Whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, gets posted for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Born Genius ~ A Conversation between Father and Son

(Post originally published February 2, 2012)


It is constantly stressed that writing can be learned, developed, mastered; that if you have a talent, it can be made to shine. However, there are writers who were destined for greatness from the beginning, whose star seemed to blaze the minute they appeared on earth similar to Mozart and his musical genius. In the case of writing, I am thinking of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German poet, dramatist, scientist and statesman.

(Image: Goethe in the Roman Campagna, by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, 1787)


Naturally, we can recognise his great talent with famous works from his adult years such as Faust: Part One, The Sorrows of Young Werther and Egmont A Tragedy in Five Acts to name a few, but like Mozart, he had a unique gift that manifested at an early age. Goethe was passionate about history, languages and art, and I thought I would share a little known scribbling he wrote when about eight years old, the last colloquy from a set of three featuring a conversation with his father about the wax figurines he was shaping, imitating the great artists and their model-making:



“Father: What are you doing there, my son?

Son: Making wax figures.
Father: I thought so. Oh, when will you ever put nuts aside?”
('Nuts': Goethe was playing on a Latin pun with the word 'nuces', which means 'nuts' and 'childish play'.)
Son: Why, I'm not playing with nuts, I'm playing with wax.
Father: Ignoramus, can it be that you don't know the meaning of 'nuts' in this connection?
Son: Now I remember. But see how well I have learned in a short time to model wax.
Father: To spoil wax, you mean.
Son: I beg your pardon. Am I not creating rather clever things?
Father: Yes indeed. Show me some of your malformations.
Son: Among other animals I have made, with special success, a cat with a long moustache, and a city mouse and a field mouse to illustrate one of Horace's satires, (i.e., an ancient Roman satirist), translated by Drollinger into pure German doggerel.
Father: I like this reminiscence better than the beasts themselves. But have you made nothing else which shows your alleged art more advantageously?
Son: Yes, indeed, here is a whale, with mouth wide open as if to swallow us, and two chamois, which Emperor Maximilian was so found of hunting that he is said to have been unable to find his way out of the declivitous rocks till an angel in human form showed him the path.
Father: Why, you apply your scraps of history so aptly that one must pardon your misshapen figures. And is that all?
Son: By no means; for all my models the ones to be especially admired are: the crocodile shedding false tears, the monstrous war elephant of the ancients, the lizard, friend of man, the croaking frog announcing spring, all of which lack nothing but life.
Father: Nonsense! Who would be able to recognise them without the labels?
Son: Alas! Is not every man the best interpreter of his own works?
Father: This statement is quite true, but not apropos.
Son: Pardon my ignorance and deign to look at this sleighing party. There are just a dozen in it, all different, partly creeping and partly flying creatures, of which the swan, the stag, the walrus, and the dragon seem to be the most natural.
Father: You may think so, if you like, but it is perfectly apparent that you make no real distinction between beautiful and ugly.
Son: Dear father, will you be so kind as to teach me the difference?
Father: Certainly, but everything in season. Your power of observation must first be more mature.
Son: Oh fiddlesticks! Why will you postpone it? Tell me about it today rather than tomorrow and I will listen to you while I play.
Father: I have already said it cannot be done now—some other time. Put aside your childish nonsense now and go to your work.
Son: I will. Good bye.”

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Amazing when you think an eight year old wrote this piece on aesthetics ~ Playdoh time rendered into a miniature work of art!

(Excerpt from “The Life Of Goethe: Albert Bielschowsky)

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