Goethe in China

November 27 2012

Was Goethe inspired by some picture, or pictorial image, of Chinese provenance when he wrote

Kennst du den Berg und seinen Wolkensteg?
Das Maultier sucht im Nebel seinen Weg,
In Höhlen wohnt der Drachen alte Brut,
Es stürzt der Fels und über ihn die Flut:
Kennst du ihn wohl?
Dahin! Dahin
Geht unser Weg; O Vater, lass uns ziehn!

He doesn’t give a reference, but this is the third and last section of the visionary song that opens Book Three of Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795-96) sung by the waif Mignon accompanying herself on a zither. The song begins “Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn […]?”.

Juliane Banse in the orchestral version, made by Wolf, of the Wolf setting; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Kent Nagano:

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

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