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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe



October 12.

OSSIAN has taken the place of Homer in my heart and imagination. To what a world does the illustrious bard carry me! To wander in heaths and wilds, surrounded by impetuous whirlwinds, in which, by the feeble light of the moon, we discover the spirits of our ancestors; -- to hear from the top of the mountains, amidst the roaring of the waters, their plaintive sounds issuing from deep caverns, and the sorrowful lamentations of a maiden who sighs and dies on the mossy tomb of the warrior by whom she was adored! I meet this bard with silver hair; he wanders in the valley; he seeks the footsteps of his fathers. Alas! he finds only their tombs! Then contemplating the pale moon as she sinks beneath the waves of the foaming sea, the memory {154} of time past strikes the mind of the hero; -- those times when the approach of danger filled his heart with exultation, and gave vigour to his nerves -- when the moon shone upon his bark, laden with the spoils of his enemies, and lighted up his triumph -- when I read in his countenance his deep sorrow -- when I see his sinking glory tottering towards the grave -- when he casts a look over the cold earth which is to cover him, and cries out, "The traveller will come, he will come who has seen my beauty, and he will ask where is the bard, where is the illustrious son of Fingal? he will walk over my tomb and he will seek me in vain!" -- Then, O my friend! I could instantly, like a true and noble knight, draw my sword, and rescue my prince from long and painful languor, and afterwards plunge it into my own breast, to follow the demi-god whom my hand set free.