Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Letter to Goethe
By Bettina von Arnim (1785–1859)
CASSEL, August 13th, 1807.    
WHO can interpret and measure what is passing within me? I am happy now in remembrance of the past, which I scarcely was when that past was the present. To my sensitive heart the surprise of being with thee, the coming and going and returning in a few blessed days—this was all like clouds flitting across my heaven; through my too near presence I feared it might be darkened by my shadow, as it is ever darker when it nears the earth; now, in the distance, it is mild and lofty and ever clear.
  I would fain press thy dear hand with both of mine to my bosom, and say to thee, “How peace and content have come to me since I have known thee!”  2
  I know that the evening has not come when life’s twilight gathers in my heart: oh, would it were so! Would that I had lived out my days, that my wishes and joys were fulfilled, and that they could all be heaped upon thee, that thou mightst be therewith decked and crowned as with evergreen bays.  3
  When I was alone with thee on that evening I could not comprehend thee: thou didst smile at me because I was moved, and laughed at me because I wept; but why? And yet it was thy laughter, the tone of thy laughter, which moved me to tears; and I am content, and see, under the cloak of this riddle, roses burst forth which spring alike from sadness and joy. Yes, thou art right, prophet: I shall yet with light heart struggle up through jest and mirth; I shall weary myself with struggling as I did in my childhood (ah, it seems as if it were but yesterday!) when with the exuberance of joy I wandered through the blossoming fields, pulling up the flowers by the roots and throwing them into the water. But I wish to seek rest in a warm, firm earnestness, and there at hand standest thou, smiling prophet!  4
  I say to thee yet once more: Whoever in this wide world understands what is passing within me, who, am so restful in thee, so silent, so unwavering in my feeling? I could, like the mountains, bear nights and days in the past without disturbing thee in thy reflections! And yet when at times the wind bears the fragrance and the germs together from the blossoming world up to the mountain heights, they will be intoxicated with delight as I was yesterday. Then I loved the world, then I was as glad as a gushing, murmuring spring in which the sun for the first time shines.  5
  Farewell, sublime one who blindest and intimidatest me! From this steep rock upon which my love has in life-danger ventured, I cannot clamber down. I cannot think of descending, for I should break my neck in the attempt.  6

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