What follows is from a translation of Goethe’s Italian Journey [Princeton UP, 1989], an autobiographical account of his long-deferred voyage south. Here he narrates an experience on the shores of Lake Garda in an entry dated September 12, 1786.
A door leads down to the courtyard from the room I am sitting in; I have moved my table in front of it and sketched the view with a few strokes. Almost the whole length of the lake can be surveyed, only at the end, to the left, does it elude our eyes. The shore, framed on both sides by hills and mountains, gleams with innumerable little settlements.
After midnight the wind blows from north to south, so whoever wants to go down the lake must travel at this time; for already a few hours before sunrise the air current turns and goes northward. Now in the afternoon it is blowing toward me, cooling the hot sun quite delightfully. At the same time my Volkmann [J.J. Volkmann’s Historical and Critical News of Italy (1770-1771) was Goethe’s principal guidebook on the journey] informs me that the lake was formerly called Benacus and quotes a verse from Virgil mentioning it:
Fluctibus et fremitu resonans Benace marino.
[O Benacus, resounding to the shore with roaring waves. – Georgica 2, 160]
This is the first Latin verse whose content has come to life before me, and which is as true at this moment, when the wind is growing ever stronger and the lake is casting higher waves against the landing place, as many centuries ago. Many things have changed, but the wind still churns the lake, and the sight is still ennobled by a line of Virgil. [28-29]
The force of the wind. The force of citation. Likewise unstoppable.