I encountered this passage in an essay by the English poet Stephen Spender (1909-1995), which struck me as so correct, expressing perhaps as only another poet could the effect of Goethe's poetry.
It has been observed already that the English have impressive insight into Goethe, one of the first being Carlyle, who was actually a Scot. So, amend that. Can we say Anglo-Saxon? Probably not, and it has recently come out that Spender himself (pictured here in the portrait by Wyndham Lewis) had Jewish antecedents. This rather modern complexity is the subject of Spender's essay, which he relates to Goethe in another passage: "Goethe was evidently close to the problem of Joyce, the problem of the disintegration of a very complex modern consciousness within a world whose values do not provide a structure upon which such complexity can realize itself objectively."
Spender addresses the "fruitful misunderstandings" that occur when a poet who speaks one language reads a poet in another language. Misunderstandings are inevitable, but the misreading, in Coleridge's case, for instance, serves as a fruitful comparison of the differences between German and English poetry. After a discussion of Goethe's poetry (including the effect of Shakespeare on Goethe), Spender comes to the conclusion that the "root cause" of the fruitful misunderstanding between "the Goethean poetic mind" and the English one "is an uninhibited guiltless attitude which for Goethe was the source of his creativity." I have not thought to put it in so many words, but one reads this and agrees.
Spender's essay is a special instance of the workings of "world literature" (a term Spender indeed uses several times), specifically the effect that the works of foreign writers have on our own self-understanding. As Goethe wrote to Eckermann (July 15, 1827): "Es is aber sehr artig, daß wir jetzt, bei dem engen Verkehr zwischen Franzosen, Engländern und Deutschen, in den Fall kommen, uns einander zu korrigieren. Das ist der große Nutzen, der bei einer Weltliteratur herauskommt und der sich immer mehr zeigen wird. Carlyle hat das Leben von Schiller geschrieben und ihn überall so beurteilt, wie ihn nicht leicht ein Deutscher beurteilen wird. Dagegen sind wir bei Shakespeare and Byron im klaren und wissen deren Verdienste vielleicht besser zu schätzen als die Engländer selbst" (As a result of closer contact between French, English, and Germans it's very charming that we have occasion to correct one another. That is the great advantage of world literature, which will continue to be the case. Carlyle wrote a biography of Schiller and judged him generally in a way that a German would not do easily. On the other hand we are clear when it comes to Shakespeare and Byron and understand better than the English to appreciate their achievement).
Picture credit: The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery