Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Und nach hinten war mir niemals ein froher Genuss. I loved it because there is the original available in german as well as the portuguese version,it is perfect. Guilherme Rodrigues rated it really liked it Feb 16, Clotilde Monteiro de Castro rated it it was amazing Jan 16, Luiza Leite rated it liked it Jan 02, Maria Carneiro rated it liked it Jan 07, Fabio Mello rated it liked it Jul 03, Lourdes Saraiva rated it liked it Nov 19, Gabriel Valentim rated it liked it Jan 06, Numberboy added it Sep 15, Cansu marked it as to-read Jun 28, Mirtes marked it as to-read Jul 03, Amanda added it Jul 14, Filipe Russo added it Nov 12, Amanda marked it as to-read Dec 25, Lidia Rogatto added it Aug 23, Ingrid marked it as to-read Feb 28, Miguel marked it as to-read Jun 03, Guilherme Lacerda added it Nov 16, Gui Lacerda added it Dec 06, Emanuel Martins marked it as to-read Feb 25, Naomi Stange marked it as to-read Apr 24, Isabelle added it May 27, Life philosophy, on the other hand, has a prominent sociological author in the person of Georg Simmel.
Both Simmel and the school as such, however, have had the misfortune to become rather marginalized after World War II. The caveat remains that I am comparing authors from different epochs, different disciplines and with different research objectives. It may be ameliorated by the fact that the study of life is a truly interdisciplinary concern and thus contributions from every discipline can be brought to bear on it. The comparison will focus on the two central concepts phenomenon and life but also discuss broader epistemological and methodological issues, such as the relationship between observer and observed, the relationship between culture cultural sciences and nature natural sciences , the nature of causality, preferred methods of study as well as the role of ratiocination and formal-mathematical methods.
While generally recognised as one of the greatest German poets, his scientific works mostly in geology, biology and physics have met with reserved praise. Many natural scientists over the centuries have criticised major parts of his empirical work. Although Goethe illustrates his ideas on the phenomenon in the former, it is the latter that is of more interest to us. Edmund Husserl — is the founder of Philosophical Phenomenology. Publishing in an academic community embedded in German Idealism and Marxism on the one hand and positivist science especially Psychologism 3 on the other, Husserl sought to establish a philosophy that could provide a foundation for the sciences—without drawing on them.
Georg Simmel — is a thinker that is today often classified as a sociologist but saw himself as a philosopher Swedberg The study of life marked, according to his own testimony, his most important and enduring concern among a work that is astoundingly multi-faceted. Simmel admired and drew heavily on Goethe, on whom he published several essays as well as a book.
The basic characteristic of a living unit: to separate, to unite, to become universal, to remain particular, to change, to specify and to present itself and to vanish under a thousand conditions that the living may choose, to solidify and to melt, to freeze and to flow, to extend and to contract. As all these effects happen at the same time, everything and anything can happen.
Becoming and perishing, creating and destroying, birth and death, joy and sorrow, everything mingles in the same sense and measure; this is why the most particular can always appear as representation and simile for the most universal. Goethe b , no. True creativity in art as in nature, Goethe would hold, is a product not of unrestrained, shapeless productiveness but of an inner creative force that disciplines itself to adhere to certain forms of communication or other forms of production. For Goethe, its is the intensification of experience that leads from the material to the spiritual Naydler The strong emphasis on the spiritual nature as well as the qualitative aspects of change leads Goethe to reject the quantitative-mathematical approach of the Natural Sciences see below.
He argues that living organisms cannot be measured and compared like mechanic artefacts. To look at products of nature in themselves, without relation to utility or effectiveness, without relation to a first cause, just as a living whole that includes, by virtue of being alive, cause and effect; that we can approach and ask to give account, that we can trust to tell us about the nature of its being. The parable of a free human being that does not obey either father nor master nor need. We watch him act and do not really understand why he acts in this way.
We approach him and ask him why. He would give us his innermost and his circumstances and we would understand that he acts from necessity. Goethe, no date: , my translation. Natural system: a contradictory expression. Nature has no system; and she has — she is — life and development from an unknown centre toward an unknowable periphery. Thus observation of Nature is limitless… 9 Goethe c : We have made a step that was well considered but always seems risky: to describe all phenomena in continuous succession as they develop out of each other, transform into each other.
Goethe a : In reality, any attempt to express the inner nature of a thing is fruitless. What we perceive are effects, and a complete record of these effects ought to encompass this inner nature. Goethe c : I gave a spirited explanation of my theory of the metamorphosis of plants with graphic pen sketches of a symbolic plant. Goethe a : f. At this point we encounter a characteristic difficulty […] namely, that a definite chasm appears to be fixed between idea and experience.
Our efforts to overbridge the chasm are forever in vain, but nevertheless we strive eternally to overcome this hiatus with reason, intellect, imagination, faith, emotion, illusion, or - if we are capable of nothing better — with folly. By honest persistent effort we finally discover that the philosopher might probably be right to assert that no idea can completely coincide with experience, nevertheless admitting that the idea and the experience are analogous, indeed must be so. Goethe c : 31f. Out attempt to imagine an operation of nature as both simultaneous and successive, as we must in an idea, seems to drive us to the verge of insanity.
