Schlegel, August Wilhelm


A work is cultivated when it is everywhere sharply delimited, but within those limits limitless and inexhaustible; when it is completely faithful to itself, entirely homogeneous, and nonetheless exalted above itself. Like the education of young Englishmen, the most important thing about it is le grand tour. It should have traveled through all three or four continents of humanity, not in order to round off the edges of individuality, but to broaden its vision and give its spirit more freedom and inner versatility; and thereby greater independence and self-sufficiency.

– Friedrich Schlegel’s fragment no. 297 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

Perhaps one has to be arch-modern in order to gain a transcendental perspective on antiquity. Winckelmann felt the Greeks like a Greek. Hersterhuis, on the other hand, knew how to circumscribe modern amplitude beautifully with ancient simplicity, and from the height of his culture he cast, as if from a free frontier, equally meaningful glances into the old and the new world.

– August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 271 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

W. [August Wilhelm Schlegel] said of a young philosopher: he has a theory ovarium in the brain and, like a hen, lays a theory every day; and that’s his only possible time of rest in his continual movement of self-creation and self-destruction.

– August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 269 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

The ancients, it seems, loved eternity in miniatures as well: the gem -carver’s art is the miniature of the sculptor’s.

– August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 191 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

The thing itself can make us forget about its size: … Hercules carved on a stone still appears to be superhumanly large. Only dimensions that are scaled down may be deceptive. When something is ordinary, a colossal treatment only serves, as it were, to multiply its ordinariness.

Excerpt from August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 185 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

There’s nothing ornamental about the style of the real poet: everything is a necessary hieroglyph.

August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 173 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

Proving things a priori conveys a blissful tranquility, whereas observation always remains something partial and incomplete. Aristotle made the world as round as a ball by pure abstraction: he didn’t leave the slightest corner sticking out or in. For the same reason he also drew the comets into the atmosphere of the earth and made short shrift of the true solar systems of the Pythagoreans. How long will our astronomers,looking through Herscehlian telescopes, have to labor before returning to so definitely clear and spherical a view of the world?

August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 169 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

See William Herschel for some information about Herschel’s telescopes.

The subjects of several countries boast of having a great many freedoms, which would become wholly superfluous through the possession of freedom It is probably for this reason only that the beauties of many poems are emphasized so strongly–because they have no beauty. They are artist in parts, but taken as wholes are no work of art.

– August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 60 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

Notes to a poem are like anatomical lectures on a piece of roast beef.

– August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 40 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

You’re always demanding new ideas? Do something new, then something new might be said about it.

– August Wilhelm Schlegel’s fragment no. 5 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.