A charming first hand account of meeting the great Goethe, by the young German poet Friedrich Hölderlin, awe-struck but also reassured by the simplicity of his hero.  It made me wonder whom I would wish to meet if I had a single voucher to have tea with a famous figure.  Homer or Herodotus?  Keats? 

Yes, Keats.

I also made Goethe’s acquaintance. My heart was pounding as I went in through his door; you can imagine what it was like.  I didn’t actually meet him at his house, but later at Frau von Kalb’s.  Calm, with majesty in his eyes, and love too, extremely simple in his conversation, though now and then it’s spiced with a sharp jab at the idiocy around him.

 

Source: Friedrich Hölderlin, letter to Christian Ludwig Neuffer, 19 January 1795, Essays and Letters, trans. and ed. by Jeremy Adler and Charlie Louth (London: Penguin Books, 2009), p. 44

Image credits: Portrait of Goethe (1787), Angelica Kauffman; portrait of Hölderlin (1792), Franz Carl Hiemer; Hölderlin’s first three stanzas of his ode ‘Ermunterung’ (‘Exhortation’)

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Image credits: portrait of Hölderlin (1792), Franz Carl Hiemer; Hölderlin's first three stanzas of his ode 'Ermunterung' ('Exhortation')

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