Looking at the noble buildings created by Palladio in this city, and noting how badly they have been defaced already by the filthy habits of men, how most of his projects were far beyond the means of his patrons, how little these precious monuments, designed by a superior mind, are in accord with the life of the average man, one realizes that it is just the same with everything else. One gets small thanks from people when one tries to improve their moral values, to give them a higher conception of themselves and a sense of the truly noble. But if one flatters the “Birds”* with lies, tells them fairy tales, caters daily to their weaknesses, the one is their man. That is why there is so much bad taste in our age. I do not say this to disparage my friends; I only say – that is what they are like, and one must not be surprised if things are as they are. (Part I, Sept. 19)
Goethe seems to balance himself between the popular and higher values. His art was both extremely popular with everyone and extremely respected by artists everywhere. In this he is much like Shakespeare. They both shared a desire to raise people up, penetrating insights into human nature, and respect for people no matter their station in life. This combination makes them the greatest writers of all time. And this combination – or any one of them, quite frankly – is what is missing in postmodern art and literature. Only rarely have I come across it in any human being.