“What is more noble than Gold?”.
“Light” replies the Snake.
“And what is more refreshing than Light?” asks the King.
“Speech” replies the Snake.






Michaelmas  is one of four English ‘Quarter Days,’ days that occur  at the Equinoxes or Solstices  marking the beginnings of new natural seasons (i.e., Spring, Summer, Winter, Autumn).  They were very familiar during medieval times, being used to denote the natural division into ‘quarters’ of the year for legal purposes, especially for settling debts and fulfilling boons.

The other cardinal markers are Lady Day (the Feast of the Annunciation) on March 25.

The Feast of St. John on June 24, and Christmas on December 25.




Two souls reside, alas, within my breast,
And each one from the other would be parted.
The one holds fast, in sturdy lust for love,
With clutching organs clinging to the world;
The other strongly rises from the gloom
To lofty fields of ancient heritage.
Faust I, Scene 2, lines 1112-1117.




In the illustration of the fight of Michael with the Dragon one thing is clearly and strongly present; that is, the consciousness that man himself must give to his inner life of soul the direction and guidance that Nature cannot give. Our present-day thinking is inclined to mistrust such an idea. We are afraid of becoming estranged from Nature. We want to enjoy her in all her beauty, to revel in her abundance of life, and we are loath to let ourselves be robbed of this enjoyment by admitting that Nature has fallen from the Spiritual. In our striving for knowledge moreover we want to let Nature speak.

We fear to lose ourselves in all kinds of fantasy, should we allow the Spirit that transcends the perception of external Nature, to have a voice concerning the reality of things. Goethe had no such fear. He found nowhere in Nature any estrangement from the Spirit. He opened his heart to her beauty, to the inner power and might of all that she revealed. In the life of man he felt the presence of much that was inharmonious, much that grated and jarred, or that gave rise to doubt and confusion. And he felt an inner urge and impulse to live in communion with Nature, where the eternal laws of sequence and compensation prevail. Some of his most beautiful poems have sprung from such a life with Nature.

Goethe was however at the same time fully conscious of how the work of man must fulfil and complete the work of Nature. He felt all the beauty of the plants. But he felt too something incomplete in that life which the plant displays before man. In that which weaves and works unseen within the plant, there lay for him far more than manifests itself to the eye within the bounds of visible form.

For Goethe, what Nature attains is not the whole. He felt as well what we may call the purposes of Nature. He did not let himself be deterred by the fear of personifying Nature. He knew well that he was not as it were dreaming such purposes into the life of the plant out of any subjective fancy, he beheld them there quite objectively, just as truly as he could behold the colour of the flowers.


Goethe was conscious of how there is in Nature not only an ascending but also a descending life. He felt the growth from the seedling to leaf and bud and blossom and fruit; but he felt too how all in turn withers, decays, dries up and dies away. He felt the Spring: but he felt also the Autumn. In Summer he could partake with his own inner sympathy in the unfolding of Nature, but in Winter he could also partake in her death with the same openness of heart.

We may not find in Goethe’s works a clear expression in words of this twofold experience with Nature, but we cannot fail to be sensible of it in his whole manner of thought. It is as it were an echo of the experience of Michael’s fight with the Dragon. Only, the experience is lifted in Goethe to the consciousness of a later age.



all images are courtesy of wiki commons

~ by meanderingsofthemuse on September 25, 2012.

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