The ultimate goal would be: to grasp that everything in the realm of fact is already theory. The blue of the sky shows us the basic law of chromatics. Let us not seek for something behind the phenomena — they themselves are the theory. For Husserl , the phenomenon forms the cornerstone of his philosophy because he considers it to be the absolute given. This, Husserl reasons, must then form the ultimate, undoubtable foundation of all further investigations into the possibility of knowledge and knowing Erkenntnis. Although the phenomenon is immediately given to a thinking person, it is normally accompanied by a host of assumptions and inferences that are far less certain than the phenomenon itself.
The natural attitude is characterized by the absence of doubts about the possibility of knowing something with certainty. In the natural attitude people take the world for granted; they do not question its existence. They do not distinguish between different degrees of epistemic certainty and reserve hence no special place for the pure phenomenon as the absolute given. It is only when we apply Phenomenological Reduction and leave the natural attitude that we can isolate the pure phenomenon from other, less certain assumptions and inferences, most notably the assumption that a perceived object exists outside of our consciousness as a real-world object.
Reduction proceeds in two steps. The second step, the Epistemological or Transcendental or Phenomenological Reduction, in contrast, requires the observer to leave the natural attitude by suspending the belief in the reality of the object. From then on, real is what presents itself as real in consciousness. The transcendental Ego must not be mistaken for a psychological, individual Ego, as Husserl never ceases to emphasise. Studying the latter—the realm of psychology—can only render subjective truths, whereas studying the former—phenomenology—means studying a universal, and in this sense objective, constellation.
The pure phenomenon is the essence Wesen of a subjective mental experience as derived from both reductions Husserl : It is like the unity of a living organism which you can consider and dissect from the outside, but which you can understand only if you go back to its hidden roots and systematically follow the formative life force in all its achievements as it arises in the roots and strives upwards from them. Is this, however, only a simile, and is not, in the end, our human being and its consciousness with its deepest world problematization the locus where all problems of inner being and external representation are addressed?
Simmel straddles both positions. He agrees with Goethe on the objective entity of the organism as represented by its entelechy. With regard to non-organic entities like actions or things, however, he follows the idealist tradition in saying that it is the mind that constitutes their entity. They are in this sense neither subjective nor objective but relational. This relationality has an ontological quality as being known changes the phenomenon. It is also ecstatic in the literal sense of the word as reaching out beyond the observer.
This also means that the observer is a true participant in the process who emerges as changed from it as does the observed. There are no primary qualities hidden behind, or even beyond, the phenomenon. On the contrary, phenomena display relations, tensions and intensities that belong to their nature and can be felt by the observer just as the observer can see, hear or smell their other qualities. The world is the world we are conscious of, and consciousness, vice versa, needs the world to be conscious of something. In this sense, Husserl overcomes the Cartesian dichotomy of subject and object.
They transcend it. Phenomenology only really concerns itself with the first two because they are undoubtedly given and constitute the pure phenomenon. The latter pair corresponds to the former but forms the concern of the natural attitude because it transcends the phenomenon. It is hence not undoubtedly given but subject to ontological assumptions that are part of the natural attitude.
Both authors thus describe subject and object as constituted in analogous processes: for Husserl the constituting entity is consciousness, whereas for Goethe it is nature. The difference between them is marked by Kant. As we perceive everything as something, the cogitatum consists of two layers Schichten : a sensual or hyletic layer and an intentional, sensemaking or noetic layer. The Heracliteian flow exists but we cannot say anything about it that is not something related to a cogitatum. Together they form the basic polarity that drives nature.
He can hence say that, first, both the observer and the observed are created by nature, but also secondly and more importantly that the human mind can emulate nature in its creative process and create objects of its own for nature operates with ideas just as the human mind does. Goethe hence follows Spinoza rather than Descartes in his ontology of mind and matter. Since neither knowledge nor reflection can summon the whole — the former lacks the internal, the latter the external perspective — we must conceive science as an art if we expect any holistic results.
We must not, however, seek those in the universal or exaggerated. On the contrary, like art always presents itself wholly in one piece of art, so science should present itself wholly in each single study. Goethe d : 41, my translation. How difficult it is, though, to refrain from replacing the thing with its sign, to keep the object alive before us instead of killing it with a word. All hypotheses get in the way of the anatheorismos - the urge to look again, to contemplate the objects, the phenomenon in question, from all angles.
Goethe , no. An extremely odd demand is often set forth but never met, even by those who make it: that is, that empirical data should be presented without any theoretical context, leaving the reader, the student, to his own devices in judging it. This demand seems odd because it is useless simply to look at something. Every act of looking turns into observation, every act of observation into reflection, every act of reflection into the making of associations; thus it is evident that we theorise everytime we look carefully at the world.
The ability to do this with clarity of mind, with self-knowledge, in a free way, and if I may venture to put it so with irony, is a skill we will need in order to avoid the pitfalls of abstraction and obtain the results we desire, results which can find a living and practical application. None of the human faculties should be excluded from scientific activity. The depth of intuition Ahnung , a sure awareness Anschauen of the present, mathematical profundity, physical exactitude, the heights of reason Vernunft , and sharpness of intellect Verstand together with the versatile and ardent imagination, and a loving delight in the world of the senses — they are all essential for a lively and productive apprehension of the moment.
