Goethe’s “Fairy Tale” / A Fresh Translation for the 21st Century!

Here is a summary of the recent Section for Literary Arts & Humanities meeting of the local group in Fair Oaks, CA. This meeting occurred on May 29, 2021 via Zoom.

“At a Glance . . .”

The new translation of Goethe’s The Fairy Tale “The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily” (1795) is available;

click here to preview or purchase!

“The Germans, by the way, are such odd people! They make life more difficult than is proper by looking for deep thoughts and ideas everywhere and putting them into everything. —Good gracious! Have the courage for once to surrender yourselves to your impressions, allow yourselves to be captivated, moved, uplifted . . . but don’t always think everything is vain that isn’t some abstract thought or idea! ”

— Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann

“Looking for Something?”

Our meeting began with a review of changes to the website TheLiteraryArts.com. The website now features a Timeline of Meeting Summaries that includes a Search function. Choose a search term — for example, “the world must be romanticized” — and perform a search. In this case, seven meetings appear in which we discussed this fragment by Novalis. These online meeting summaries only extend to 2018, but as time permits I will add more old meeting summaries. The Timeline also features a column list of all meetings that makes it easier to find a meeting date and title.

Artwork Above: “Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man” by Jacob Jordaens, 1642.

June 5: Owen Barfield: “The Soul of a Word” / Presentation by Fred Dennehy
Fred will join us next week to give a presentation on Owen Barfield. I included the Zoom credentials with this emailed summary. You’ll find them at the very bottom of the email. Here’s what Fred says about his forthcoming Zoom presentation on Saturday June 5 at 7 pm:

“At the age of 22, Owen Barfield began an etymological study as a thesis for his Bachelor Degree in Literature from Oxford. That study became a theory of poetry, which became a theory of knowledge, which became a theory of the evolution of consciousness and the world. Tonight we will try to make sense of the origins of Barfield’s philosophy.”

Events on the Calendar
Here’s a quick look at “What’s Going On?” between now and our summer break.
June 5: Fred Dennehy / Owen Barfield
June 12: Poetry Night / original and favorite poetry
June 19: Bloomsday Celebration (Lecture introduction to the topic of “modernism(s)” and James Joyce’s representative text Ullysses.
June 26: New Moon Salon to celebrate St. John’s Tide. Premiere of a new literary work. No, this is not The Fairy Tale translation. It’s something new! However, The Fairy Tale translation has been published! Read on . . .
Summer 2021: Marion will host in the garden a small group devoted to Fairy Tales. They will meet socially to read and discuss fairy tales throughout summer. This group meets for the first time on June 7. It is an intimate group, and I believe there is no longer space for more participants . . . but contact Marion directly if you have questions.
Michaelmas Tide, 2021: The Literary Arts and Humanities Section of the School for Spiritual Science in North America will host and sponsor an online Zoom event for friends and members in North America — and elsewhere, I guess, if they choose to log in. More information about this event, including date and time and Zoom credentials, will be made available later in the season.
What’s Ahead for 2021 – 2024? I hope that we can work toward a better literary understanding of the Year of Destiny, 1923. This is meant to align with and support the work already underway by Section colleagues in Canada and in Dornach. Other topics and projects in view include: early romanticism, modernism(s), and the Grail (Parzival). In late 2021 and early 2022, I hope to inaugurate a more physically active series of events: “Poets and Landscapes” in order to inspire greater attention to American literature — especially the literature of California.

“Goethe as the Founder of a New Science of Aesthetics” (Vienna, 1888)
Nearly the entirety of our meeting (50 minutes) was devoted to a close reading of this lecture by Rudolf Steiner that some refer to as Rudolf Steiner’s First Address I discussed this text’s relationship to Goethe, Schiller, Novalis and to Schiller’s Aesthetic Letters.

“Tell me more . . .”

“The Lamp and the Woman Survey the Bridge” photo by Bruce Donehower

A New Translation of Goethe’s Fairy Tale! Published!
Since January 2021, our local Section group has devoted attention to what Rudolf Steiner repeatedly characterized as the foundational text (or “archetypal seed” — Urzelle) of the anthroposophical movement: Goethe’s The Fairy Tale. To assist with our study, I did a new translation of the tale in order to make it more accessible to modern sensibilities in the 21st century. This translation is now available on Amazon; click this sentence to preview or purchase.

The 2021 edition includes an Afterword “Goethe in Paradise” that discusses the friendship between Goethe and Schiller. An earlier version of this Afterword originally appeared in an issue of the Section’s printed newsletters. I presented an abridged version of this essay to our local group at a Section meeting on February 6, 2021 when we were beginning our 2021 intensive work with The Fairy Tale.

Click this sentence to read the essay “Goethe in Paradise.”

“Das Paradies” / Jena parkland and ferry that may have inspired Goethe’s Fairy Tale. (Jena. Stadtmuseum)

“A Symphony of the Creative Word”
Much of our recent activity in Fair Oaks since spring 2020 has been a local community’s Section-literary-critical-spiritual-humanist response to the Covid crisis. (Now that’s a mouth full of Amerigermanism. Eh? A merry Germanism?) None of the weekly Section Zoom meetings would have happened otherwise. We certainly would not have devoted more than a year of focussed weekly in-depth meetings to Novalis.

Novalis entered our Section work in Fair Oaks in spring 2020 at a time of intensification — perhaps the better word to use here is Goethe’s word Steigerung. The intensification of our local group’s work has made possible the website, publications, and other initiatives. The work with Novalis has matured organically into in-depth work with The Fairy Tale, the Aesthetic Letters, and Steiner’s emphasis on the importance of the decade of the 1790s in regard to a nuanced understanding of the origins of the anthroposophical movement. Goethe and Schiller and Novalis have been our recent meeting participants — but of course there have been others, too. These include Christian Morgenstern, Hermann Hesse, Rainer Maria Rilke, and soon to arrive Owen Barfield — again, see the website for details. We look forward with enthusiasm to a greater intensification of the work as we process in celebration toward the Bridge!

“One will strive to make beauty the mediator of truth, and through the truth to give beauty a permanent foundation and higher dignity.”
— Friedrich Schiller

Beauty and Wisdom
Last night we closed our meeting with this verse by Rudolf Steiner given in 1924 as an evening meditation. I chose this verse for its esoteric value in regard to Goethe, Schiller, and the subject of Beauty — and because it poetically expresses the spiritual essence of the evening’s lecture topic. May the reader flourish!

From grace
Flows wisdom
Wisdom gives me love
Love partakes in grace.
Love creates beauty within me
Beauty brings me grace.
— Rudolf Steiner

Edith Maryon
The Visual Arts Section is sponsoring an event on June 26 with Peter Selg on the topic of the biography of Edith Maryon, one of Rudolf Steiner’s very close collaborators and a woman who may have saved Rudolf Steiner’s life when he nearly fell from a scaffold. This event is a fund-raiser to support the translation of Peter Selg’s biography of Edith Maryon. For more information and a PDF, click this sentence.

“Eve! Magdalene!
or Mary, you?”
— Hart Crane, The Bridge