Es handelt sich bei diesem Text aus dem Jahr 1789 um die sog. Spätfassung. Es unterscheidet sich von der sog. Frühfassung (damals noch unter dem Titel „Willkomm und Abschied“) aus dem Jahr 1771 im Wesentlichen darin, dass in der letzten Strophe das lyrische Ich Abschied von der Geliebten nimmt, während in der Frühfassung noch die Geliebte die aktive Rolle hat und das lyrische Ich zurücklässt.
This text was published in 1789 and is thus one of the late versions of the poem. It differs from the earlier one from 1771 (title “Willkomm und Abschied”) in the role of the beloved one. While in this version the person speaking takes farewell of the beloved lady, the text from 1771 depicts a more active role of the lady as she leaves the narrator.
Background of “Welcome and Farewell“ (Willkommen und Abschied)
For about 1 ½ years the 21-year-old Goethe led a rather intense relationship to Friederike Brion aus Sessenheim (Strasbourg), daughter of a priest. Due to differences in social matters, Goethe decided to stop their relationship. His infatuation as well as his changing feelings towards love can be seen in his poems produced during the ‘Sturm and Drang’ period, which were later published under the title “Sessenheimer Lieder”.
Summary, analysis and interpretation
The subject of the poem „Willkommen und Abschied“ by Johann Wolfgang Goethe is a nightly meeting between the narrator and his beloved one. Its main focus is on both the man’s journey to the beloved lady as well as their farewell. The poem consists of 4 stanzas, each stanza is composed of 8 lines. The first and the second stanza describe the man’s journey to a young lady, the third stanza narrates the actual meeting between the narrator and his beloved one. The last stanza addresses their farewell.
The poem is made up of iambic tetrametres and its rhyme scheme is abab-cdcd. The rhythm of the poem reflects its content. While the rhythm of the first two stanzas depicts the ride of the narrator, the third stanza is quite slow and irregular. The last stanza is again more regular and faster.
It is nightfall and fog is covering the ground. The person speaking rides to his beloved one. He is looking forward to a meeting, which, however, can only take place secretly. This is shown with the metaphor „Wo Finsternis aus dem Gesträuche mit hundert schwarzen Augen sah.“ (line 7-8). Personifications1 and metaphors2 that are mainly taken from the world field of nature are used to illustrate his ride („schon stand im Nebelkleid die Eiche, ein aufgetürmter Riese“, line 5-6).
The second stanza describes the narrator’s ride to his beloved one, too. In the meantime the moon is shining, but due to the clouds it can be hardly seen. The narrator describes this occurrence as “Duft” (line 10). He describes the nightly surrounding, which creates an eery atmosphere: While the wind sweeps round his ears scarily, the night creates a thousand monsters (cf line 12f.). Nevertheless, his anticipation towards the future meeting as well as his passion for his beloved lady overweighs these negative impressions. An alliteration3 in line 14 “frisch und fröhlich war mein Mut” and an anaphora4 in line 15f. „In meinen Adern welches Feuer! In meinem Herzen welche Glut“ put emphasis on this impression.
In contrast, the third stanza only conveys positive feelings. While in the first two stanzas the person speaking was anxious and frightful, it is now totally absorbed by the meeting with his beloved one. The beloved seems to have expected him fondly and is enjoying the meeting with him, too. (“die milde Freude floß von dem süßen Blick auf mich”, line 17f.). The narrator reports about his feelings towards the lady and he explains that his heart is totally on her side as well as each breath is only taken for her (line 19f.). It can be seen that the narrator is overwhelmed by the lady describing her with the following expressions: “liebliches Gesicht” surrounded by “rosafarbnes Frühlingswetter” (line 21f.). Finally, he even thanks deities for these experiences.
The final stanza addresses the farewell as the concluding part of the poem. As the sun has in the meantime risen, the meeting has to come to an end. The farewell seems to be quite difficult for both. The anaphora in line 27f. represents their suffering: “In deinen Küssen welche Wonne! In deinem Auge welcher Schmerz!“. While the narrator rides away, she keeps looking at the ground sadly with tears in her eyes. When he sees her tears, he speaks to the gods, describing his feelings as “Glück, geliebt zu werden” being – in spite of his lovesickness - happy to have experienced such strong love.
Finally, it has to be noticed that in spite of the fact that the lovers have to say farewell, the poem’s overall tone reveals a positive attitude towards love (“Und lieben Götter, welch ein Glück!” line 32). The poem is typical for the “Sturm und Drang”, the ride being a typical motif for this period. I especially appreciate the message that it is worth fighting for love, even though it may involve negative aspects as well. The simple structure enables the reader to focus on its multifarious content. While stanzas 1 and 2 decribe the longing but also frightening ride to the beloved one, the third stanza represents the intimate and romantic encounter between the two lovers. The final stanza tells about the dear but painful farewell.
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