The Sorrows of Young Werther
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (translated by R.D. Boylan)
Public Domain Books
Yes, I feel certain, Wilhelm, and every day I become more certain, that the existence of any being whatever is of very little consequence. A friend of Charlotte’s called to see her just now. I withdrew into a neighbouring apartment, and took up a book; but, finding I could not read, I sat down to write. I heard them converse in an undertone: they spoke upon indifferent topics, and retailed the news of the town. One was going to be married; another was ill, very ill, she had a dry cough, her face was growing thinner daily, and she had occasional fits. “N is very unwell too,” said Charlotte. “His limbs begin to swell already,” answered the other; and my lively imagination carried me at once to the beds of the infirm. There I see them struggling against death, with all the agonies of pain and horror; and these women, Wilhelm, talk of all this with as much indifference as one would mention the death of a stranger. And when I look around the apartment where I now am when I see Charlotte’s apparel lying before me, and Albert’s writings, and all those articles of furniture which are so familiar to me, even to the very inkstand which I am using, when I think what I am to this family everything. My friends esteem me; I often contribute to their happiness, and my heart seems as if it could not beat without them; and yet if I were to die, if I were to be summoned from the midst of this circle, would they feel or how long would they feel the void which my loss would make in their existence? How long! Yes, such is the frailty of man, that even there, where he has the greatest consciousness of his own being, where he makes the strongest and most forcible impression, even in the memory, in the heart, of his beloved, there also he must perish, vanish, and that quickly.