West-east divan

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Title page and frontispiece of the first edition, engraved in copper by Carl Ermer. The Arabic text is: The Eastern Divan by the Western writer
Font and page design of the first print
Goethe's fair copy of his poem Talismane (photomechanical reproduction)

West-Eastern Divan (published in 1819, expanded in 1827) is the most extensive collection of poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe . She was inspired by the works of the Persian poet Hafiz . With the inclusion of the Goethe-Schiller Archive of the Weimar Classic Collection in 2001, Goethe's fair copy of the work is part of the UNESCO World Document Heritage .


The collection of poems is divided into twelve books. A large proportion of the poems can be traced back to Goethe's correspondence with Marianne von Willemer , from which some of the Divan's poems also originate (“West, for your damp wings, oh how much I envy you…”).

In 1814 Goethe read Dīwān des Hafis, which was translated into German by the orientalist Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall in 1812 .

In contrast to the poet Rudyard Kipling ("East is East, West is West, they will never come together"), Goethe's lyrical self approaches this Persian poetry with serenity and regards it as equal:

Those who know themselves and others
will also recognize here:
Orient and Occident
can no longer be separated.

It also says:

And may the whole world sink in,
Hafez, with you, with you alone
I want to compete! Lust and pain
Be mean to us, the twins!
Like you to love and drink,
this should be my pride, my life.


In the first print ("Stuttgard, in der Cottaische Buchhandlung 1819") the collection consisted of the following books and sections:

  1. Moganni Nameh - Singer's Book
  2. Hafis Nameh - book Hafis
  3. Usch Nameh - Book of Love
  4. Tefkir Nameh - Book of Meditations
  5. Rendsch Nameh - Book of Unmuths
  6. Hikmet - Nameh - Book of Proverbs
  7. Timur Nameh - Book of Timur
  8. Suleika Nameh - Book of Suleika
  9. Saki Nameh - The Gift Book
  10. Mathal Nameh - Book of Parables
  11. Parsi Nameh - Book of Parsing
  12. Chuld Nameh - Book of Paradise
  13. Notes and treatises


In Goethe's handwriting and in the first edition (Cotta, Stuttgart 1819) the work is entitled West-Eastern Divan . Some historical editions appeared as West-Eastern Divan or West-Eastern Divan .

Goethe on Islam

The West-Eastern Divan's lyric self is Muslim, and Muslim doctrines are presented in the work. For example:

Jesus felt pure and thought
only One God in silence;
Whoever made him a god himself
offended his holy will.
And so the right must seem.
What Mahomet also succeeded in doing;
Only through the concept of the one
did he conquer all the world.

(WA I, 6, 288 ff)

In some places he also expresses his conviction of the divine origin of the words of the Koran, as in a letter to Blumenthal of May 28, 1819, in which he refers to the fourth verse of the Koran of the 14th sura: “Because what is true God in the Koran says: We have not sent a prophet to any people except in their language! "(WA IV, 31, 160)

Corresponding to this conviction, it can be seen in the notes and treatises of the West-Eastern Divan that Goethe intended to "reverently celebrate that holy night when the Koran was brought in full to the prophet from above". (Notes and essays on the West-Eastern Divan, WA I, 7, 153)

At the age of 65, Goethe first read the poems of the Persian poet Hafis, which were translated by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall . “He attested to him having an 'overview of the world being' and from then on regarded himself as its 'twin'. His West-Eastern Divan (1819) pays homage to the Persian poet prince as well as a poetic dialogue across countries and centuries. "

The Muslim positioning of the lyrical ego is, according to Hafiz's attitude , most likely to be assigned to Sufism (Islamic mysticism ). Just as Goethe was at a distance from Christian doctrine, the lyrical I in the West-Eastern Divan also expresses an ironic distance to the orthodox doctrine of Islam and proximity to mysticism. For example, Goethe uses the metaphor of wine, which is also a symbol for the Sufis for the intoxication of a dervish with the love of God :

Is the Koran from eternity?
I don't ask about that! ... I believe
that he is the book of books
out of Muslim duty.
I do not doubt that the wine is forever ;
Or that he was created before the angels,
Maybe it's not a poem either .
The drinker, however it may be,
looks God fresher in the face.

(WA I, 6, 203)

Goethe's interest in Islam is to be understood more philosophically than religiously. For him, the monotheistic religions are “in their respective“ true ”core merely“ symbolic ”and in this respect“ poetic ”messages of the Spinozist Hen kai Pan [,] of the alone, as it is sung about in many Divan poems”. The Book of Paradise in Divan must be read “as a parallel to the last act of Faust II (with its Catholic symbolism) […]. Here, 'Islamic', the same 'poetic' core of the natural religion is formulated as 'Catholic' at the end of Faust , whereby the 'eternally feminine' (as the core of all-nature) proves to be Islamic as well. "

Inspiration for further works

In his Oestliche Rosen , published by Brockhaus in Leipzig in 1822, Friedrich Rückert made direct reference to Goethe's Divan on the first pages of his volume of poems :

If you want to taste the
Pure East,
you have to go from here to the same man , Who
from the West
always gives the best wine from a full pot.
When the West was
tasted through, he has now degased the East;
See, there he revels on the Ottomanne.

Although both works emerged from the reception of Persian poetry, Goethe's Divan and Rückert's Roses are fundamentally different.

In 1923, the Persian-speaking Indian poet Muhammad Iqbal answered Goethe's greetings to the East in his volume of poems, Message of the East .

A Palmström poem by Christian Morgenstern ends with the lines:

that one
must sleep with the revolution of the earth , with the posts
of one's body strictly to the east.
And so he jokes deliciously caustic:
"No, my divan stays - west-east!"

Walter Benjamin titled a short prose text with a verse from the West-Eastern Divan : "The dust, the movable, drawn in"

Musical appreciation


Some poems were set to music by, among others

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

After the West-Eastern Divan this has West-Eastern Divan Orchestra named an ensemble of young musicians from countries in the Middle East , which is under the direction of Daniel Barenboim committed to the vision of a peaceful Middle East.

West Eastern Divan Festival Weimar gGmbH

In 2008, Klaus Gallas founded the non-profit festival “West Östlicher Diwan”, which cultivates intercultural dialogue especially with countries in the Middle East.


Primary literature

Secondary literature

  • Christa Dill: Dictionary on Goethe's West-Eastern Divan . Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 1987, ISBN 3-484-10547-X .
  • Rainer Hillenbrand: Classic spirit in Goethe's 'West-Eastern Divan' . Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-59989-1 .
  • Sebastian Kaufmann: The poet's pure hand ... Studies on Goethe's poetological poetry. Winter, Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8253-5916-4 , pp. 303-411.
  • Jürgen Link : Goethe, Islam and the leading German culture. In: kultuRRevolution. No. 60, 2011, ISSN  0723-8088 .
  • Katharina Mommsen : Goethe and Islam (= It. 2650). Insel-Taschenbuch, ISBN 3-458-34350-4 .
  • Katharina Mommsen: Goethe and 1001 Nights . With a foreword by Karl-Josef Kuschel. Bernstein-Verlag, Bonn 2006, ISBN 3-9809762-9-7 .
  • Hamid Tafazoli : Johann Wolfgang Goethe. In: Encyclopaedia Iranica . XI.1, 2001, pp. 40-43.
  • Hamid Tafazoli: “As long as this doesn't go into the absurd, you can endure it.” Ambivalences of a Goethe reception in Persia. In: Achim Hölter (Ed.): Comparative literature. Yearbook of the German Society for General and Comparative Literature Studies. Synchron, Heidelberg 2006, pp. 55-70.
  • Hamid Tafazoli: The German Persia Discourse. On the scientification and literarization of the Persia image in German literature from the early modern period to the nineteenth century. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2007.
  • Hamid Tafazoli: Old Iran in Goethe's Divan. In: XXX. German Orientalist Day, selected lectures. Online publication, Freiburg 2008, ISSN  1866-2943 .
  • Hamid Tafazoli: Goethe's picture of Persia in the West-Eastern Divan and the Divan poet's idea of ​​self-reflection. In: Yearbook of the Austrian Goethe Society. 111/112/113 (2010), pp. 66-84.
  • Hamid Tafazoli: Heterotopia as a draft of poetic room design. In: H. Tafazoli, Gray, Richard T .: (Eds.): External Space - Co-Space - Internal Space, Heterotopia in Culture and Society. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2012, pp. 35–59.



  • JW Goethe. Goethe's west easterly divan. Translation, foreword and notes by John Weiss. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1877.
  • JW Goethe. Goethe's Works Illustrated by the Best German Artists. Vol. 1. Biographical introduction by HH Boyesen. Philadelphia: George Barrie, 1885.
  • JW Goethe. West-eastern Divan in Twelve Books. Translation by Edward Dowden. London, Toronto: JM Dent & Sons Ltd., 1914.
  • JW Goethe. The West-east Divan: Poems, with “Notes and Essays”: Goethe's Intercultural Dialogues. Translation, introduction and notes by Martin Bidney; Translation of the “Notes and Treatises” in collaboration with Peter Anton von Arnim. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2010.


  • JW Goethe. Le Divan. Translation by Henri Lichtenberger, foreword and notes by Claude David. Paris: Gallimard, 1984.


  • JW Goethe. Il Divano occidentale-orientale . Eds. Ludovica Koch, Ida Porena and Filiberto Borio. Bilingual German-Italian edition. Milan: Rizzoli, 1990.


  • JW Goethe. Obras completas . Vol. 1. Composition, translation, study, forewords and comments by Rafael Cansinos Assens. Madrid: Aguilar, 1987 [" Divan de Occidente y Oriente ": pp. 1645-1866].

Brazilian Portuguese

  • JW Goethe. Diva ocidento-oriental . Translation by Daniel Martineschen. São Paulo: Estação Liberdade, 2020.

Web links

Commons : West-Eastern Divan (Goethe)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. UNESCO-Mitteilungen, 2001: The literary estate of Goethe in the Goethe and Schiller Archives .
  2. Claudia Stodte: Iran. (= Edition Earth Travel Guide ). 5th, updated reprint. Edition Temmen, Bremen 2008, ISBN 978-3-86108-860-8 , p. 289.
  3. Wolfgang von Keitz (Ed.): Oestliche Rosen . epubli, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-8442-0415-5 , p. 1.
  4. ^ Christian Morgenstern: All gallows songs. Insel-Verlag 1958, p. 108.
  5. ^ Website of the West Östlicher Diwan Festival Weimar