From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Book 5, pages 229-234


where he kept his main headquarters and the Imperial insignias arriving from Aachen were almost taken by the Palatines. In the meanwhile there were negotiations and neither side handled these in the most stringent fashion. Maria Theresia herself, although in blessed condition, comes in person to see the coronation of her husband. She goes to Aschaffenburg and boards a yacht to get to Frankfurt. Francis, arriving from Heidelberg and thinking he would meet his wife, finds he is too late. Incognito he sets off in a small boat and hurries to meet her. He reaches her ship and the loving couple rejoice in this surprising reunion. This fairytale spread quickly and the whole world shared in the lives of this tender couple, so richly blessed with children. Since their marriage they were so inseparable that once on a journey from Vienna to Florence they had to stay in quarantine together at the Venetian border. Maria Theresia is welcomed to the city with open arms. She enters the guest quarters to the Roman emperor while in the Bornheim meadow the tent is being erected to receive her husband. Of the clerical electors only Mainz is there; of the ambassadors from the secular electors only Saxony, Bohemia and Hannover. The procession begins, and what may have been lacking in magnificence and splendor is more than made up for with a beautiful wife. She stands on the balcony of the well-situated house and greets her husband with "long live" cries and clapping of her hands. The people join in, stirred to the peak of enthusiasm. Even the great are just men and if the common citizen chooses to love them, he sees them as equals. And he can picture them as such most easily if they appear as loving


spouses, kind parents, devoted siblings and true friends. At the time people wished and prophecized for them all good things and today this seemed to be fulfilled in their firstborn son, to whom everyone showed preference because of his handsome youthful bearing and in whose noble character people placed great faith.

We had quite lost ourselves in the past and the future when some friends entered and recalled us to the present. These friends were of the type to perceive the value of novelty and thus hasten to be the first to announce it. They also knew how to talk about the beautiful human traits of these high personages, whom we had just seen go by in great splendor. The topic of discussion was that between Heusenstamm and the tents the emperor and king were supposed to meet the Count of Darmstadt in the forest. This old prince, rapidly approaching the grave, wanted to see the master he had served one more time. Both would remember the day when the count delivered to Heidelberg the decree from the electors which declared Francis emperor and the subsequent costly gifts he received with promises of utter devotion. These high personages stood in a fir grove and the count, weak with age, held onto a spruce tree so he could carry on the conversation a bit longer. The discussion was emotional on both sides. Afterwards the place was marked in an innocent manner and we young people wandered there on occasion.

Thus we spent many hours remembering the old and contemplating the new as the procession, now shortened and more compact,


glided before our eyes and we could observe individual details more closely, take notice and imprint them on our minds for the future.

From that moment onward the city was in constant motion. There was no end to the scurrying back and forth until each and every individual, who had arrived and whose presence was required to pay service to the highest of rulers, had been presented. By then people could quite easily repeat the names of each individual in attendance.

Now the flags of the empire arrived. However, so ancient custom could be observed, they had to be left in the field for half the day until late at night because of a territorial and escort dispute between the Elector of Mainz and the city. The latter conceded, the Mainz representatives escorted the flag up to the turnpike, and thus the matter was settled.

On these days I scarcely had time for myself. At home there were things to write down and copy, so much I wanted to see and so much I was supposed to see, and thus came the end of March, the second half of which had been so festive for us. I had promised Gretchen true and thorough instruction on what had just passed and on what could be expected on the day of the coronation. The great day approached. I had more in mind to speak to her about than perhaps there really was to say. I rapidly worked on everything that had come before my eyes and from the chancellery feather for this one and specific purpose. Finally I arrived at her residence rather late one evening, pleased with myself thinking that this prepared lesson would succeed much better than my previous unprepared one.


However quite often a momentary event can give us and others through us more joy than the most planned out purpose can provide. The company was the same but there were some unknown individuals among them. They sat down to play. Only Gretchen and the younger cousin stayed with me at the slateboard. The lovely girl demurely expressed her pleasure that she, a foreigner, was taken for a citizen on election day and she was able to take part in this special drama. She heartily thanked me for taking care of her and procuring, through Pylades, all the tickets, vouchers, friends and demonstrations.

She gladly listened to tales concerning the imperial jewels. I promised her that would see them together when possible. She made a few funny comments when she learned that the vestments and crown had been refitted for the young king. I knew how she would perceive the festivities of the coronation day and I made her aware of everything to come and what she would be able to see from her vantage point.

Thus we forgot to think of the time. It was already past midnight and I discovered that unfortunately I did not have my house key with me. I couldn't get back into my house without creating a great disturbance. "Ultimately," she said "it is for the best that we all stay here together." The cousins and the stranger had already come to this conclusion because they did not know where the strangers should spend the night. The matter was soon decided. Gretchen went to brew coffee after she


had brought in and lit a large brass family lamp with wick and oil because the candles threatened to extinguish.

The coffee served to revive us for a couple of hours, however the game grew tedious. Conversation died out, the mother slept in a large armchair. The strangers, tired from their journey, nodded off here and there. Pylades and his beauty sat in a corner. She laid her head on his shoulder and slept and he didn't stay awake for long. The younger cousin, sitting across from us over at the slate table, had crossed his arms in front of himself with head down and slept. I sat in the window corner behind the table with Gretchen next to me. We entertained ourselves quietly but sleep eventually overpowered Gretchen. She leaned her head on my shoulder and fell asleep. Thus I sat, the only one awake, in this wondrous place. The amicable brother of death knew how to soothe me. I slept and when I again awoke, it was already bright daylight. Gretchen stood before the mirror and straightened her cap. She was more lovely than ever and as I left I gently caressed her hand. I snuck back home via the back way. At the side of the house facing the small deer graves my father had installed a small spy window, not without the protest of his neighbor. We avoided this side whenever we wanted to come home without his noticing. My mother, whose intervention on our behalf always produced good results, tried to excuse my morning absence over tea by saying I had departed early and I experienced no unpleasant consequences as a result of my innocent night.


Taken in toto, the endless world of variety which surrounded me really made but one impression. * I had no other interests than marking the external nature of objects and no other business than that which my father and Mr. von Königsthal commissioned me to do, thus I was aware of the inner circle of events. I had no inclination other than towards Gretchen and no other intention than to take a good look at everything and place it into a context so I could tell it to her and give explanation. Indeed, as a procession went past I often described it half aloud to myself so as to solidify all the individual details. My attention to detail and fullness of observation were performed just to gain praise from my beautiful companion. It was only an added bonus that I received the accolades and recognition of others.

I was seldom introduced to high and prominent persons, partly beause no one had the time to bother with others and partly because even older people weren't certain how they should conduct themselves with a young man or how they should assess him. For my part, I was not particularly adept at demonstrating my ease with such people. Usually I garnered their favor but not their approval. What occupied me was living fully in the present. I didn't ask whether it was the same for others. I was mostly too animated or too still and I appeared either intrusive or taciturn according to whether the people attracted or repulsed me. Thus I was usually regarded as full of promise but at the same time as eccentric.

The coronation day finally arrived on April 3rd, 1764. The weather was fair and all people were in motion. I had been placed along with many relatives and friends in the Römer itself on an upper stage where we


Go to pages 235-240


Text provided by the Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks