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Quoting Goethe About God

 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I recently encountered the following quotation (never mind where): "Nature is the living, visible garment of God." This was attributed with some confidence (but without further specificity) to the German romantic poet/.philosopher Goethe.

I googled the phrase "visible garment of God" curious about particulars. It gets 31,000 hits.

But if you follow some of them you'll soon find that there are quotes of quotes of quotes. I began to understand Abe Lincoln's frustration when he said, "I never said most of the stuff you see me quoted as saying on the internet."

I persisted in my inquiries. It turns out that Goethe had a character say something LIKE this, but that wording is due to another romantic poet/philosophy, Thomas Carlyle.

In FAUST, Goethe had a character called Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) say: "I walk and work, above, beneath, work and weave ... 'tis thus at the roaring Loom of Time I ply, and weave for God the Garment thou seest Him by."

Thomas Carlyle picked up on this passage, and used the oft-cited "Goethe quote" as his summary of it in his own book, SARTOR RESARTUS (1833). Since the whole book is a play on the imagery involved in the tailor's art, it was surely impossible for Carlyle to resist this.


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