The Sorrows of Young Werther
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (translated by R.D. Boylan)

Presented by

Public Domain Books

May 9.

Morning (Caspar David Friedrich)

I have paid my visit to my native place with all the devotion of a pilgrim, and have experienced many unexpected emotions. Near the great elm tree, which is a quarter of a league from the village, I got out of the carriage, and sent it on before, that alone, and on foot, I might enjoy vividly and heartily all the pleasure of my recollections. I stood there under that same elm which was formerly the term and object of my walks. How things have since changed! Then, in happy ignorance, I sighed for a world I did not know, where I hoped to find every pleasure and enjoyment which my heart could desire; and now, on my return from that wide world, O my friend, how many disappointed hopes and unsuccessful plans have I brought back!

As I contemplated the mountains which lay stretched out before me, I thought how often they had been the object of my dearest desires. Here used I to sit for hours together with my eyes bent upon them, ardently longing to wander in the shade of those woods, to lose myself in those valleys, which form so delightful an object in the distance. With what reluctance did I leave this charming spot; when my hour of recreation was over, and my leave of absence expired! I drew near to the village: all the well-known old summerhouses and gardens were recognised again; I disliked the new ones, and all other alterations which had taken place. I entered the village, and all my former feelings returned. I cannot, my dear friend, enter into details, charming as were my sensations: they would be dull in the narration. I had intended to lodge in the market-place, near our old house. As soon as I entered, I perceived that the schoolroom, where our childhood had been taught by that good old woman, was converted into a shop. I called to mind the sorrow, the heaviness, the tears, and oppression of heart, which I experienced in that confinement. Every step produced some particular impression. A pilgrim in the Holy Land does not meet so many spots pregnant with tender recollections, and his soul is hardly moved with greater devotion. One incident will serve for illustration. I followed the course of a stream to a farm, formerly a delightful walk of mine, and paused at the spot, where, when boys, we used to amuse ourselves making ducks and drakes upon the water. I recollected so well how I used formerly to watch the course of that same stream, following it with inquiring eagerness, forming romantic ideas of the countries it was to pass through; but my imagination was soon exhausted: while the water continued flowing farther and farther on, till my fancy became bewildered by the contemplation of an invisible distance. Exactly such, my dear friend, so happy and so confined, were the thoughts of our good ancestors. Their feelings and their poetry were fresh as childhood. And, when Ulysses talks of the immeasurable sea and boundless earth, his epithets are true, natural, deeply felt, and mysterious. Of what importance is it that I have learned, with every schoolboy, that the world is round? Man needs but little earth for enjoyment, and still less for his final repose.

I am at present with the prince at his hunting lodge. He is a man with whom one can live happily. He is honest and unaffected. There are, however, some strange characters about him, whom I cannot at all understand. They do not seem vicious, and yet they do not carry the appearance of thoroughly honest men. Sometimes I am disposed to believe them honest, and yet I cannot persuade myself to confide in them. It grieves me to hear the prince occasionally talk of things which he has only read or heard of, and always with the same view in which they have been represented by others.

He values my understanding and talents more highly than my heart, but I am proud of the latter only. It is the sole source of everything of our strength, happiness, and misery. All the knowledge I possess every one else can acquire, but my heart is exclusively my own.


Book I  •  May 4. 1771  •  May 10.  •  May 12.  •  May 13.  •  May 15.  •  May 17.  •  May 22.  •  May 26.  •  May 27.  •  May 30.  •  June 16.  •  June 19.  •  June 21.  •  June 29.  •  July 1.  •  July 6.  •  July 8.  •  July lO.  •  July 11.  •  July 13.  •  July 16.  •  July 18.  •  July 19.  •  July 2O.  •  July 24.  •  July 25.  •  July 26.  •  July 30.  •  August 8.  •  August lO.  •  August 12.  •  August 15.  •  August 18.  •  August 21.  •  August 22.  •  August 28.  •  August 3O.  •  September 3.  •  September 1O.  •  BOOK II.  •  October 2O.  •  November 26.  •  December 24.  •  January 8, 1772.  •  January 20.  •  February 8.  •  February 17.  •  February 20.  •  March 15.  •  March 16.   •  March 24.  •  April l9.  •  May 5.  •  May 9.  •  May 25.  •  June 11.  •  July 16.  •  July 18.  •  July 29.  •  August 4.  •  August 21.  •  September 3.  •  September 4.  •  September 5.  •  September 6.  •  September 12.  •  September 15.  •  October 10.  •  October 12.  •  October 19.  •  October 26.  •  October 27.  •  October 30.  •  November 3.   •  November 8.  •  November 15.  •  November 21.  •  November 22  •  November 24.  •  November 26.  •  November 30.  •  December 1.  •  December 4.  •  December 6.  •  THE EDITOR TO THE READER.  •  December 12.  •  December 15.  •  December 2O.  •  Ryno  •  Alpin