Words – A Thought for the Day

“Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.”

Hermann Hesse (German poet)

I often think that there are not the right words to express my thoughts – even in two languages!


 By the way, until I read some Hermann Hesse poetry, I did not realise how beautiful the German language could be!

18 thoughts on “Words – A Thought for the Day

  1. Another famous poet, I forget who it was, said “Words are slippery”… I also find that they can hidebound what you are trying to say…. not allowing the other to enjoy their own thoughts… Good post.

    • Hi Merrill. That’s true… everyone has their own way of thinking and expressing things and sometimes other people’s words interfere with that. Then the thought is lost. Aren’t we philosophical today!

    • The words are from The Education of Henry Adams, originally circulated privately by Henry Adams in 1907 but not publicly until after his death in 1918:

      “No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous; but since Bacon and Newton, English thought had gone on impatiently protesting that no one must try to know the unknowable at the same time that every one went on thinking about it.”

  2. I know this feeling too, Cathy. When I sometimes try to express a quite special thought or to explain a thing exactly I´m seeking for the fitting word and am discontented when I´m not able to find it..
    The quote of Hermann Hesse is very true…

  3. Your picture of flowers and your mention of poetry and two languages bring to mind Heinrich Heine’s famous poem:

    Du bist wie eine Blume,
    So hold und schön und rein;
    Ich schau’ dich an und Wehmut
    Schleicht mir ins Herz hinein.

    Mir ist, als ob ich die Hände
    Aufs Haupt dir liegen sollt’,
    Betend, daß Gott dich erhalte
    So rein und schön und hold.

    (I just noticed that he reversed the order of the adjectives in the last line.)

    English speakers can find a translation at


    and everyone can hear Schumann’s setting sung at

    (along with a superimposed English translation).

    • Wunderschön! Thank you so much Steve! In the English translation they translate Wehmut with sorrow or “wistful melancholy”. The word reminds me of “Wermut”, which is a plant (Artemisia absinthium -Wormwood), but is also used in German as a symbol of sad or bitter grief. A “Wermutstropfen” is a drop of something that gives an otherwise nice experience a bitter aftertaste.

  4. hello Im from florida but my father and grandparents lived in nuestadt ad wienstrasse..was just there in MayI am 100 percent german…Love your blog…are you a rilke fan…danke

    • Hi Sharon. Thanks for your comment – you made me look up Rilke, and now I have a lot of reading to do! I like his poems in German, but the English translations always seem to be lacking something! 😉

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