Goethe d : I had the ability, with my eyes closed and my head lowered, to evoke the image of a flower in the centre of my organ of visualization; and to perceive the flower in such a way that it did not remain in its original form for a single moment, but spread out, and from within there unfolded again new flowers with colours as well as green leaves. They were not natural flowers by any means, but products of the imagination […] It did not occur to me to experiment like this with other objects.
Perhaps these offered themselves so readily because they had their roots in many years of contemplation of the metamorphosis of plants. Goethe Theories are often the hasty results of an impatient mind that want to rid itself of the phenomena and replace them with images, concepts or even just words. In so far as we make use of our healthy senses, the human being is the most powerful and exact scientific instrument possible.
The greatest misfortune of modern physics is that it experiments have, as it were, been set apart from the human being; physics refuses to recognise in Nature anything not shown by artificial instruments, and even uses this as a measure of its accomplishments. People who look through glasses [that is, microscopes and telescopes] think themselves cleverer than they are: for their external sense is in this way taken out of equilibrium with their inner capacity for judgment.
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Goethe e : If the scientist wants to defend his right to a free description and study, he should also feel obliged to secure the rights of Nature. Only where She is free, will he be free; where She is bound by human conventions, he will find himself bound too.
Goethe b : Goethe proposes analogous methods for the study of culture and nature as the two realms are not separated. Every phenomenon has material as well as spiritual aspects that must both be grasped in order to understand the phenomenon fully. The two even merge in the act of knowing or imagining as the mind re- creates the object with the help of the same ideas that nature uses in her original creative act Kuhn Here Goethe inverts the Kantian dictum that all nature is culture because it is construed by human minds that cannot escape their cultural formation.
For him, nature is culture too, but because nature, like human minds, works from ideas to create its subjects. Moreover, Goethe does not want to control and manipulate nature but advocates a Delicate Empirics that treats nature as a source of inspiration and admiration rather than something subjected to human fancy Robbins A second point relating nature and culture is that the aim of the sciences is not just to gather knowledge about objects but to contribute to an understanding of the world that is moral as well as epistemic.
Life philosophy as a movement, too, stands in almost programmatic rejection of modern science arguing that its gathering of abstract knowledge through exact methods misses the most fundamental and existential issues. It is the result of a process occurring every now and again in which a section of the everyday world, rather than being subordinate and instrumental to the purposes of everyday life, develops a purpose in itself and starts to subordinate the everyday world to this purpose. It also develops forms that guide and constrain the previously free flow of life.
In this sense, then, science is no different from other cultural regimes like religion or the economy. The specifically modern problem, however, is the divergence between personal and objective culture personaler und sachlicher Kultur Gerhardt ; Simmel As a result of the increasing division of labour, personal culture becomes disconnected from objective culture and does not develop at the same pace.
It can thus draw less and less on objective culture for its self-realization and is more and more at risk to be completely subjected to objective culture. Simmel, in sum, conceptualizes the danger to human morality more broadly with science as one factor among several. For Husserl, human consciousness is a unique center of understanding in the world where Goethe would only concede that it is a higher form of understanding.
The Sorrows of Young Werther, by J.w. Von Goethe
Continuity flow and form as the ultimate shaping principles, too, are borrowed from Goethe. Goethe presents a natural philosophy and method that is original and strikes a careful balance between life philosophy and phenomenology. In comparison with Simmel, he is less vitalist, i. For Goethe, the form-giving idea needs to be present as well and in the same measure. It is, for all its evident problems, the lingering spirit of the Enlightenment coupled with the experience of the failures of the French Revolution that make Goethe demand a balance of order and force, of reason and emotion.
In this he is also more optimistic than Simmel, who writes in the middle of large-scale industrialization and World War I. This world is not a correlate of experience whose validity is born out of that experience, but something in which human beings thrive or fail. It is a challenge, not in terms of gaining control over it but of developing the faculties to become worthy of it.
As such, the sciences and humanities cannot be separate spheres developed in a process of societal differentiation but must always be measured by their contribution to help human beings gain wisdom and thus moral perfection. Life is wisdom, and wisdom is gained through the study of phenomena. A few fundamental issues emerge from the above discussion that are worth reiterating because each student will have to take a stance on them, whether implicitly or explicitly.
The conceptualization of life has, in Goethe as well as in others, been couched in terms of a dialectics between a creative, dynamic source and a fixed, recurring factor.
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Only recently, complexity theory Goodwin has put forward that life develops in the space between rigid structure and absolute chaos. The ontological status of the stable factor—called form or idea by Goethe and many others—needs to be addressed. As usual, I shall tell my story badly; and you, as usual, will think me extravagant. It is Walheim once more—always Walheim—which produces these wonderful phenomena. A party had assembled outside the house under the linden-trees, to drink coffee. The company did not exactly please me; and, under one pretext or another, I lingered behind.
A peasant came from an adjoining house, and set to work arranging some part of the same plough which I had lately sketched. His appearance pleased me; and I spoke to him, inquired about his circumstances, made his acquaintance, and, as is my wont with persons of that class, was soon admitted into his confidence.
He said he was in the service of a young widow, who set great store by him. He spoke so much of his mistress, and praised her so extravagantly, that I could soon see he was desperately in love with her. It would, in fact, require the gifts of a great poet to convey the expression of his features, the harmony of his voice, and the heavenly fire of his eye.
No words can portray the tenderness of his every movement and of every feature: no effort of mine could do justice to the scene. His alarm lest I should misconceive his position with regard to his mistress, or question the propriety of her conduct, touched me particularly. The charming manner with which he described her form and person, which, without possessing the graces of youth, won and attached him to her, is inexpressible, and must be left to the imagination. I have never in my life witnessed or fancied or conceived the possibility of such intense devotion, such ardent affections, united with so much purity.
Do not blame me if I say that the recollection of this innocence and truth is deeply impressed upon my very soul; that this picture of fidelity and tenderness haunts me everywhere; and that my own heart, as though enkindled by the flame, glows and burns within me. I mean now to try and see her as soon as I can: or perhaps, on second thoughts, I had better not; it is better I should behold her through the eyes of her lover. To my sight, perhaps, she would not appear as she now stands before me; and why should I destroy so sweet a picture?
You should have guessed that I am well—that is to say—in a word, I have made an acquaintance who has won my heart: I have—I know not. To give you a regular account of the manner in which I have become acquainted with the most amiable of women would be a difficult task.
I am a happy and contented mortal, but a poor historian. An angel! Everybody so describes his mistress; and yet I find it impossible to tell you how perfect she is, or why she is so perfect: suffice it to say she has captivated all my senses. So much simplicity with so much understanding—so mild, and yet so resolute—a mind so placid, and a life so active.
But all this is ugly balderdash, which expresses not a single character nor feature. Some other time—but no, not some other time, now, this very instant, will I tell you all about it. Now or never. Well, between ourselves, since I commenced my letter, I have been three times on the point of throwing down my pen, of ordering my horse, and riding out. And yet I vowed this morning that I would not ride to-day, and yet every moment I am rushing to the window to see how high the sun is. I could not restrain myself—go to her I must. I have just returned, Wilhelm; and whilst I am taking supper I will write to you.
What a delight it was for my soul to see her in the midst of her dear, beautiful children,—eight brothers and sisters! But, if I proceed thus, you will be no wiser at the end of my letter than you were at the beginning. Attend, then, and I will compel myself to give you the details. I mentioned to you the other day that I had become acquainted with S—, the district judge, and that he had invited me to go and visit him in his retirement, or rather in his little kingdom. But I neglected going, and perhaps should never have gone, if chance had not discovered to me the treasure which lay concealed in that retired spot.
Some of our young people had proposed giving a ball in the country, at which I consented to be present. I offered my hand for the evening to a pretty and agreeable, but rather commonplace, sort of girl from the immediate neighbourhood; and it was agreed that I should engage a carriage, and call upon Charlotte, with my partner and her aunt, to convey them to the ball. My companion informed me, as we drove along through the park to the hunting-lodge, that I should make the acquaintance of a very charming young lady.
When we arrived at the gate, the sun was setting behind the tops of the mountains. The atmosphere was heavy; and the ladies expressed their fears of an approaching storm, as masses of low black clouds were gathering in the horizon. I relieved their anxieties by pretending to be weather-wise, although I myself had some apprehensions lest our pleasure should be interrupted. I alighted; and a maid came to the door, and requested us to wait a moment for her mistress.
I walked across the court to a well-built house, and, ascending the flight of steps in front, opened the door, and saw before me the most charming spectacle I had ever witnessed. Six children, from eleven to two years old, were running about the hall, and surrounding a lady of middle height, with a lovely figure, dressed in a robe of simple white, trimmed with pink ribbons. She was holding a rye loaf in her hand, and was cutting slices for the little ones all around, in proportion to their age and appetite.
She performed her task in a graceful and affectionate manner; each claimant awaiting his turn with outstretched hands, and boisterously shouting his thanks. Some of them ran away at once, to enjoy their evening meal; whilst others, of a gentler disposition, retired to the courtyard to see the strangers, and to survey the carriage in which their Charlotte was to drive away. The young ones threw inquiring glances at me from a distance; whilst I approached the youngest, a most delicious little creature. He drew back; and Charlotte, entering at the very moment, said, "Louis, shake hands with your cousin.
I have such a number of cousins, that I should be sorry if you were the most undeserving of them. She enjoined to the little ones to obey their sister Sophy as they would herself, upon which some promised that they would; but a little fair-haired girl, about six years old, looked discontented, and said, "But Sophy is not you, Charlotte; and we like you best.
We were hardly seated, and the ladies had scarcely exchanged compliments, making the usual remarks upon each other's dress, and upon the company they expected to meet, when Charlotte stopped the carriage, and made her brothers get down. They insisted upon kissing her hands once more; which the eldest did with all the tenderness of a youth of fifteen, but the other in a lighter and more careless manner. She desired them again to give her love to the children, and we drove off.
The aunt inquired of Charlotte whether she had finished the book she had last sent her. And the one before was not much better. We feel obliged to suppress the passage in the letter, to prevent any one from feeling aggrieved; although no author need pay much attention to the opinion of a mere girl, or that of an unsteady young man. I found penetration and character in everything she said: every expression seemed to brighten her features with new charms,—with new rays of genius,—which unfolded by degrees, as she felt herself understood.
