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Goethe's Reflections on Nature


WE reproduce below the translation of Goethe's reflections on Nature by T. H. Huxley, which was published as an introductory article to the first number of NATURE, dated Nov. 4, 1869. As originally printed, a casual reader might easily conclude that this lyrical composition was the work of Huxley himself, and in a letter to Dohrn, written shortly afterwards, he says: “It astonishes the British Philistines not a little. When they began to read it they thought it was mine, and that I had suddenly gone mad.” Darwin himself was stirred to admiration, and wrote to Hooker as follows: “Lord, what a rhapsody that was of Goethe, but how well translated; it seemed to me, as I told Huxley, as if written by the maddest English scholar. It is poetry, and can I say anything more severe?” Huxley added to his translation some comments upon Goethe's “wonderful rhapsody on Nature which has been a delight to me from my youth up”; and he referred to it in an article entitled “Past and Present”, contributed by him to the first issue of our fifty-first volume, on Nov. 1, 1894. In a footnote to this article, Huxley said: “A better translation than mine and an interesting account of the very curious obscurity which hangs about the parentage of Die Natur are to be found in Mr. J. Bailey Saunders' recently published ‘Goethe's Aphorisms and Reflections’.”

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Goethe's Reflections on Nature. Nature 129, 425–426 (1932).

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