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Goethe’s tricks!

October 16, 2009

Happy he, who has you as teacher
Now I’m almost willing to study theology.

I wouldn’t want you to be led astray.
To tell you the truth about this branch of learning,
it’s hard to keep from taking the wrong course,
and there’s a lot of latent poison in it
that hardly differs from the medicines it offers.
Here, too, it’s best to listen to a single teacher
and swear by every word he utters.
Make it a principle to give words your allegiance!
You then will enter by the one safe gate
into the temple of certitude.

But there must be ideas behind the words.

That’s true, but do not fret too much about it,
since it’s precisely when ideas are lacking
that some word will appear to save the situation.
Words are perfect for waging controversies,
with words you can construct entire systems,
in words you can place perfect faith,
and from a word no jot or tittle may be taken.

p. 51 in “Goethe: The Collected Works: Faust I & II. Edited and Translated by Stuart Atkins.”

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