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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
First Love
By Johannes Ewald (1743–1781)
 
From ‘Life and Opinions’: Translation of William Morton Payne

ONE morning, the most unforgettable, the most blessed of my life, she bade me take some lace to one of her cousins, whom I had not seen before. I followed my directions, and asked for the eldest Jomfrue Hulegaard. She was sitting with her parents at table, and came out to see me in the room to which I had been admitted. She came,—Oh Heavens! O happy moment! how gladly would I recall thee, and cleave to thee with my whole soul, and forget all my misfortunes, all that I have suffered for thy sake! She came—my Arendse!  1
  I have dared the attempt to depict her, but did I possess all the art of Raphael and all the art of Petrarch combined, and should I devote my whole lifetime to picture her image, as at the first dazzled gaze it became imprinted upon my heart and remains there unchanged after so many years, I could produce but a dull and imperfect copy thereof. She was my Arendse, and who can see her with my eyes, or feel her with my heart?  2
  Love beamed from her glance, love played upon her lips, love was fragrant in her heaving bosom. Her every expression seemed to cry out, Love! love! love! Nature, heaven, and earth all vanished, and my throbbing, melting heart felt the blissful rapture of an unspeakable affection. O my Arendse! thou wast surely intended for me by Him who made us both. Why does another now possess thee? Perchance this is presumptuous—God forgive me if it is—but the thought is very anguish to me. I will forget it—if I can.  3
  One cannot, I think, better cool his passion than by formulating opinions. I will deliver myself of two that may best be expressed in connection with this catastrophe, which will always be to me the most serious of my life: the one is, that the first real love depends upon a sort of sympathy or an instinctive bent that I cannot explain, and is not deliberately to be evoked; the other is, that the heart, if I may thus express myself, has its virginity, and cannot possibly lose it more than once. But I must turn back to my sweet sorrow.  4
  My cheeks burned, my knees trembled. I stammered out my errand as best I might, thinking of nothing else, looking at nothing else, but Arendse. Afterwards she often told me that she marked my agitation, and I replied that my loving heart did not find it exactly flattering that she should have been able to mark it so distinctly.  5
  When I realized from the silence of my Arendse that I must have done my errand, I ventured hesitatingly to press her hand to my lips, and heavenly fires shot blissful from her fingers to the depths of my soul. I lost possession of myself. I retreated backwards, bowing every moment, and since I at last came to the head of a steep staircase without noticing it, my love would in all probability, had she not spoken a word of warning, have either found prompt expression, or once for all have worked out its sorrowful, its terrible influence upon my fate. But I was destined for deeper sufferings than the heaviest fall can cause, and it was decreed that through my love I should lose more than my life.  6
  If you believe in omens, gentlemen, you may take this for one!…  7
  I wake at this moment from a mood of deep reflection. I have sat for half an hour with folded arms, trying to answer for myself the question whether I would have missed all the torturing pangs, all the depressing misfortunes of which this first love of mine has been the cause, on condition that I should have missed too all the sweetness, all the blissfulness, it has brought me; and now I can answer with a clear conscience: No! I should indeed be very ungrateful to make plaint about it, if it had brought me nothing more than grief and misfortune. But it was also one of the first and weightiest causes of the most serious mistake of my life, and this feeling of its full consequences was what drew from me just now the not altogether baseless statement that it had cost me more than my life.  8
 
 
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