Nothing could equal my delight when, on some holiday, I could settle down quietly in a corner, and enter with my whole heart and soul into the joys or sorrows of some fictitious Leonora. I do not deny that they even possess some charms for me yet. But I read so seldom, that I prefer books suited exactly to my taste. And I like those authors best whose scenes describe my own situation in life,—and the friends who are about me, whose stories touch me with interest, from resembling my own homely existence,—which, without being absolutely paradise, is, on the whole, a source of indescribable happiness.
I endeavoured to conceal the emotion which these words occasioned, but it was of slight avail; for, when she had expressed so truly her opinion of "The Vicar of Wakefield," and of other works, the names of which I omit Though the names are omitted, yet the authors mentioned deserve Charlotte's approbation, and will feel it in their hearts when they read this passage. It concerns no other person. The aunt looked at me several times with an air of raillery, which, however, I did not at all mind.
We talked of the pleasures of dancing. If anything disturbs me, I go to the piano, play an air to which I have danced, and all goes right again directly. You, who know me, can fancy how steadfastly I gazed upon her rich dark eyes during these remarks, how my very soul gloated over her warm lips and fresh, glowing cheeks, how I became quite lost in the delightful meaning of her words, so much so, that I scarcely heard the actual expressions.
In short, I alighted from the carriage like a person in a dream, and was so lost to the dim world around me, that I scarcely heard the music which resounded from the illuminated ballroom. The two Messrs. Andran and a certain N. I cannot trouble myself with the names , who were the aunt's and Charlotte's partners, received us at the carriage-door, and took possession of their ladies, whilst I followed with mine.
We commenced with a minuet. I led out one lady after another, and precisely those who were the most disagreeable could not bring themselves to leave off. Charlotte and her partner began an English country dance, and you must imagine my delight when it was their turn to dance the figure with us. You should see Charlotte dance.
She dances with her whole heart and soul: her figure is all harmony, elegance, and grace, as if she were conscious of nothing else, and had no other thought or feeling; and, doubtless, for the moment, every other sensation is extinct. She was engaged for the second country dance, but promised me the third, and assured me, with the most agreeable freedom, that she was very fond of waltzing.
Your partner is not allowed to waltz, and, indeed, is equally incapable: but I observed during the country dance that you waltz well; so, if you will waltz with me, I beg you would propose it to my partner, and I will propose it to yours. We set off, and, at first, delighted ourselves with the usual graceful motions of the arms. With what grace, with what ease, she moved! When the waltz commenced, and the dancers whirled around each other in the giddy maze, there was some confusion, owing to the incapacity of some of the dancers.
We judiciously remained still, allowing the others to weary themselves; and, when the awkward dancers had withdrawn, we joined in, and kept it up famously together with one other couple,—Andran and his partner. Never did I dance more lightly. I felt myself more than mortal, holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying, with her as rapidly as the wind, till I lost sight of every other object; and O Wilhelm, I vowed at that moment, that a maiden whom I loved, or for whom I felt the slightest attachment, never, never should waltz with any one else but with me, if I went to perdition for it!
We took a few turns in the room to recover our breath. Charlotte sat down, and felt refreshed by partaking of some oranges which I had had secured,—the only ones that had been left; but at every slice which, from politeness, she offered to her neighbours, I felt as though a dagger went through my heart. We were the second couple in the third country dance.
As we were going down and Heaven knows with what ecstasy I gazed at her arms and eyes, beaming with the sweetest feeling of pure and genuine enjoyment , we passed a lady whom I had noticed for her charming expression of countenance; although she was no longer young. She looked at Charlotte with a smile, then, holding up her finger in a threatening attitude, repeated twice in a very significant tone of voice the name of "Albert.
Enough, I became confused, got out in the figure, and occasioned general confusion; so that it required all Charlotte's presence of mind to set me right by pulling and pushing me into my proper place. The dance was not yet finished when the lightning which had for some time been seen in the horizon, and which I had asserted to proceed entirely from heat, grew more violent; and the thunder was heard above the music.
When any distress or terror surprises us in the midst of our amusements, it naturally makes a deeper impression than at other times, either because the contrast makes us more keenly susceptible, or rather perhaps because our senses are then more open to impressions, and the shock is consequently stronger.
To this cause I must ascribe the fright and shrieks of the ladies. One sagaciously sat down in a corner with her back to the window, and held her fingers to her ears; a second knelt down before her, and hid her face in her lap; a third threw herself between them, and embraced her sister with a thousand tears; some insisted on going home; others, unconscious of their actions, wanted sufficient presence of mind to repress the impertinence of their young partners, who sought to direct to themselves those sighs which the lips of our agitated beauties intended for heaven.
Some of the gentlemen had gone down-stairs to smoke a quiet cigar, and the rest of the company gladly embraced a happy suggestion of the hostess to retire into another room which was provided with shutters and curtains. We had hardly got there, when Charlotte placed the chairs in a circle; and, when the company had sat down in compliance with her request, she forthwith proposed a round game. I noticed some of the company prepare their mouths and draw themselves up at the prospect of some agreeable forfeit.
She went round the circle with upraised arm. One made a mistake, instantly a box on the ear; and, amid the laughter that ensued, came another box; and so on, faster and faster. I myself came in for two. I fancied they were harder than the rest, and felt quite delighted. A general laughter and confusion put an end to the game long before we had counted as far as a thousand.
