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Terreson Profile
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Goethe, Marianne, and Hafiz


A favorite story. The sort of thing I think on when looking for relief from stuff.

Goethe had a life-long interest in things Islamic and in the culture(s) of the Middle East, the "orient" of his day. This to the extent of learning Arabic. Whether or not he could also read Farsi I am not sure. His interest came to fruition in a rather co-incident way when he was in his mid-sixties. A translation into German of the poetry of the ancient Persian, Hafiz, had recently come out. Around the same time he, by account reluctantly, fell in love with the companion of a banker friend. Marianne Jung, soon to be wedded to the banker, von Willemer, in his mid-fifties at the time. Marianne, then about thirty, was lower class, an actress and musician. With marriage came bourgeois respectability. Goethe spent time with the von Willemers. He was not only working in imitation of Hafiz, he also taught Marianne how to work in the poet's metier. They fell in love. For Goethe falling in love proved never to be a safe and middling course. His passsions always got the better of him, without fail upended his inner balance. Marianne was no exception. Their love reached a point of critical mass during a second visit when they spent something like 3 days alone together. Can't know for sure but likely it went unconsumated. Goethe was devoted to his wife, beholding to her for her loyalty and for the time she saved his ass when Napolean's dragoons ruffed him up pretty badly. He was also devoted to his banker friend. My reading of the situation is that, had he given the word, Marianne would have gone away with him. Also my reading of the situation is that Marianne was enough of a 'gypsy' girl, a dance hall girl to have given a fig about bourgeois respectability.

But then the remarkable thing happened. Hafiz had addressed many of his poems to a lover named Zulieka. Poetry frankly passionate, even carnal. Marianne became Goethe's Zulieka. It is how he addressed her. What was remarkable is that in her poetry addressed to him, Goethe recognized that "love, in a single night, had turned a graceful poetaster into a true poetess." In my own persoanl experience I've seen this happen, and not just once. Marianne's poetry was so true that when it came time to publish his Divan, Goethe included a number of her poems. A footnote on what Marianne had done: "The poet gazed in wonder at the sheet of paper; and when later he incorporated this (poem) in his Divan, he altered it for the worse in three places, and for the better in only one. He stood amazed at her reckless abandonment to a love which had grown so silently, now to break out with such ardor as this."

It would be a reach to say that Goethe introduced Hafiz and other Islamic poets to the West. It would be no reach to say he made the poets accessible to the West, certainly popularized ancient Persian prosody. He and Marianne that is.

http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/goethe


Images of Marianne:

http://search.aol.com/aol/image?q=marianne+von+Willemer&v_t=keyword_rollover

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Jun/16/2013, 2:22 pm
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Goethe, Marianne, and Hafiz


Fascinating to read this, Tere, and to follow the links. As I think I've probably told you, I have a special interest in Hafiz as I once had a dream in which a disemboded male voice said: "Follow in the shoes of Hafiz." At the time I was somewhat familiar with Rumi but not Hafiz, so the suggestion/instruction both surprised and puzzled me; it remains a dream mystery to this day.
Jun/24/2013, 1:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 


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