Previous Contents Index Next

The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe


MY days are as happy as those which are reserved for the Elect; and whatever may be my fate hereafter, I will never say that I have not tasted happiness, and the purest happiness of life. You know Walheim; I am now entirely settled there: there I am but half a league from Charlotte; there I enjoy myself, and all the pleasure that a mortal is capable of. When I chose Walheim for the end of my walks, I little thought that all heaven was so near it. How many times, in my long rambles, have I seen this hunting-lodge, which now contains the object of all my vows! sometimes from the top of the hill, sometimes from the meadow on the opposite side of the river.

{43} I have often reflected on the desire men have to extend themselves, and to make new discoveries; and upon that secret impulse, which afterwards inclines them to return to their circle, to conform to the laws of custom, and to embarrass themselves no longer with what passes either to the right or to the left.

When I first came hither, and from the top of the hill contemplated the beauties of this vale, you cannot imagine how I was attracted by every thing I saw round me. The little wood opposite, how delightful to sit under its shade! how fine the view from that one point of rock! How agreeably might one wander in those close valleys, and amongst those broken hills! I went and came without having found what I wished. Distance, my dear friend, is like futurity; a darkness is placed before us, and the perceptions of our mind are as obscure as distant objects are to our sight. We ardently wish for a warm and noble energy which might take possession {44} of our souls; we would sacrifice our whole being to be filled with such a sentiment.

So the most determined traveller returns at length to his country, and finds in his own cottage, in the arms of his wife, in the society of his children, and in the labour necessary to maintain them, all the happiness which he sought in vain in the vast deserts of the world.

When I go to Walheim at sun-rise, gather my own pease, and sit in a corner to shell them, and read Homer; when I go into the little kitchen and make a soup of them, I figure to myself the illustrious lovers of Penelope killing and dressing their own meat. All descriptions of the patriarchal life give me the most calm and agreeable ideas; and now, thank heaven, I can compare to it the life I lead myself. Happy it is for me that my heart is capable of feeling the same simple and innocent pleasure, as the peasant who sees on his table the cabbage he has raised with {45} his own hand; and who not only enjoys his meal, but remembers also, with delight, the fine morning in which he planted it, the soft evenings in which he watered it, and the pleasure he had in seeing it grow and flourish.