Herder’s pupil in Strasbourg, but a poet “by the grace of God”, and, unlike the Stürmer und Dränger Goethe (v.) was the real creator of this new poem, also bearing in poetry, by internal necessity of his own nature, that “divine harmonious order” that Herder recognized as the “presence of God in the universe”. That sense of the “becoming” of life, for which the new times had come more and more clearly opposing the static rationalistic conception, that new sense of the individual in life to which poetry now demanded inspiration in contrast to the classicistic search for universality, all that was implicit in the spiritual position of which Herder was the interpreter, suddenly became, with Goethe, as by miracle, poetry, song, and even beyond what Herder had been able to guess. Because even the individual, even the mood of the fleeting moment was felt and expressed in this poem as a becoming, as a continuous flow. From the festive jubilation of the “Canto di Maggio” in Friederikelieder (1771) to the pure and calm ascent to the serenity of supreme renunciation in Marienbader Elegie (1824); from the brutal clash of primitive life in Götz (1773) to the last words of the last Faust (1831), from the “eternal feminine that draws us above”, all of Goethe’s poetry is the first great reality of this which will be the tone fundamental of all or almost all modern poetry.
According to COMPUTERMINUS, what in the Stürmer und Dränger the urgency of passions had remained confused, thus became a vision projected into the world of fantasy brought back to a general intuition of life, made up of lived and objectified humanity: what in the Stürmer und Dränger had been a tumultuous protest, an incomplete affirmation and exasperated by individuality, with Goethe – after having first determined in lyrical fragments where the aspiration of the individual to understand in the unlimitedness of his interiority the infinity of life finds its full expression (Prometheus, Mahomet, etc.); after having exalted one’s strength also in those aspects,) – finally clarified in the poem for what it was, for what only it could be: the drama of the human limit, whereby the individual, unstoppably reaching out towards life, brings all his instincts for good and evil, and wanting good causes evil, and not only succumbs to it (Urfaust, 1778); or, again, the drama of the human limit, for which the individual in front of the tragic reality seeks a refuge in himself in vain: because to live is to affirm oneself and to close oneself in oneself when one aspires to life in reality is to lose oneself; and there is no other solution than death (Werther, 1774). A few years later, the revolutionary aspirations of Sturm und Drang in the social field also become poetry with the young Schiller (Räuber, 1781), and becoming poetry, they similarly became drama, where the right of the new life is triumphantly proclaimed, but the triumph is achieved in the individual sacrifice of those who affirmed it, in the death of the hero. Everywhere is the poetry of life that flees, of life that is struggle and death of the ever vain and ever reborn individual launching into reality: everywhere the stirb und werde of Westöstlicher Diwan (1814) is already, in still tumultuous outbursts of youth, the atmosphere of poetry. In which poem the Sturm und Drang he was able to clarify himself in the truth of his human substance and take concrete form, precisely inasmuch as he was already brought into a higher perspective that included him in himself without being exhausted. The same force that allowed Goethe to give the Sturm und Drang poetic reality, necessarily had to push him towards new paths, towards that spirituality of which the Sturm und Drang had been only the initial moment. The new way of feeling and living, which had burst into the Sturm und Drang and succumbed to the blindness of its own impetus, had not exhausted its vitality. Faust’s duty is to live “Faustian”, and Werther’s moral is “don’t follow me”. The Sturm und Drang it was finished, because what for it had been absolute affirmation, in reality had become a problem, like all inner aspirations when they want to become reality. Goethe of Weimar is the poet of this new problem: he who has fixed the terms of the problem, and therefore has given its solution. Faced with the reality that refuses to meet the needs of the individual, the value of life became an interior value for Goethe in Weimar. Endowed by nature with a singular adequacy between his subjectivity and the real world, so that his experience almost always spontaneously poses itself in forms in which all men can be recognized (see that family of shepherds in Switzerland who recited Der Du im Himmel bist, as an evening prayer); tied by nature to reality and capable of assuming it, to a very large extent, within his own conscience, Goethe in Weimar discovered within himself the way towards a new individualism: no longer the individualism of those who seek themselves in external reality – like the Stürmer und Dränger had done – but an individualism for which within himself the individual must seek the reality of himself, in the way life is lived, in the spiritual tone in which all reality is assumed. The result was partly his poetry of an interiority so clear and quiet in its flow, in which the landscape becomes a state of mind and the state of mind is landscape, and every opacity of matter appears totally dissolved (v. Uber allen Gipfeln,, Herbstgefühl, etc.), a poem that was then exemplary for so much modern poetry to this day. And the result was also, for the other part, that reality was no longer denied – as it had happened at the Stürmer und Dränger and again in the Werther – but could be affirmed as the only wealth that man possesses, because only in concreteness of reality man can truly exist, he can become aware of what he is, he can, by inserting himself into life, have his place there, and freely participate in the return of the universal infinite life. Even where the genius is condemned to succumb in the collision with the surrounding reality, Goethe, albeit with deep internal melancholy, accepts, resigned but serene, that this is the case, because reality cannot be violated (Rate).