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Goethe Stanza: "Traversing Tallulah Gorge"

Jay O'Toole

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Jay O'Toole

As an exercise on Writing.com this week, I was challenged to write a Goethe Stanza.  Considering the fact that the rhyme scheme and apparent rhythm of the Goethe Stanza is the same as my typical style of poetic form, this was a fairly easy task.  Goethe merely formatted the stanza differently by adding in two blank lines.


I hope you enjoy this offering.  It is a very personal account of my latest foray into extreme exercise.  As someone, who is no longer in my twenties, I am thrilled to accomplish more or less successfully with simply a pair of sore legs to show for it.  :biggrin:


We march and march down ev'ry step.


We find the bridge to cross,

and soon thighs quiver ev'ry rep.


The way seems but a loss.



The bridge it moves with each foot fall.


The swaying gives us pause,

but o'er the boards we pass them all.


The way a just, true cause.



Five hundred steps from top to last.


The signs warn all the weak.

All caution to the wind you cast.


Traverse each step you seek.



All sage foreboding we'd express.


Make sure thy shoes be true.

Unfit ones be in deepest mess.


The base step taunts at you.



"You have but come five hundred down."


"Five hundred you have more.

"Surmount the top and win the crown."


"The more you must explore."



We drank our walker's draft to full.


Returned we heads hung low.

The last few steps with mouths of wool.


More water would we know.



One day now hence on stilted legs.


The pain doth shoot and pinch.

Our memories seem bitter dregs.


More walking, it's a cinch!



by Jay O'Toole

on July 9th, 2017

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Haha Jay,  This is a fun one. I can relate to the pain.

It appears to me because of the meter and rhyme pattern you chose, you have written a kind of loose 16th century Hymnal Measure with addition of breaking the quatrain by a space after a stich, a couplet, and a stich, making each their own stanza linked by alternating rhyme. The pattern is repeated. 

I had not run across the "Goethe Stanza" before so I had to research. The only place I could find the form described was at Poet's Garret with no indication of its source or why it is call the Goethe Stanza.  I assume Goethe refers to 18th century poet and playwright, Johan Wolfgang von Goethe.  The Garret simply describes the form by rhyme scheme and line breaks.  It gives the poet the discretion of meter. I checked all over the internet and in the New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics which does give a considerable information on the contributions of Goethe under German Poetry but it never mentions a recognizable frame attributed to him.  I think it is a recent invented form possibly patterned from a poem or play in verse by von Goethe.   Digging further, of course my first stop was his most famous play, Faust.  I don't read German but can count stanza lines, meter and recognize rhyme.  I couldn't find the "stanza" frame in any parts of the German text but maybe it was altered for the internet.  I also did some spot checking of other poems of his in German to be true to his work, but with no luck. Again they could be altered.  I will add the invented form to the reference section. There are a few other unique forms that have popped up over at Poet's Garret I should add to this site.  Thanks for the heads up.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Jay O'Toole

Thanks, Tink, for the encouraging response.  You are exactly right.  I have quite the reputation of writing "hymns," when I write my poems.  But I don't mind.  The style fits the way my brain thinks.  Besides, my Dad was a preacher.  Therefore, being in church all of my childhood, I KNOW hymns.  :biggrin:  

As I mentioned...The Poet's Place on Writing.Com has been my educational "classroom" for growth in the knowledge and understanding of poetic forms and practice for much of the past year.  Dr. Dave Schneider did reference The Poet's Garret, when he gave me a link that ultimately led to the following poem.  http://www.thepoetsgarret.com/2008/080621.html      

I patterned my poem about Tallulah Gorge to be exactly like Goethe's poem, "The Goldsmith's Apprentice."  I understand that the meter is at poet's discretion.  However, I stayed with his meter because it is one of my favorite meters to use.

More examples are found here   http://thepoetsgarret.com/2014Challenge/form14.html  and here  https://poeticbloomings2.wordpress.com/tag/goethe-stanza-form/ , but as you can see everything references back to The Poet's Garret in some way. 

Ultimately, you are most welcome!  I am glad to share something new by way of passing along something that was newly taught to me in recent days.

Take care.           

Edited by Jay O'Toole
I needed to correct a misspelled word.
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Jay, I have been a member at Writer's.com for years but never could figure it out.  Maybe because I have this forum as my home base and visit "Writer's" once or twice a year, read a poem or two and leave.  I went to The Poet's Place on your suggestion and found a few poems but didn't see a system within to function. Is it all contests or is there space to just post your work or a reference section?    I guess I just have to spend more time there and explore.  

The son of a preacher, I think David is too.  The Hymnal Measure is a very common form in rhymed and metered work.  I like it.  It gives poetry a classical feeling to the poem.    


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Jay O'Toole

Tink, I will include a couple of links to help you get a better overview of WDC.  Come check out my profile.  https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/777stan

I have an entire folder comprised of subfolders, which houses my poetry at Writing.Com.  https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/item_id/2101392-Poetry

The Poet's Place Cafe is formatted - in my humble opinion - in a similar way to Poetry Magnum Opus.  https://www.writing.com/main/forums/item_id/1937709--The-Poets-Place-Cafe  The Cafe is a place for discussing poetry and just hanging out with other poets.

I'm on their subscription list, which means I get weekly emails like this one, called "Tools of the Trade."  https://www.writing.com/main/em/box//msg/4357

Dr. Dave Schneider is a great help to me.  He was the one, who posted an article you wrote right here on Poetry Magnum Opus.  That got me interested in interacting with the members here.

"Classical feeling..."  I like that.  I agree.

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