The Sorrows of Young Werther
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (translated by R.D. Boylan)
Public Domain Books
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!” And now, my friend, these children, who are our equals, whom we ought to consider as our models, we treat them as though they were our subjects. 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! from the height of thy heaven thou beholdest great children and little children, and no others; and thy Son has long since declared which afford thee greatest pleasure. 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.
Adieu, Wilhelm: I will not further bewilder myself with this subject.