Dear friend! there was a time when my breast, too, basked in great hopes, when the joy of immortality throbbed in all my pulses, when i strolled among glorious projects as in the wild forest night, when, happy as the fish of the ocean in my boundless future, i pressed farther, ever farther onward.
How boldly, blessed nature! the youth sprang from your cradle! how he delighted in his untested weapons! His bow was taut, and his arrows rattled in his quiver, and the immortals, the high priests of antiquity, led him, and his Adamas was in their midst.
Wherever i went and stood, these glorious figures accompanied me; in my mind the deeds of all times became lost in one another like flames; and as the gigantic forms, the clouds of the heavens, unite in one rejoicing storm, so the hundredfold triumphs of the Olympiads united in me, and became one, infinite triumph.
Who withstands it, who is not felled like the young woods by a hurricane when the frightening glory of antiquity seizes him like it seized me, and when, like me, he lacks the element in which he might attain a strengthening self-possession?
O, like a storm, the greatness of the ancients bowed my head, snatched the blood from my face; and often i lay where no eye observed me, amidst a thousand tears, like a toppled fir that lies by the stream and hides its wilted crown in the current. How gladly would have i purchased with blood an instant from a great man’s life!
But what was the use? No one wanted me.
O it is pitiful to see oneself thus reduced to nothing; and he for whom this is incomprehensible, may he not ask about it, and thank nature, which created him, like the butterflies, for joy, and go and never again in his life speak of pain and unhappiness.
I loved my heroes as a fly loves the light; i sought their dangerous nearness and fled and sought it again.
As a bleeding deer plunges into the river, i often plunged into the whirlpool of joy to cool my burning breast and to bathe away my raging, glorious dream of fame and greatness, but what was the use?
And when often at midnight my hot heart drove me down into the garden under the dewy trees, and the lullaby of the wellspring and the lovely air and the moonlight soothed my mind, and the silver clouds so freely and peacefully stirred above me, and from the distance the fading voice of the tide sounded – how amiably they then played with my heart, all the great phantoms of its love!
Farewell, you heavenly beings! I often said in thought, when the melody of the morning light began to sound softly above me, you glorious dead, farewell! I would like to follow you, would like to shake off what my century gave me and set out into the freer realm of the shades!
But i languish on the chain and snatch with bitter joy the measly cup that is handed to my thirst.