The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe

Following are some of my most favourite lines from “The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

  • “…that misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even
    The Werther from my imagination

    The Werther from my imagination

    malice and wickedness”

  • “Was not our intercourse a perpetual web of the finest emotions, of the keenest wit, the varieties of which, even in their very eccentricity, bore the stamp of genius?”
  • “When any distress or terror surprises us in the midst of our amusements, it naturally makes a deeper impression than at other times, either because the contrast makes us more keenly susceptible, or rather perhaps because our senses are then more open to impressions, and the shock is consequently stronger”
  • “So does the restless traveller pant for his native soil, and find in his own cottage, in the arms of his wife, in the affections of his children, and in the labour necessary for their support, that happiness which he had sought in vain through the wide world.”
  • “We should deal with children as God deals with us, we are happiest under the influence of innocent delusions.”
  • “Wilhelm, what is the world to our hearts without love?”
  • “I shall see her today!” And then I have no further wish to form: all, all is included in that one thought.”
  • “The world runs on from one folly to another; and the man who, solely from regard to the opinion of others, and without any wish or necessity of his own, toils after gold, honour, or any other phantom, is no better than a fool.”
  • “Nothing puts me so completely out of patience as the utterance of a wretched commonplace when I am talking from my inmost heart.”
  • “We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavour to efface them.”
  • “It is as if a curtain had been drawn from before my eyes, and, instead of prospects of eternal life, the abyss of an ever open grave yawned before me.”
  • “Now and then the fable of the horse recurs to me. Weary of liberty, he suffered himself to be saddled and bridled, and was ridden to death for his pains.”
  • “She was worthy of being known to you.” I thought I should have fainted: never had I received praise so flattering”
  • “…is the greatest and most genuine of pleasures to observe a great mind in sympathy with our own.”
  • “He is the most punctilious blockhead under heaven.”
  • “The silly creatures cannot see that it is not place which constitutes real greatness, since the man who occupies the first place but seldom plays the principal part. How many kings are governed by their ministers — how many ministers by their secretaries? Who, in such cases, is really the chief? He, as it seems to me, who can see through the others, and possesses strength or skill enough to make their power or passions subservient to the execution of his own designs.”
  • “Adieu!— Is Albert with you? and what is he to you? God forgive the question.”

    Werther, Lotte and Albert

    Werther, Lotte and Albert

  • “All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is exclusively my own.”
  • “Once more I am a wanderer, a pilgrim, through the world. But what else are you!”
  • “She ought not to excite my imagination with such displays of heavenly innocence and happiness, nor awaken my heart from its slumbers, in which it dreams of the worthlessness of life! And why not? Because she knows how much I love her.”
  • “I become more certain, that the existence of any being whatever is of very little consequence.”
  • “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”
  • “I am alone the cause of my own woe, am I not? Truly, my own bosom contains the source of all my sorrow, as it previously contained the source of all my pleasure.”
  • “I cannot pray, “Leave her to me!” and yet she often seems to belong to me. I cannot pray, “Give her to me!” for she is another’s. In this way I affect mirth over my troubles; and, if I had time, I could compose a whole litany of antitheses.”
  • “Is he only happy before he has acquired his reason, or after he has lost it”
  • “How willingly could I abandon my existence to ride the whirlwind, or to embrace the torrent!”
  • “Tomorrow the traveller shall come, he shall come, who beheld me in beauty: his eye shall seek me in the field around, but he shall not find me.”
  • “Death! the grave! I understand not the words. — Forgive, oh, forgive me! Yesterday — ah, that day should have been the last of my life! Thou angel! for the first time in my existence, I felt rapture glow within my inmost soul. She loves, she loves me! Still burns upon my lips the sacred fire they received from thine. New torrents of delight overwhelm my soul. Forgive me, oh, forgive!”

Werther’s suicide – his final surrender to passion

 

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