Saturday, December 6, 2014

Goethe in Silesia 1820

Stamps commemorating the pilgrimage site at Wartha
It is quite amazing how many people had something to say about Goethe. I was looking through the first volume (1749–1805) of Goethes Gespräche by Flodoard Freiherrn von Biedermann, in which I found the following from a letter written by Carl August to his mother, dated August 15, 1820:

Beschwerliche Soupers, böses Steinpflaster, häßliche Weiber, weitläufige Verlegung derer Truppen und vieler Staub sind unsere angenehmsten Zugaben. Goethe isset und trinket stark, bloß seinetwegen steigt die Teuerung in hiesiger Gegend. Er wird ehstens ins Glatzer Gebirge reisen.

Goethe somewhat unwillingly –– he had recently returned from Venice –– joined Carl August and his troops in Breslau. Nicholas Boyle mentions (vol. 2, p. 78) that Goethe's tour of Silesia is underdocumented, but that he spent the week "under canvas"; thus, the duke's complaint about food and other travel trials. Festivities were going on in Breslau. The Prussian king was there, as August 17 was the fourth anniversary of his succession. It was apparently very hot that summer (thus, the dust). Boyle speaks of Goethe's discomfort in the "crowded, ill-drained, riverside town," especially in "close proximity to the Duke of Brunswick, who had never been well disposed toward him" (p. 82).

Wartha (Bardo)
Goethe took his leave from Carl August on the 26th and set off for the county of Glatz, which was annexed by the Prussians during the Silesian wars. His destination was the mountain known in German as "Heuscheuer" (Table Mountain in English). Thus, he left unvisited, according to Boyle, the pilgrimage center of Wartha (Bardo), with "its miraculous image of the Virgin and replicas of the holy places in Jerusalem." As Boyle writes, "Goethe was certainly on the Heuscheuer on either the 28th or the 29th, and it seems likely that once again he had chosen to mark his birthday by an act that lifted him, both really and symbolically, above the confusion and frustration of his ordinary existence" (p. 83)

Picture credits:; Fryderyk Bernard Wernher

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