Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel quotes

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Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Birthdate: 10. March 1772
Date of death: 12. January 1829
Other names: Karl Wilhelm Friedrich von Schlegel

Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel , usually cited as Friedrich Schlegel, was a German poet, literary critic, philosopher, philologist and Indologist. With his older brother, August Wilhelm Schlegel, he was one of the main figures of the Jena romantics. He was a zealous promoter of the Romantic movement and inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Adam Mickiewicz and Kazimierz Brodziński. The first to notice what became known as Grimm's law, Schlegel was a pioneer in Indo-European studies, comparative linguistics, and morphological typology.

As a young man he was an atheist, a radical, and an individualist. In 1808, the same Schlegel converted to Catholicism. Two years later he was a diplomat and journalist in the service of the reactionary Clemens von Metternich, surrounded by monks and pious men of society.

Photo: Tinodela, Own work / Public domain

„Whatever can be done while poetry and philosophy are separated has been done and accomplished. So the time has come to unite the two.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Was sich thun lässt, so lange Philosophie und Poesie getrennt sind, ist gethan und vollendet. Also ist die Zeit nun da, beyde zu vereinigen.
“Ideas,” Lucinde and the Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991), § 108

„There is no self-knowledge except historical self-knowledge. No one knows what he is if he doesn’t know what his contemporaries are.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Es giebt keine Selbstkenntniss als die historische. Niemand weiss was er ist, wer nicht weiss was seine Genossen sind.

“Ideas,” Lucinde and the Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991), § 139

„Think of something finite molded into the infinite, and you think of man.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Denke dir ein Endliches ins Unendliche gebildet, so denkst du einen Menschen.
“Selected Ideas (1799-1800)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (1968) #98

„Whoever does not philosophize for the sake of philosophy, but rather uses philosophy as a means, is a sophist.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

“Selected Aphorisms from the Athenaeum (1798)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #96
Athenäum (1798 - 1800)

„It is individuality which is the original and eternal within man; personality doesn’t matter so much. To pursue the education and development of this individuality as one’s highest vocation would be a divine egoism.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Grade die Individualität ist das Ursprüngliche und Ewige im Menschen; an der Personalität ist so viel nicht gelegen. Die Bildung und Entwicklung dieser Individualität als höchsten Beruf zu treiben, wäre ein göttlicher Egoismus.
“Selected Ideas (1799-1800)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) # 60

„If there is an invisible church, then it is of the great paradox, which is inseparable from morality, and which must be distinguished from the merely philosophical. People who are so eccentric that they are completely serious in being and becoming virtuous understand one another in everything, find one another easily, and form a silent opposition against the prevailing immorality that pretends to be morality.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Athenäumsfragmente 414
Variant translations:
People who are eccentric enough to be quite seriously virtuous understand each other everywhere, discover each other easily, and form a silent opposition to the ruling immorality that happens to pass for morality.
Philosophical Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991) § 414
Athenäum (1798 - 1800)
Context: If there is an invisible church, then it is of the great paradox, which is inseparable from morality, and which must be distinguished from the merely philosophical. People who are so eccentric that they are completely serious in being and becoming virtuous understand one another in everything, find one another easily, and form a silent opposition against the prevailing immorality that pretends to be morality. A certain mysticism of expression, which joined with romantic fantasy and grammatical understanding, can be something charming and good, often serves as a symbol of their beautiful secrets.

„Prudishness is pretense of innocence without innocence.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

“Selected Aphorisms from the Athenaeum (1798)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #31
Athenäum (1798 - 1800)
Context: Prudishness is pretense of innocence without innocence. Women have to remain prudish as long as men are sentimental, dense, and evil enough to demand of them eternal innocence and lack of education. For innocence is the only thing which can ennoble lack of education.

„Poetry can be criticized only through poetry.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

“Selected Aphorisms from the Lyceum (1797)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #117
Context: Poetry can be criticized only through poetry. A critique which itself is not a work of art, either in content as representation of the necessary impression in the process of creation, or through its beautiful form and in its liberal tone in the spirit of the old Roman satire, has no right of citizenship in the realm of art.

„Do not waste your faith and love on the political world, but, in the divine world of science and art, offer up your inmost being in a fiery stream of eternal creation.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Nicht in die politische Welt verschleudere du Glauben und Liebe, aber in der göttlichen Welt der Wissenschaft und der Kunst opfre dein Innerstes in den heiligen Feuerstrom ewiger Bildung.
“Ideas,” Lucinde and the Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991), § 106

„In England … everything becomes professional … even the rogues of that island are pedants.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

“Selected Aphorisms from the Lyceum (1797)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #67

„Moderation is the spirit of castrated narrow-mindedness.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

“Selected Aphorisms from the Athenaeum (1798)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #64
Athenäum (1798 - 1800)

„At the words “his philosophy, my philosophy,” one is always reminded of that line in Nathan: … “What kind of God is it who belongs to a man?”“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Bei den Ausdrücken, „Seine Philosophie”, „Meine Philosophie”, erinnert man sich immer an die Worte im Nathan: „Wem eignet Gott? Was ist das für ein Gott, der einem Menschen eignet?”
Lucinde and the Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991) § 99, reference is to Lessing, Nathan der Weise

„You live only insofar as you live according to your own ideas.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Man lebt nur insofern man nach seinen eignen Ideen lebt. Die Grundsätze sind nur Mittel, der Beruf ist Zweck an sich.
“Ideas,” Lucinde and the Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991), § 82

„To disrespect the masses is moral; to honor them, lawful.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Die Menge nicht zu achten, ist sittlich; sie zu ehren, ist rechtlich.
Lucinde and the Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991), “Athenaeum Fragments” § 211

„Every uneducated person is a caricature of himself.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Jeder ungebildete Mensch ist die Karikatur von sich selbst.
“Selected Aphorisms from the Athenaeum (1798)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #63
Athenäum (1798 - 1800)

„What men are among the other formations of the earth, artists are among men.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Was die Menschen unter den andern Bildungen der Erde, das sind die Künstler unter den Menschen.
“Selected Ideas (1799-1800)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) # 43

„In a perfect literature all books should be only a single book, and in such an eternally developing book, the gospel of humanity and culture will be revealed.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Auf eine ähnliche Weise sollen in der vollkommnen Litteratur alle Bücher nur Ein Buch seyn, und in einem solchen ewig werdenden Buche wird das Evangelium der Menschheit und der Bildung offenbart werden.
“Ideas,” Lucinde and the Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991), § 95

„Wit is the appearance, the external flash of imagination. Thus its divinity, and the witty character of mysticism.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Aphorism 26, as translated in Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms (1968), p. 151
Variant translation:
Wit is the appearance, the external flash, of fantasy. Hence its divinity and the similarity to the wit of mysticism.
As translated in The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics (1996) edited by Frederick C. Beiser, p. 131

„Thou shalt not make unto thee any ideal, neither of an angel in heaven, nor of a hero in a poem or novel, nor one that is dreamed up or imagined: rather shalt thou love a man as he is.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Du sollst dir kein Ideal machen, weder eines Engels im Himmel, noch eines Helden aus einem Gedicht oder Roman, noch eines selbstgeträumten oder fantasirten; sondern du sollst einen Mann lieben, wie er ist.
Philosophical Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991), “Athenaeum Fragments,” § 364

„Honour is the mysticism of legality.“

—  Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Aphorism 77, of Ideas as translated in The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics (1996) edited by Frederick C. Beiser, p. 131

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