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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Excerpts from The Sorrows of Young Werther [Die Leiden des jungen Werthers] (1774)

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Will you be so kind as to inform my mother that I shall look after her business to the best of my ability, and shall give her news about it soon. I have seen my aunt, and find that she is very far from being the disagreeable person our friends make her out to be. She is a lively, temperamental woman, with the best of hearts. I explained to her my mother’s grievances with regard to that part of the legacy which has been withheld from her. She told me the reasons why she had done it, and the terms on which she would be willing to give up the whole, and to do more than we have asked. In short, I cannot write further upon this subject now; only tell my mother that all will be well. And in this trifling affair I have again found, my dear friend, that misunderstandings and neglect cause more mischief in the world than malice or wickedness. At any rate, these last two are much rarer.

For the rest, I am very well off here. Solitude in this terrestrial paradise is a wonderful balm to my mind, and the early spring cheers with all its warmth my often-shivering heart. Every tree, every bush is full of flowers; and one might wish himself transformed into a cockchafer, to float about in this ocean of fragrance, and find in it all the food one needs.

The town itself is disagreeable; but then, all around it, nature is inexpressibly beautiful. This induced the late Count M. to lay out a garden on one of the sloping hills which here intersect and form the most lovely valleys. The garden is simple; and it is easy to see as soon as one enters that the plan was not designed by a scientific gardener, but by a man who wished to give himself up here to the enjoyment of his own sensitive heart. Many a tear have I already shed to the memory of its departed master, in a summerhouse which is now reduced to ruins, but was his favorite resort, and now is mine. I shall soon be master of the garden. The gardener has become attached to me within the few days I have spent here, and, I am sure, it will not be to his disadvantage.

May 10

A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet spring mornings which I enjoy with all my heart. I am alone, and feel the enchantment of life in this spot, which was created for souls like mine. I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of tranquil existence, that I neglect my art. I could not draw a single line at the present moment; and yet I feel that I was never a greater painter than I am now. When the lovely valley teems with mist around me, and the high sun strikes the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few rays steal into the inner sanctuary, I lie in the tall grass by the trickling stream and notice a thousand familiar things: when I hear the humming of the little world among the stalks, and am near the countless indescribable forms of the worms and insects, then I feel the presence of the Almighty Who created us in His own image, and the breath of that universal love which sustains us, as we float in an eternity of bliss; and then, my friend, when the world grows dim before my eyes and earth and sky seem to dwell in my soul and absorb its power, like the form of a beloved—then I often think with longing, Oh, would I could express it, could impress upon paper all that is living so full and warm within me, that it might become the mirror of my soul, as my soul is the mirror of the infinite God! O my friend—but it will kill me—I shall perish under the splendor of these visions!

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