Posted by Richard on  UTC 2020-10-21 06:42

FoS image, size 708x561

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1751-1829), Goethe in der römischen Campagna, 1787. Dominant in the image is the now iconic white kaftan or poncho, which Goethe had made for him sometime during his first stay in Rome to protect him from the Italian winter, both outside and inside his room. Tischbein has captured well the weight of the cloth used in this garment and used that property skilfully to delineate Goethe's figure. Image: Städel Museum / Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie.

We can't hang about with scene-setting; we have twenty-four poems of Goethe's Römische Elegien to get through. Best plunge straight in, as Goethe himself would have done.

These elegies are not obscene or vulgar – in two minutes on social media you will encounter much worse; their occasional mild eroticism will drive no one to deeds they will regret nor confront the modern child with anything he or she didn't already know.

Text sources

The poems reproduced here are the complete set of the elegies in their original order. Four of these were thought unfit for publication, meaning that only twenty elegies were printed during Goethe's lifetime. This is the subset most editions present as the Römische Elegien. The texts of these twenty are taken from Die Horen (1.6 1793 with corrections 1.12 1795).

The position of each poem in this traditional subset is shown by the number in square brackets appended to the title. Numbers beginning with 'n' relate to the four censored poems, which first appeared in print in 1914, buried safely among the 143 volumes of the Weimarer Ausgabe (1887-1919).


Each poem has an English prose translation (with no claim to artistry, only to accuracy), some textual annotations and a commentary which glosses and interprets the text. Additional commentaries on particular themes have been consigned to Chapter 7, Paralipomena.


Index to the elegies

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