categorized under Death

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Love and desire are the spirit's wings to great deeds.

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

Categorized under Eternity

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Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.

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The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and beginning of his life.

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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 every ill-judged outlay.

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For a man to achieve all that is demanded of him he must regard himself as greater than he is.

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Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Categorized under Life

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Life is the childhood of our immortality.

Categorized under Life

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The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation.

Categorized under Literature

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It is equally a mistake to hold one's self too high, or to rate one's self too cheap.

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Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.

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On every mountain height is rest.

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Alas! sorrow from happiness is oft evolved.

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Nothing is more fearful than imagination without taste.

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

Categorized under Time

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One always has time enough, if one will apply it well.

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

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

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Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it. Others do just the same with their time.

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

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We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.

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Everything in the world may be endured except continued prosperity.

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One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words.

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One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.

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We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.

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Men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable.

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Oh God, how do the world and heavens confine themselves, when our hearts tremble in their own barriers!

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I do not know myself, and God forbid that I should.

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The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.

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Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.

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We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.

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More light! Give me more light!

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Mathematicians are like Frenchmen: whatever you say to them they translate into their own language, and forthwith it is something entirely different.

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Treat people as if they were what they should be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.

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

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Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.

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If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought and could be.

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The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities, but to know that there is someone who, though distant, thinks and feels with us -- this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.

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Talents are best nurtured in solitude; but character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.

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We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.

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A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.

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Live dangerously and you live right.

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I love the deep quiet in which I live and grow against the world and harvest what they cannot take from me by fire or sword.

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A man can stand anything except a succession of ordinary days.

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That is the true season of love, when we believe that we alone can love, that no one could ever have loved so before us, and that no one will love in the same way after us.

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

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

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If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.

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Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him.

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There is nothing more dreadful than imagination without taste.

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When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.

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One ought every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.

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If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.

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I do not know everything; still many things I understand.

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There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.

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Noble be man,
Helpful and good!
For that alone
Sets him apart
From every other creature
On earth.

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What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

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So divinely is the world organized that every one of us, in our place and time, is in balance with everything else.

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When you take a man as he is, you make him worse. When you take a man as he can be, you make him better.

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Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one.

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You will always find [hatred] strongest and most violent where there is the lowest degree of culture.

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Reason can never be popular. Passions and feelings may become popular, but reason will always remain the sole property of a few eminent individuals.

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

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Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.

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The true, prescriptive artist strives after artistic truth; the lawless artist, following blind instinct, after an appearance of naturalness. The one leads to the highest peaks of art, the other to its lowest depths.

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Talent develops in tranquillity, character in the full current of human life.

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There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.

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I respect the man who knows distinctly what he wishes. The greater part of all 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.

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Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.

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Only learn to seize good fortune, for good fortune is always here.

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The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.

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Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

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When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.

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When ideas fail, words come in very handy.

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Age does not make us childish, as some say; it finds us true children.

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The artist alone sees spirits. But after he has told of their appearing to him, everybody sees them

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

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We know accurately only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases.

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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.

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The first and last thing required of genius is the love of truth.

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The phrases that men hear or repeat continually, end by becoming convictions and ossify the organs of intelligence.

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Whenever I hear people talking about "liberal ideas," I am always astounded that men should love to fool themselves with empty sounds. An idea should never be liberal; it must be vigorous, positive, and without loose ends so that it may fulfill its divine mission and be productive. The proper place for liberality is in the realm of the emotions.

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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.

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What is not fully understood is not possessed.

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Viewed from the summit of reason, all life looks like a malignant disease and the world like a madhouse.

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The society of women is the element of good manners.

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Everything in the world may be endured, except continual prosperity.

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Anecdotes and maxims are rich treasures to the man of the world, for he knows how to introduce the former at fit place in conversation.

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Trust yourself, then you will know how to live.

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All truly wise thoughts have been thoughts already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.

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There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love. From its springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.

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