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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Letters—To His Brother-in-Law, Oscar von Arnim
By Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898)
 
RHEINFELD, August 16th, 1861.    
I HAVE just received the news of the terrible misfortune which has befallen you and Malwine. My first thought was to come to you at once, but in wanting to do so I overrated my powers. My régime has touched me up a good deal, and the thought of suddenly breaking it off met with such decided opposition that I have resolved to let Johanna go alone. Such a blow goes beyond the reach of human consolation. And yet it is a natural desire to be near those we love in their sorrow, and to lament with them in common. It is the only thing we can do. A heavier sorrow could scarcely have befallen you. To lose such an amiable and a so-happily-thriving child in such a way, and to bury along with him all the hopes which were to be the joys of your old days,—sorrow over such a loss will not depart from you as long as you live on this earth; this I feel with you, with deep and painful sympathy. We are powerless and helpless in God’s mighty hand, so far as he will not himself help us, and can do nothing but bow down in humility under his dispensations. He can take from us all that he gave, and make us utterly desolate; and our mourning for it will be all the bitterer, the more we allow it to run to excess in contention and rebellion against his almighty ordinance. Do not mingle your just grief with bitterness and repining, but bring home to yourself that a son and a daughter are left to you, and that with them, and even in the feeling of having possessed another beloved child for fifteen years, you must consider yourself blessed in comparison with the many who have never had children nor known a parent’s joy.
  1
  I do not want to trouble you with feeble grounds for consolation, but only to tell you in these lines how I, as friend and brother, feel your suffering like my own, and am moved by it to the very core. How all small cares and vexations, which daily accompany our life, vanish at the iron appearance of real misfortune! and I feel like so many reproaches the reminiscences of all complaints and covetous wishes, over which I have so often forgotten how much blessing God gives us, and how much danger surrounds us without touching us. We are not to attach ourselves to this world, and not regard it as our home. Another twenty, or in happiest case thirty years, and we are both of us beyond the cares of this life, and our children have reached our present standpoint, and find with astonishment that the freshly begun life is already going down hill. It would not be worth while to dress and undress if it were over with that.  2
  Do you still remember these words of a fellow-traveler from Stolpemünde? The thought that death is the transition to another life will certainly do little to alleviate your grief; for you might think that your beloved son might have been a true and dear companion to you during the time you are still living in this world, and would have continued, by God’s blessing, the memory of you here. The circle of those whom we love contracts itself and receives no increase till we have grandchildren. At our time of life we form no fresh bonds which are capable of replacing those that die off. Let us therefore keep the closer together in love until death separates us from one another, as it now separates your son from us. Who knows how soon? Won’t you come with Malle to Stolpmünde, and stay quietly with us for a few weeks or days? At all events I shall come to you at Kröchlendorf, or wherever else you are, in three or four weeks. I greet my dearest Malle with all my heart. May God give her, as well as you, strength to bear and patiently submit.  3
 
 
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