The party broke up into little separate knots: the storm had ceased, and I followed Charlotte into the ballroom. On the way she said, "The game banished their fears of the storm. It was still thundering at a distance: a soft rain was pouring down over the country, and filled the air around us with delicious odours. Charlotte leaned forward on her arm; her eyes wandered over the scene; she raised them to the sky, and then turned them upon me; they were moistened with tears; she placed her hand on mine and said, "Klopstock!
It was more than I could bear. I bent over her hand, kissed it in a stream of delicious tears, and again looked up to her eyes. Divine Klopstock! And thy name so often profaned, would that I never heard it repeated! I no longer remember where I stopped in my narrative: I only know it was two in the morning when I went to bed; and if you had been with me, that I might have talked instead of writing to you, I should, in all probability, have kept you up till daylight.
I think I have not yet related what happened as we rode home from the ball, nor have I time to tell you now. It was a most magnificent sunrise: the whole country was refreshed, and the rain fell drop by drop from the trees in the forest. Our companions were asleep. Charlotte asked me if I did not wish to sleep also, and begged of me not to make any ceremony on her account.
Looking steadfastly at her, I answered, "As long as I see those eyes open, there is no fear of my falling asleep. The maid opened it softly, and assured her, in answer to her inquiries, that her father and the children were well, and still sleeping. I left her asking permission to visit her in the course of the day. She consented, and I went, and, since that time, sun, moon, and stars may pursue their course: I know not whether it is day or night; the whole world is nothing to me. My days are as happy as those reserved by God for his elect; and, whatever be my fate hereafter, I can never say that I have not tasted joy,—the purest joy of life.
You know Walheim. I am now completely settled there. In that spot I am only half a league from Charlotte; and there I enjoy myself, and taste all the pleasure which can fall to the lot of man. Little did I imagine, when I selected Walheim for my pedestrian excursions, that all heaven lay so near it. How often in my wanderings from the hillside or from the meadows across the river, have I beheld this hunting-lodge, which now contains within it all the joy of my heart!
I have often, my dear Wilhelm, reflected on the eagerness men feel to wander and make new discoveries, and upon that secret impulse which afterward inclines them to return to their narrow circle, conform to the laws of custom, and embarrass themselves no longer with what passes around them. It is so strange how, when I came here first, and gazed upon that lovely valley from the hillside, I felt charmed with the entire scene surrounding me. The little wood opposite—how delightful to sit under its shade! How fine the view from that point of rock! Then, that delightful chain of hills, and the exquisite valleys at their feet!
Could I but wander and lose myself amongst them! I went, and returned without finding what I wished. Distance, my friend, is like futurity. A dim vastness is spread before our souls: the perceptions of our mind are as obscure as those of our vision; and we desire earnestly to surrender up our whole being, that it may be filled with the complete and perfect bliss of one glorious emotion.
But alas! So does the restless traveller pant for his native soil, and find in his own cottage, in the arms of his wife, in the affections of his children, and in the labour necessary for their support, that happiness which he had sought in vain through the wide world. When, in the morning at sunrise, I go out to Walheim, and with my own hands gather in the garden the pease which are to serve for my dinner, when I sit down to shell them, and read my Homer during the intervals, and then, selecting a saucepan from the kitchen, fetch my own butter, put my mess on the fire, cover it up, and sit down to stir it as occasion requires, I figure to myself the illustrious suitors of Penelope, killing, dressing, and preparing their own oxen and swine.
Nothing fills me with a more pure and genuine sense of happiness than those traits of patriarchal life which, thank Heaven! I can imitate without affectation. Happy is it, indeed, for me that my heart is capable of feeling the same simple and innocent pleasure as the peasant whose table is covered with food of his own rearing, and who not only enjoys his meal, but remembers with delight the happy days and sunny mornings when he planted it, the soft evenings when he watered it, and the pleasure he experienced in watching its daily growth. The day before yesterday, the physician came from the town to pay a visit to the judge.
He found me on the floor playing with Charlotte's children. Some of them were scrambling over me, and others romped with me; and, as I caught and tickled them, they made a great noise. The doctor is a formal sort of personage: he adjusts the plaits of his ruffles, and continually settles his frill whilst he is talking to you; and he thought my conduct beneath the dignity of a sensible man. I could perceive this by his countenance. But I did not suffer myself to be disturbed. I allowed him to continue his wise conversation, whilst I rebuilt the children's card houses for them as fast as they threw them down.
He went about the town afterward, complaining that the judge's children were spoiled enough before, but that now Werther was completely ruining them. Yes, my dear Wilhelm, nothing on this earth affects my heart so much as children. When I look on at their doings; when I mark in the little creatures the seeds of all those virtues and qualities which they will one day find so indispensable; when I behold in the obstinate all the future firmness and constancy of a noble character; in the capricious, that levity and gaiety of temper which will carry them lightly over the dangers and troubles of life, their whole nature simple and unpolluted,—then I call to mind the golden words of the Great Teacher of mankind, "Unless ye become like one of these!
They are allowed no will of their own. And have we, then, none ourselves? Whence comes our exclusive right? Is it because we are older and more experienced? Great God! But they believe in him, and hear him not,—that, too, is an old story; and they train their children after their own image, etc.
