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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe


December 8.

I FEEL, as those wretches must have felt who were formerly supposed to be possessed by devils. Sometimes I am seized with strange starts and motions; -- it is not agony, it is not passion, it is an interior secret rage which tears my bosom, and seems to seize my throat -- Wretch that I am! -- Then I run, and wander amidst the dark and gloomy scenes which this unfriendly season exhibits. Last night I felt thus constrained to go out of the town. I had been told that the river, and all the brooks in the neighbourhood, had over- {176} flown their banks, and that my favourite valley was under water. I ran thither at past eleven o'clock: it was a gloomy and aweful sight! the moon was behind a cloud, but by means of a few scattered rays I could perceive the foaming waves rolling over the fields and meadows, and beating against the bushes; the whole valley was as a stormy sea, tossed by furious winds. The moon then appeared again, and rested on a dark cloud; the splendor of her light increased the disorder of nature. The echoes repeated and redoubled the roarings of the wind and the waters. I drew near to the precipice; I wished and shuddered; I stretched out my arms, I leaned over, I sighed, and lost myself in the happy thought of burying all my sufferings, all my torments, in that abyss, and tossing amidst the waves. Why were my feet rooted to the earth? why could I not thus have put an end to my misery? But I feel it, my dear friend, my hour is not yet come. With what delight {177} should I have changed my nature, and have incorporated with the whirlwinds to rend the clouds and disturb the waters! Perhaps I may one day quit my prison, and taste these pleasures.

I looked sorrowfully down upon a little spot where I had sat under a willow by the side of Charlotte, after a summer's walk; that also was under water. I could hardly distinguish the tree. Alas! I then thought of the meadows, the fields round the hunting-lodge, the green recesses now perhaps laid waste by the torrent; and the memory of time for ever lost entered my heart. -- Thus, to the sleeping captive dreams recall all the blessings he is deprived of. -- I stopped. -- I don't reproach myself, I have the courage to die; -- I should have. -- I am now like an old and wretched woman, who picks dry sticks along the hedge side, and begs bread from door to door, to prolong for a few moments her feeble and miserable existence.