Sunday, December 13, 2009

Werther: "Because she knows how much I love her"


(Louise-Elizabeth-Vigee-Lebrun: Self-portrait in a straw hat)

SEPTEMBER 3

I sometimes cannot understand how she can love another, how she dares love another, when I love nothing in this world so completely, so devotedly, as I love her, when I know only her, and have no other possession.
(...)

SEPTEMBER 5

Charlotte had written a letter to her husband in the country, where he was detained by business. It commenced, "My dearest love, return as soon as possible: I await you with a thousand raptures." A friend who arrived, brought word, that, for certain reasons, he could not return immediately. Charlotte's letter was not forwarded, and the same evening it fell into my hands. I read it, and smiled. She asked the reason. "What a heavenly treasure is imagination:" I exclaimed; "I fancied for a moment that this was written to me." She paused, and seemed displeased. I was silent.


SEPTEMBER 6

It cost me much to part with the blue coat which I wore the first time I danced with Charlotte. But I could not possibly wear it any longer. I have ordered a new one, precisely similar, even to the collar and sleeves, as well as a new waistcoat and pantaloons.
But it does not produce the same effect upon me. I know not how it is, but I hope in time I shall like it better.


SEPTEMBER 12

She has been absent for some days. She went to meet Albert. To-day I visited her: she rose to receive me, and I kissed her hand most tenderly.
A canary at the moment flew from a mirror, and settled upon her shoulder. "Here is a new friend," she observed, while she made him perch upon her hand: "he is a present for the children. What a dear he is! Look at him! When I feed him, he flutters with his wings, and pecks so nicely. He kisses me, too, only look!"
She held the bird to her mouth; and he pressed her sweet lips with so much fervour that he seemed to feel the excess of bliss which he enjoyed.
"He shall kiss you too," she added; and then she held the bird toward me. His little beak moved from her mouth to mine, and the delightful sensation seemed like the forerunner of the sweetest bliss.
"A kiss," I observed, "does not seem to satisfy him: he wishes for food, and seems disappointed by these unsatisfactory endearments."
"But he eats out of my mouth," she continued, and extended her lips to him containing seed; and she smiled with all the charm of a being who has allowed an innocent participation of her love.
I turned my face away. She should not act thus. She ought not to excite my imagination with such displays of heavenly innocence and happiness, nor awaken my heart from its slumbers, in which it dreams of the worthlessness of life! And why not? Because she knows how much I love her.
(...)


OCTOBER 10

Only to gaze upon her dark eyes is to me a source of happiness! And what grieves me, is, that Albert does not seem so happy as he -- hoped to be -- as I should have been -- if -- I am no friend to these pauses, but here I cannot express it otherwise; and probably I am explicit enough.
(...)


OCTOBER 27: Evening

I possess so much, but my love for her absorbs it all. I possess so much, but without her I have nothing.


OCTOBER 30

One hundred times have I been on the point of embracing her. Heavens! what a torment it is to see so much loveliness passing and repassing before us, and yet not dare to lay hold of it! And laying hold is the most natural of human instincts. Do not children touch everything they see? And I!

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Nathen Haskell Dole, translation by R.D. Boyla

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