Can someone review poems for me

An opponent of freedom of expression

About Goethe's poem "Reviewer"

By Marcel Reich-Ranicki

Discussed books / references

I had a guy as a guest
He wasn't a burden to me
I've had my usual meal.
Has the human pump fed up with it
For dessert what I had saved!
And I'm hardly so tired of the guy
Does the devil lead him to the neighbor,
Reasoning about my food.
The soup could have been more spicy
The roast brown, the firner the wine.
The thousand sackerment!
Beat him to death the dog! It's a reviewer.

All poets write bad poems. The only difference between the good poets and the bad ones is that they sometimes do quality Write poetry. And how about Goethe? He enjoys the reputation of being Germany's greatest poet. That's true. When it comes to poetry, nobody can hold a candle to it. But of course he too, the incurable prolific writer, produced numerous moderate or weak poems, occasionally even foolish ones. But the stupidest thing that comes out of his pen is probably the poem “Reviewer”, published in March 1774.

We are not informed of the immediate cause that led to these verses. It may be that the matter was related to Christian Heinrich Schmid. The young Goethe apparently did not have a high opinion of this Giessen professor of poetry and eloquence, who was also active as a reviewer: he was - as can be read in a letter of December 25, 1772 - "a real donkey" and on top of that a "shit ". Whether Schmid or someone else - it is certain that Goethe was attacked and that he wanted to fight back hard. You wouldn't have to object to that if only the act of revenge had turned out to be a little more intelligent.

"I had a guy as a guest ..." Here I am already. Why did the person reporting here - and we can assume that it is Goethe personally - invited a guy who belongs to a guild he detested? Because he must have known that it was a reviewer. Self-justification is not long in coming: “He wasn't a burden to me…” A strikingly poor justification: Since when do you invite someone who is only “not a burden” to dinner? Did Goethe even want to win over the reviewer? It seems that this (but obvious) suspicion is to be rebutted by the fact that there was by no means a particularly sumptuous meal, but only his “usual meal”.

We do not find out what was being talked about at the table, instead we hear that the guest grabbed hold of it and "fed up", which can hardly be considered a reproach. A little later, however, he had made unfavorable comments to a neighbor about what was placed in front of him. That's neither nice nor polite. But what if the soup was really bland and the roast wasn't crispy enough and the wine a little sour? So what if - which we cannot rule out - the rudeness was preceded by a lack of hospitality? Did the invitee accept a violation of the social convention in order to be able to tell the truth? Is it reprehensible to value honesty more than politeness?

The question is unnecessary because we are dealing with a parable, one that is wrong back and forth. Because Goethe has nothing else in mind than criticism. But the reviewer who takes on the work of a writer has not been selected and invited by the writer and is not entertained by him. On the contrary: He is required to examine and judge what the author has achieved and to express his opinion as clearly as possible, without worrying about whether the person concerned will like it or not.

In asking his readers to kill the reviewers, Goethe turns out to be a supporter of the death penalty and an opponent of freedom of expression; moreover, the offense of sedition is also fulfilled. And why all of this? No sooner was the poem “Reviewer” printed than Goethe was publicly instructed. The playwright Heinrich Leopold Wagner, who made famous the tragedy “Die Kindermörderin” in particular, published a counter-poem that ends with the words: “Throw him dead, the dog! It is an author who does not want to be criticized. "

One of the tirelessly repeated interview questions is the one about the books that one would like to take with you after being banished to a desert island. Usually you can name three titles, sometimes even three novels, three dramas and three volumes of poetry. But what if the questioner stubbornly insists that there is only room for a single volume in the meager baggage? Do I choose a novel? No, because you can certainly read a brilliant novel often, but not all the time. For a dramatic work? "Faust" comes into consideration here, as does a selection of Shakespeare's plays. In the end, however, I prefer poetry, and I do not doubt for a moment which poet and which verse would best delight, instruct and comfort, encourage, amuse and amuse me in solitude: Goethe and his collected poems.

Of all the treasures of German poetry, they are the most precious. Perhaps there are authors with a German tongue whose lyrical work is more extensive. But there is no one who has written so many poems that are still alive today, even more: that are glorious as on the first day, no one whose poetry is more delicate and witty, more colorful and varied, more thoughtful and spirited. It comes from all epochs of his life: Even the teenage Goethe wrote poetry - and there are masterpieces among them. The eighty-year-old was still composing verses, and at times they seem downright youthful.

The immeasurable, overwhelming richness of his lyric poetry, the variety of its tones and themes, of its materials and moods, of its motifs and melodies has to do with the richness of his personality. "The spirit of contradiction and the desire for paradox is in all of us" - he remarked in his autobiography. Generally speaking, that is probably not correct. But it certainly applies to himself. Whether we turn to his life and character or deal with his work, we constantly encounter polar tensions and sharp contradictions.

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