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The consolation Charlotte can bring to an invalid I experience from my own heart, which suffers more from her absence than many a poor creature lingering on a bed of sickness. She is gone to spend a few days in the town with a very worthy woman, who is given over by the physicians, and wishes to have Charlotte near her in her last moments. I accompanied her last week on a visit to the Vicar of S—, a small village in the mountains, about a league hence. We arrived about four o'clock: Charlotte had taken her little sister with her. When we entered the vicarage court, we found the good old man sitting on a bench before the door, under the shade of two large walnut-trees.
At the sight of Charlotte he seemed to gain new life, rose, forgot his stick, and ventured to walk toward her. She ran to him, and made him sit down again; then, placing herself by his side, she gave him a number of messages from her father, and then caught up his youngest child, a dirty, ugly little thing, the joy of his old age, and kissed it.
I wish you could have witnessed her attention to this old man,—how she raised her voice on account of his deafness; how she told him of healthy young people, who had been carried off when it was least expected; praised the virtues of Carlsbad, and commended his determination to spend the ensuing summer there; and assured him that he looked better and stronger than he did when she saw him last. I, in the meantime, paid attention to his good lady.
The old man seemed quite in spirits; and as I could not help admiring the beauty of the walnut-trees, which formed such an agreeable shade over our heads, he began, though with some little difficulty, to tell us their history. My wife's father was my predecessor here, and I cannot tell you how fond he was of that tree; and it is fully as dear to me. Under the shade of that very tree, upon a log of wood, my wife was seated knitting, when I, a poor student, came into this court for the first time, just seven and twenty years ago.
He said she was gone with Herr Schmidt to the meadows, and was with the haymakers. The old man then resumed his story, and told us how his predecessor had taken a fancy to him, as had his daughter likewise; and how he had become first his curate, and subsequently his successor. He had scarcely finished his story when his daughter returned through the garden, accompanied by the above-mentioned Herr Schmidt.
She welcomed Charlotte affectionately, and I confess I was much taken with her appearance. She was a lively-looking, good-humoured brunette, quite competent to amuse one for a short time in the country. Her lover for such Herr Schmidt evidently appeared to be was a polite, reserved personage, and would not join our conversation, notwithstanding all Charlotte's endeavours to draw him out.
I was much annoyed at observing, by his countenance, that his silence did not arise from want of talent, but from caprice and ill-humour. This subsequently became very evident, when we set out to take a walk, and Frederica joining Charlotte, with whom I was talking, the worthy gentleman's face, which was naturally rather sombre, became so dark and angry that Charlotte was obliged to touch my arm, and remind me that I was talking too much to Frederica.
Nothing distresses me more than to see men torment each other; particularly when in the flower of their age, in the very season of pleasure, they waste their few short days of sunshine in quarrels and disputes, and only perceive their error when it is too late to repair it. This thought dwelt upon my mind; and in the evening, when we returned to the vicar's, and were sitting round the table with our bread end milk, the conversation turned on the joys and sorrows of the world, I could not resist the temptation to inveigh bitterly against ill-humour.
If our hearts were always disposed to receive the benefits Heaven sends us, we should acquire strength to support evil when it comes. When anything annoys me, and disturbs my temper, I hasten into the garden, hum a couple of country dances, and it is all right with me directly. Invalids are glad to consult physicians, and submit to the most scrupulous regimen, the most nauseous medicines, in order to recover their health.
Herr Schmidt resumed the subject. Is it not enough that we want the power to make one another happy, must we deprive each other of the pleasure which we can all make for ourselves? Show me the man who has the courage to hide his ill-humour, who bears the whole burden himself, without disturbing the peace of those around him. No: ill-humour arises from an inward consciousness of our own want of merit, from a discontent which ever accompanies that envy which foolish vanity engenders. We see people happy, whom we have not made so, and cannot endure the sight. All the favours, all the attentions, in the world cannot compensate for the loss of that happiness which a cruel tyranny has destroyed.
A recollection of many things which had happened pressed upon my mind, and filled my eyes with tears. But when their souls are tormented by a violent passion, or their hearts rent with grief, is it in your power to afford them the slightest consolation? At these words the remembrance of a similar scene at which I had been once present fell with full force upon my heart.
I buried my face in my handkerchief, and hastened from the room, and was only recalled to my recollection by Charlotte's voice, who reminded me that it was time to return home. With what tenderness she chid me on the way for the too eager interest I took in everything! She declared it would do me injury, and that I ought to spare myself. Yes, my angel!
I will do so for your sake. She is still with her dying friend, and is still the same bright, beautiful creature whose presence softens pain, and sheds happiness around whichever way she turns. She went out yesterday with her little sisters: I knew it, and went to meet them; and we walked together. In about an hour and a half we returned to the town. We stopped at the spring I am so fond of, and which is now a thousand times dearer to me than ever. Charlotte seated herself upon the low wall, and we gathered about her. I looked around, and recalled the time when my heart was unoccupied and free.
I turned toward Charlotte, and I felt her influence over me. Jane at the moment approached with the glass. Her sister, Marianne, wished to take it from her. The affection and simplicity with which this was uttered so charmed me, that I sought to express my feelings by catching up the child and kissing her heartily. She was frightened, and began to cry. In the evening I would not resist telling the story to a person who, I thought, possessed some natural feeling, because he was a man of understanding.
