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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe


September 15.

ONE is tempted to wish one's self at the devil, when one thinks of all the contemptible beings which Heaven suffers to crawl upon this earth, without any feeling, without any idea of the things which may be interesting to others. You remember the walnut-trees at S----, under which I sat with Charlotte at the worthy old vicar's. These beautiful, these beloved trees, how they adorned the parsonage yard; -- their shade was refreshing; it was respectable, for it carried one back with pleasing ideas to the good pastors who planted them. The school-master often mentioned the name of him who planted the oldest of them. {150} He had it from his grandfather. This vicar was an excellent man, and under these trees his respectable memory was ever present to me. The school-master had the tears in his eyes yesterday, when he told us they were cut down. -- Cut down! I could in my fury murder the ruffian who struck the first stroke! -- I that should grieve if I had two such trees in my court, and one died of old age; I must endure this. I have however one consolation -- such is sentiment -- the whole village murmurs at it, and I hope the good peasants will make no more presents to the vicar's wife, and that she will suffer for the mischief she has done in the parish -- for she did it, the wife of the present incumbent (our good old man is dead) a tall meagre, wrinkled, wan creature, who is so far right to disregard the world, that the world totally disregards her; an antiquated scold, who affects to be learned, pretends to examine the canonical books, lends her assistance towards the new reformation, moral and {151} critical, of the Christian religion, and shrugs up her shoulders at the mention of Lavater's enthusiasm. Her health is destroyed, and hinders her from having any enjoyment here below. Such a being only could have cut down my walnut-trees. No, I cannot get over it. Would you hear the reasons? The leaves which fell from them made the court wet and dirty; the trees obstructed the light; little boys threw stones at the nuts, and the noise affected her nerves, and disturbed her profound meditations when she was weighing in the balance Kennicott, Semler, and Michaelis. When I found that all the parish was displeased, and particularly the old people, I asked them why they suffered it? -- "Ah! Sir," they said "when the steward orders, what can we poor peasants do?" However one thing has happened very well; the steward and the vicar (who for once thought to reap some advantage from the caprices of his wife) intended to divide the trees between {151} them. The revenue-office being informed of it, took possession of the trees, and sold them to the best bidder. There they still lie on the ground. Oh! If I was a sovereign prince, how I would deal with the vicar, the steward and the revenue office! -- But if I was a prince, what should I care for the trees that grew in my country.