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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe


January 20.

I MUST write to you from hence, my dear Charlotte; from a cottage where I have been obliged to take shelter from a violent storm. In all the time that I have spent in that melancholy town, amidst strangers -- strangers indeed to this heart -- I have not been impelled to write to you: but in this cottage, in this retirement, in this sort of imprisonment, whilst the snow and hail are driving against my little window, I find myself restored to you and to myself. The moment I entered, your figure presented itself before my eyes, and the remembrance of you fill- {121} ed my heart. Oh! my Charlotte, the sacred remembrance! the tender recollections! -- Gracious Heaven! restore to me that first moment in which I beheld her!

Could you but see me, my dear Charlotte, in that vortex where every thing dissipates, and nothing touches me! My senses are dried up; my heart is at no time full; I never shed the soft tears of tenderness; nothing, nothing touches me. I stand, as it were, before the raree-show; I see the little puppets move, and say to myself it is a deception of optics. I am amused with these puppets, or rather I am myself one of them. I take the hand of the man who stands next to me, I feel that it is made of wood, I shudder and draw mine back. I have found but one being here that is of the same order with you, a Miss B. She resembles you, my dear Charlotte, if indeed it is possible for any thing to resemble you, "Ah," you will say, "he has learned to make ele- {122} gant compliments." And there is some truth in your observation. I have been prodigiously agreeable lately, not having it in my power to be any thing better. I have a great deal of wit too, and the women say that nobody understands better how to deal out panegyric -- "and lies," you will add, for one always accompanies the other. -- But I meant to talk to you of Miss B. She has great sensibility, and a superior understanding; her fine blue eyes show evident marks of both. Her rank is a burthen to her, and gratifies no one passion of her soul; she would gladly leave this crowd; and we often indulge our imagination in talking, for hours together, of happiness in retired and country scenes, and near you, my dear Charlotte; -- for she knows you, she does homage to you; but the homage is not exacted; she loves you, and takes great pleasure in hearing me talk of you.

Oh! why am I not at your feet in your favorite little room, and the dear chil- {123} dren playing round us! If their noise became troublesome to you, I would tell them a story, and they would crowd about me with silent attention. The sun is setting; his last rays shine on the snow which covers the face of the country; the storm is over, and I -- must return to my dungeon. Adieu! -- Is Albert with you, and what is he to you? Fool that I am! Should I ask this question?