Goethe – May 21, 2015


the willow still waits
sitting on river Sarca
Goethe wrote and walked

in spring and autumn
the wind whispers his name

© G.s.k. ‘15

In 1786, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe began his Italian voyage, staying a few days in Torbole where he wrote:

“How much do I wish that my friends were with me for a moment to enjoy the prospect which now lies before my eyes!

I might have been in Verona this evening: but a magnificent natural phenomenon was in my vicinity,—Lake Garda, a splendid spectacle, which I did not want to miss; and now I am nobly rewarded for taking this circuitous route. After five o’clock I started from Roveredo, up a side valley, which still pours its waters into the Etsch. After ascending this, you come to an immense rocky bar, which you must cross in descending to the lake. Here appeared the finest calcareous rocks for pictorial study. On descending, you come to a little village on the northern end of the lake, with a little port, or rather landing-place, which is called Torbole. On my way up, I was constantly accompanied by fig-trees; and, descending into the rocky atmosphere, I found the first olive-tree full of fruit. Here, also, for the first time, I found as a common fruit those little white figs which the Countess Lanthieri had promised me.

A door opens from the chamber in which I sit into the courtyard below. Before this I have placed my table, and taken a rough sketch of the prospect. The lake may be seen for its whole length, and it is only at the end toward the left that it vanishes from our eyes. The shore, which is enclosed on both sides by hill and mountain, shines with a countless number of little hamlets.

After midnight the wind blows from north to south; and he who wishes to go down the lake must travel at this time, for a few hours before sunset the current of air changes, and moves northward. At this time (the afternoon) it blows strongly against me, and pleasantly qualifies the burning heat of the sun. Volkmann teaches me that this lake was formerly called “Benacus,” and quotes from Virgil a line in which it was mentioned:—

“Fluctibus et fremiter resonans, Benace, marino.”

This is the first Latin verse the subject of which ever stood visibly before me; and now, in the present moment, when the wind is blowing more and more strongly, and the lake casts loftier billows against the little harbour, it is just as true as it was hundreds of years ago. Much, indeed, has changed; but the wind still roars about the lake, the aspect of which gains even greater glory from a line of Virgil’s.

The above was written in a latitude of 45° 50’.

I went out for a walk in the cool of the evening; and now I really find myself in a new country, surrounded by objects entirely strange. The people lead a careless, sauntering life. In the first place, the doors are without locks; but the host assured me that I might be quite at ease, even though all I had about me consisted of diamonds. In the second place, the windows are covered with oiled paper instead of glass. In the third place, an extremelynecessary convenience is wanting, so that one comes pretty close to a state of nature. When I asked the waiter for a certain place, he pointed down into the courtyard: “Qui, abasso puo servirsi!”—”Dove?” asked I. “Da per tutto, dove vuol,” was the friendly reply. The greatest carelessness is visible everywhere, but still there is life and bustle enough. During the whole day the women of the neighbourhood are incessantly chattering and shrieking: all have something to do at the same time. I have not yet seen an idle woman.

The host, with Italian emphasis, assured me that he felt great pleasure in being able to serve me with the finest trout. They are taken near Torbole, where the stream flows down from the mountains, and the fish seeks a passage upward. The emperor farms this fishery for ten thousand gulden. The fish, which are large (often weighing fifty pounds), and spotted over the whole body to the head, are not trout, properly so called. The flavour, which is between that of trout and salmon, is delicate and excellent.

But my real delight is in the fruit,—in the figs and in the pears, which must, indeed, be excellent, where citrons are already growing.”

Torbole, 12th September.
After dinner.


Written for Carpe Diem Haiku Kai “one patch of a rice field”