But what a mistake I made. He maintained it was very wrong of Charlotte, that we should not deceive children, that such things occasioned countless mistakes and superstitions, from which we were bound to protect the young. It occurred to me then, that this very man had been baptised only a week before; so I said nothing further, but maintained the justice of my own convictions. We should deal with children as God deals with us, we are happiest under the influence of innocent delusions.
What a child is man that he should be so solicitous about a look!
What a child is man! We had been to Walheim: the ladies went in a carriage; but during our walk I thought I saw in Charlotte's dark eyes—I am a fool—but forgive me! Seldstadt, Andran, and I were standing about the door. They are a merry set of fellows, and they were all laughing and joking together. I watched Charlotte's eyes. They wandered from one to the other; but they did not light on me, on me, who stood there motionless, and who saw nothing but her! My heart bade her a thousand times adieu, but she noticed me not.
The carriage drove off; and my eyes filled with tears. I looked after her: suddenly I saw Charlotte's bonnet leaning out of the window, and she turned to look back, was it at me? My dear friend, I know not; and in this uncertainty I find consolation. Perhaps she turned to look at me. Good-night—what a child I am! You should see how foolish I look in company when her name is mentioned, particularly when I am asked plainly how I like her.
How I like her! I detest the phrase. What sort of creature must he be who merely liked Charlotte, whose whole heart and senses were not entirely absorbed by her. Like her! Some one asked me lately how I liked Ossian. Madame M—is very ill. I pray for her recovery, because Charlotte shares my sufferings. I see her occasionally at my friend's house, and to-day she has told me the strangest circumstance.
Old M—is a covetous, miserly fellow, who has long worried and annoyed the poor lady sadly; but she has borne her afflictions patiently. A few days ago, when the physician informed us that her recovery was hopeless, she sent for her husband Charlotte was present , and addressed him thus: "I have something to confess, which, after my decease, may occasion trouble and confusion. I have hitherto conducted your household as frugally and economically as possible, but you must pardon me for having defrauded you for thirty years.
At the commencement of our married life, you allowed a small sum for the wants of the kitchen, and the other household expenses. When our establishment increased and our property grew larger, I could not persuade you to increase the weekly allowance in proportion: in short, you know, that, when our wants were greatest, you required me to supply everything with seven florins a week. I took the money from you without an observation, but made up the weekly deficiency from the money-chest; as nobody would suspect your wife of robbing the household bank. But I have wasted nothing, and should have been content to meet my eternal Judge without this confession, if she, upon whom the management of your establishment will devolve after my decease, would be free from embarrassment upon your insisting that the allowance made to me, your former wife, was sufficient.
I talked with Charlotte of the inconceivable manner in which men allow themselves to be blinded; how any one could avoid suspecting some deception, when seven florins only were allowed to defray expenses twice as great. But I have myself known people who believed, without any visible astonishment, that their house possessed the prophet's never-failing cruse of oil.
No, I am not deceived. In her dark eyes I read a genuine interest in me and in my fortunes. Yes, I feel it; and I may believe my own heart which tells me—dare I say it? That she loves me! How the idea exalts me in my own eyes! And, as you can understand my feelings, I may say to you, how I honour myself since she loves me!
Is this presumption, or is it a consciousness of the truth? I do not know a man able to supplant me in the heart of Charlotte; and yet when she speaks of her betrothed with so much warmth and affection, I feel like the soldier who has been stripped of his honours and titles, and deprived of his sword. How my heart beats when by accident I touch her finger, or my feet meet hers under the table! I draw back as if from a furnace; but a secret force impels me forward again, and my senses become disordered.
Her innocent, unconscious heart never knows what agony these little familiarities inflict upon me. Sometimes when we are talking she lays her hand upon mine, and in the eagerness of conversation comes closer to me, and her balmy breath reaches my lips,—when I feel as if lightning had struck me, and that I could sink into the earth. And yet, Wilhelm, with all this heavenly confidence,—if I know myself, and should ever dare—you understand me. No, no!
She is to me a sacred being. All passion is still in her presence: I cannot express my sensations when I am near her. I feel as if my soul beat in every nerve of my body. There is a melody which she plays on the piano with angelic skill,—so simple is it, and yet so spiritual! It is her favourite air; and, when she plays the first note, all pain, care, and sorrow disappear from me in a moment.
I believe every word that is said of the magic of ancient music. How her simple song enchants me! Sometimes, when I am ready to commit suicide, she sings that air; and instantly the gloom and madness which hung over me are dispersed, and I breathe freely again. Wilhelm, what is the world to our hearts without love? What is a magic-lantern without light? You have but to kindle the flame within, and the brightest figures shine on the white wall; and, if love only show us fleeting shadows, we are yet happy, when, like mere children, we behold them, and are transported with the splendid phantoms.
I have not been able to see Charlotte to-day. I was prevented by company from which I could not disengage myself. What was to be done? I sent my servant to her house, that I might at least see somebody to-day who had been near her. Oh, the impatience with which I waited for his return! I should certainly have caught him in my arms, and kissed him, if I had not been ashamed. It is said that the Bonona stone, when placed in the sun, attracts the rays, and for a time appears luminous in the dark. So was it with me and this servant.
The idea that Charlotte's eyes had dwelt on his countenance, his cheek, his very apparel, endeared them all inestimably to me, so that at the moment I would not have parted from him for a thousand crowns. His presence made me so happy! Beware of laughing at me, Wilhelm. Can that be a delusion which makes us happy?