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Goethe's early poetry

Weimar: Ballads II

(late 1770s –1786)


Der Fischer’ (1778)

'Erlkönig’ (1782)
(cf. Term 1, Tutorial Week 5)






'Kennst du das Land wo die Zitronen blühn’ (1783)


NB. new style of ballad. (cf. the ballads of the early 1770s).

  • different emphasis on the way nature is seen
  • nature as tempting, beguiling, promising happiness but at the same time threatening
  • exploration of the human subconsicious, dark side of human nature
  • fairy-tale like
  • anti-Aufklärung [anti-Enlightenment]
  • innocence/simplicity [the Diener in ‘Der Fischer’, the Kind’ in ‘Erlkönig’ seem to be marked by a greater receptivity vis-à-vis non-rational modes of cognition

Goethe increasingly frustrated by his life in Weimar

1786: Goethe increasingly torn between his interest in poetry and science (esp. geology) and the demands of official duties at court.

1786 (3 Sept) secretly leaves for Italy; arrives in Rome (29 October)