On our way from Berlin to Nürnberg we visited Weimar - not for the first time. About the first thing that cast our eyes on, while walking through the town, was the monument to Goethe and Schiller, in front of the theatre.
For me this statue is the image of friendship, a friendship that didn't come about by direct sympathy, but it was all the more deeply felt. Their friendship came about after a meeting of the 'Naturforschenden Gesellschaft'. They left the meeting together and a conversation followed.
'We happened to leave the meeting at the same time and a conversation ensued. He seemed interested in the presentation, but commented intelligently and perceptively that such a fragmented way of dealing with nature could hardly appeal to any layman who wished to pursue the topic. I welcomed his remarks.[...]We reached his house and our conversation drew me in. There I gave an enthusiastic description of the metamorphosis of plants, and with a few characteristic strokes of the pen I caused a symbolic plant to spring up before his eyes. He heard and saw all this with great interest, with unmistakable power of comprehension. But when I stopped he shook his head and said: “That is not an observation from experience. That is an idea”. I was a bit sad: for the point on which we diverged was marked very strictly here. I remembered the remark in 'Anmut und Würde' and the old resentment wanted to rise up, but I gathered myself and said: I could love it that I have ideas without knowing it - and that I even see them with my eyes'.
Where are the people who can have friendship that is founded not just on sympathy, but on a faculty of listening with interest to strange opinions and ideas? Where is the friendship that goes so deep that on viewing the skull of the deceased friend, after many years, the friend can write following words?
Vainly ye sought the tomb for rest when tired;
Peace in the grave may not be yours; ye're driven
Back into daylight by a force inspired;
But none can love the wither'd husk, though even
A glorious noble kernel it contained.
To me, an adept, was the writing given
Which not to all its holy sense explained,
When 'mid the crowd, their icy shadows flinging,
I saw a form, that glorious still remained.
And even there, where mould and damp were clinging,
Gave me a blest, a rapture-fraught emotion,
As though from death a living fount were springing.
What mystic joy I felt! What rapt devotion!
That form, how pregnant with a godlike trace!
A look, how did it whirl me tow'rd that ocean
Whose rolling billows mightier shapes embrace!
Mysterious vessel! Oracle how dear!
Even to grasp thee is my hand too base,
Except to steal thee from thy prison here
With pious purpose, and devoutly go
Back to the air, free thoughts, and sunlight clear.
What greater gain in life can man e'er know
Than when God-Nature will to him explain
How into Spirit steadfastness may flow,
How steadfast, too, the Spirit-Born remain.'
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe