chapter  54
2 Pages

GOETHE quotes the Satire against Mankind 1814

The gayest and the most serious works have the same end, namely, to moderate both joy and pain by a felicitous intellectual representation. If in this light we look at the majority of the English, mostly moral didactic, poems, they will, on the average, only show us a gloomy dissatisfaction with life. Not only Young’s Night Thoughts, where this theme is preeminently worked out, but also the other meditative poems wander, before one is aware of it, into this mournful region, where a task is presented to the understanding, which it is insufficient to solve, since even religion, which a man can always construct for himself, here leaves him in the lurch. Whole volumes might be compiled which could serve as a commentary to this frightful text:

Then Old Age and Experience, hand in hand, Lead him to death, and make him understand, After a search so painful and so long, That all his life he has been in the wrong.1