The Sorrows of Young Werther by J.W. von Goethe
The Sorrows of Young Werther was first published anonymously in 1774 and almost immediately became what is often referred to as the first real European bestseller and secured 23-year old Johann Wolfgang von Goethe fortune and fame. The story is both "based on a true story" as well as on personal experiences.
it is mostly written in the form of letters to a friend in which the protagonist, Werther, describes his unrequited love to a married woman. Unable to bear her presence and yet unable to leave her, he eventually kills himself in despair.
The success of the novel went so far that numerous young men commited suicide in the fashion of Werther (he shot himself with the guns of his mistress's husband). And the blue jacket and yellow vest that he wore became a widespread fashion.
The novel might be one of the most beautiful pieces of German literature, although at the time, calls for censorship were frequent because of the copycat suicides as well as the new and very sensitive language that could be seen as a rebellion against the cold and sober language and spirit of the enlightenment. For today's reader the language might sound pretentious and kitschig, but if are able to free yourself from those sentiments you will find a novel about unrequited love that in its
Werther's suicide note is quite ample and so for now only the last part is published here, although we strongly urge you to read the whole book which can be downloaded for free from gutenberg.net.
"Past eleven o'clock! All is silent around me, and my soul is
calm. I thank thee, O God, that thou bestowest strength and courage
upon me in these last moments! I approach the window, my dearest
of friends; and through the clouds, which are at this moment driven
rapidly along by the impetuous winds, I behold the stars which
illumine the eternal heavens. No, you will not fall, celestial
bodies: the hand of the Almighty supports both you and me! I have
looked for the last time upon the constellation of the Greater
Bear: it is my favourite star; for when I bade you farewell at
night, Charlotte, and turned my steps from your door, it always
shone upon me. With what rapture have I at times beheld it! How
often have I implored it with uplifted hands to witness my felicity!
and even still -- But what object is there, Charlotte, which fails
to summon up your image before me? Do you not surround me on all
sides? and have I not, like a child, treasured up every trifle
which you have consecrated by your touch?
"Your profile, which was so dear to me, I return to you; and I
pray you to preserve it. Thousands of kisses have I imprinted
upon it, and a thousand times has it gladdened my heart on departing
from and returning to my home.
"I have implored your father to protect my remains. At the corner
of the churchyard, looking toward the fields, there are two
lime-trees -- there I wish to lie. Your father can, and doubtless
will, do this much for his friend. Implore it of him. But perhaps
pious Christians will not choose that their bodies chould be
buried near the corpse of a poor, unhappy wretch like me. Then
let me be laid in some remote valley, or near the highway, where
the priest and Levite may bless themselves as they pass by my
tomb, whilst the Samaritan will shed a tear for my fate.
"See, Charlotte, I do not shudder to take the cold and fatal cup,
from which I shall drink the draught of death. Your hand presents
it to me, and I do not tremble. All, all is now concluded: the
wishes and the hopes of my existence are fulfilled. With cold,
unflinching hand I knock at the brazen portals of Death. Oh, that
I had enjoyed the bliss of dying for you! how gladly would I have
sacrificed myself for you; Charlotte! And could I but restore
peace and joy to your bosom, with what resolution, with what joy,
would I not meet my fate! But it is the lot of only a chosen few
to shed their blood for their friends, and by their death to
augment, a thousand times, the happiness of those by whom they are
I wish, Charlotte, to be buried in the dress I wear at present:
it has been rendered sacred by your touch. I have begged this
favour of your father. My spirit soars above my sepulchre. I
do not wish my pockets to be searched. The knot of pink ribbon
which you wore on your bosom the first time I saw you, surrounded
by the children -- Oh, kiss them a thousand times for me, and
tell them the fate of their unhappy friend! I think I see them
playing around me. The dear children! How warmly have I been
attached to you, Charlotte! Since the first hour I saw you, how
impossible have I found it to leave you. This ribbon must be
buried with me: it was a present from you on my birthday. How
confused it all appears! Little did I then think that I should
journey this road. But peace! I pray you, peace!
"They are loaded -- the clock strikes twelve. I say amen.
Charlotte, Charlotte! farewell, farewell!"
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[romeo and juliet]