|Mr. Knightly in blue Werther coat|
For Overath, the syntactic "dynamism" (the textual movement of the wenn/dann verse structuring) of the Dornburg poem reflects Goethe's view that colors are entities that the eye, so to speak, activates, brings into being: the one does not exist without the other. As Goethe writes in another connection:
Wär nicht das Auge sonnenhaft,
Die Sonne könnt' es nie erblicken;
Läg nicht in uns des Gottes eigne Kraft,
Wie könnt uns Göttliches entzücken?
(Were not the eye sunlike
It could never see the sun
Were not within us God's own force
How could we delight in anything divine?)
Because of this coldness, Goethe thought that a bit of green (on the "plus" side of his color circle) would alleviate the "negative" aspects of blue. In particular: "Sea green is a rather pleasing [liebliche] color" (785).
Goethe's associations of blue with the sky and the sea with green are modern.
Michel Pastoureau, as I mentioned in my last post on his new book Red: The History of a Color, blue was a color that was seemingly absent in the consciousness of the earliest humans, with a meager presence in the ancient world, Egypt excepted, poorly adapted to transmitting ideas or evoking emotional or aesthetic responses. Blue was so unrepresented in Ancient Greek that even the sky and the sea were textually associated with other colors. The Latin terms, blavus and azureus, were imported from the Germanic languages and Arabic. It was only in the 12th century, with the creation of blue stained glass, that it began to achieve artistic existence. The Virgin, in earlier centuries portrayed in dark colors, became the first person in the West to be clothed in blue, if still in tones indicating mourning. The sky finally appeared as blue in illuminated manuscripts.
And, for many, Goethe has become a "Green."