Tuesday, November 21, 2017

HERALDRY | Goethe's Arms

Goethe's Arms in Players Club
Window. Photo by JT Marlin.
At the Players Club in New York City yesterday, I noted a stained-glass window with a coat of arms and the label "Goethe". 

Nearby windows were labeled with other authors such as Molière, so the window clearly honors the great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).

Goethe was a Saxon, ennobled by by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August, in 1782. 

The blazon for Goethe's coat of arms in the authoritative Armorial by the Dutch heraldist and genealogis Jean-Baptiste Rietstap is:
Azure a mullet six points Argent a bordure of the same crowned Helmet. Crest: the mullet. (Barons, 28 August 1859, Extinct house on 17 April 1885.) 
Goethe's Arms (Wikipedia
Rietstap's drawing of Goethe's arms shows the six-pointed mullet. Wikipedia provides a full achievement for the arms, with a six-pointed mullet.

So where does the five-pointed mullet come from? 

Most mullets in German heraldry are six-pointed or eight-pointed. The five-pointed star is more common in France and England.

Did the artist in doing the window for Goethe have a preference for the five-pointed mullet? 

Goethe wrote a poem in 1789 pitying the stars because they could not love:
Nachtgedanken Euch bedaur' ich, unglücksel'ge Sterne, Die ihr schön seid und so herrlich scheinet, Dem bedrängten Schiffer gerne leuchtet, Unbelohnt von Göttern und von Menschen: Denn ihr liebt nicht, kanntet nie die Liebe! Unaufhaltsam führen ew'ge Stunden Eure Reihen durch den weiten Himmel. Welche Reise habt ihr schon vollendet, Seit ich, weilend in dem Arm der Liebsten, Euer und der Mitternacht vergessen. 

In English:
Stars, you are unfortunate, I pity you, Beautiful as you are, shining in your glory, Who guide seafaring men through stress and peril And have no recompense from gods or mortals, Love you do not, nor do you know what love is. Hours that are aeons urgently conducting Your figures in a dance through the vast heaven, What journey have you ended in this moment, Since lingering in the arms of my beloved I lost all memory of you and midnight.

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