Goethe to Schiller
Ober-Rossla, April 6, 1801.
I wish you all happiness upon your return to Weimar, and hope soon to see you again, either by your coming to pay me a visit or by my again repairing to town.
My stay here suits me very well, partly because I move about in the open air all day, partly because I am drawn down to the common objects of life, and thus there comes over me a certain feeling of nonchalance and indifference such as I have not known for a long time.With regard to the questions contained in your last letter, I not only agree with your opinion, but go even further. I think that everything that is done by genius as genius, is done unconsciously.
A person of genius can also act rationally, with reflection, from conviction, but this is all done, as it were, indirectly.No work of genius can be improved or be freed from its faults by reflection and its immediate results, but genius can, by means of reflection and action, be gradually raised to a degree that in the end shall produce exemplary works. The more genius a century possesses, the more are individual things advanced.
With regard to the great demands now made of the poet, I too am of the opinion that these will not readily call forth a poet. The art of poetry requires of the person who is to exercise it a certain good-natured kind of narrowness enamored of what is Real, behind which lies concealed what is Absolute.
Demands made by criticism destroy the innocent, productive state, and give us as genuine poetry–in place of poetry–something that is in fact no poetry at all, as unfortunately we have seen in our own day; and the same is the case with the kindred arts–nay, with Art in its widest sense.
This is my confession of faith, which otherwise does not make any further claims.
I expect much good from your latest work. It is well conceived, and, if you devote sufficient time to it, will round itself off of its own accord. “Faust” also has meanwhile had something done to it. I hope that soon the only thing wanting in the great gap will be the disputation; this, it is true, will have to be looked upon as a distinct piece of work, and one which will not be accomplished at a moment’s notice.
The famous prize-question also has not been lost sight of during these days. In order to obtain an empiric foundation for my observations, I have commenced examining the character of the different European nations. In Link’s “Travels” I have read a good deal more about Portugal, and shall now pass on to Spain. I am daily becoming more convinced how much more limited everything appears when such observations are made from within.
Ritter came to see me for a minute, and has, among other things,directed my attention again to the theory of colors. Herschel’s new discoveries, which have been carried further and extended by our young naturalist, are very beautifully connected with that observation which I have frequently told you of–that Bolognian phosphorus does not receive any light on the yellow-red side of the spectrum, but certainly does so on the blue-red side. The physical colors are thereby identified with the chemical colors.
The time and care which I have devoted to this subject give me the greatest advantage in judging of new observations, inasmuch as, in fact, I have thought out some new experiments which will carry the matter further still. I foresee that I shall this year write at least two or three chapters more in my theory of colors. I am anxious, some day soon, to show you the latest.
Would you care to come to me on Thursday with Professor Meyer? Please talk this over with him, and I will then write to him more fully on the subject.