From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Book 5, pages 247-252


of the much treasured Plotho. Once favorably inclined towards him, people were amazed by the scoundrel in him as he presided over ceremonies as their king — thus people preferred to return to the Esterhazy fairy realm.

To honor the day, this high ambassador had completely transformed his unfavorably located quarters, providing not just a colorfully lit portal for the large linden esplanade on the Rossmarkt but also decorating the back even more splendidly. The entire perimeter was defined by lamps. Between the trees stood lighted pyramids and spheres on transparent pedestals. Garland was strung from one tree to the next with swaying, hanging lamps. In many places people distributed bread and sausages to the crowd and there was no end to the wine.

We contentedly walked back and forth, four abreast. At Gretchen's side I thought I was truly wandering through the Elysium Fields where one broke off crystal goblets from the trees and the cups immediately filled with wine and fruit shook from the trees turned into one's favorite dish. * Eventually we felt the need of food, and guided by Pylades we found a totally well stocked restaurant. We encountered no other guests since everyone was roaming about on the streets, so we allowed ourselves to spend the greater portion of the night engrossed in the cheerful and happy contentment of friendship, love and amity. When I escorted Gretchen to her door she kissed me on the forehead. It was the first and last time she granted me this favor. Unfortunately I would never see her again.*


The next morning I still lay in bed when my mother anxiously entered my room. One could always tell when something was bothering her. — "Get up," she said, "and prepare yourself for something very unpleasant. It has come out that you have been visiting a very bad crowd and have gotten yourself involved in the most dangerous and dreadful business. Your father is beside himself and we can only ask him to allow the matter to be investigated by a third party. Stay in your room and wait to see what happens. Counselor Schneider will come to you. He has been commissioned by your father and the authorities. The matter is pending and it can take a very bad turn."

I saw well that people perceived this matter worse than it was. I was not worried. The actual details would be discovered. Eventually the old Messiah friend entered. Tears stood in his eyes. He took me by the arm and said, "I am truly sorry that I must come to you under such circumstances. I wouldn't have thought that you could have strayed so far, but that's what bad companions and evil examples can do; and an unexperienced young man can be led step by step to crime." — I am aware of no crime, I replied to this. And even less aware of having spent time in bad company. — "Now is not the time for defense," he told me in so many words. "Rather it is time for investigation and a thorough understanding of your part in it." — What do you want to know? I replied. He sat down, took out a piece of paper and began questioning me."Have you not recommended N.N. to your grandfather as a candidate for a *** position?"


I answered, yes. — "How did you meet him?" — During strolls. — "In whose company?" — I hesitated. I didn't want to turn in my friends. — "Keeping quiet won't help," he continued. "We already know enough." — What's already known? I asked. — "That you have been introduced to this man by others like himself and certainly by ***." Here he named three people, whom I have never seen nor known. I immediately explained this to my interrogator. "You pretend," he continued, "not to know these people but you have often been together with them!" — Not at all, I replied. As I said, except for the first one I don't know any of them and have never seen them in a house. — "Aren't you often on *** Street?" Never, I answered. This was not completely truthful. I had accompanied Pylades there once to his beloved's house. She lived on that street, however we went in through a back door and stayed in the garden house. Thus I believed I could use the excuse that I had not been on the street itself.

The good man asked more questions, and I could respond no to all of them. I didn't know anything about the the things he wanted to find out. Eventually he seemed to become annoyed and he said, "You have rewarded me poorly for my faith and good will. I have come to save you. You can not deny that you composed letters for these people or their accomplices. You wrote notes and thus made yourself helpful in their evil pranks. I have come to save you because there is talk specifically about forged documents, false testaments,


"counterfeit statements of liability and similar things. I do not come just as a friend of the house. I come in the name of and at the order of the authorities who, in consideration of your family and your young age, are willing to spare you and a few other youngsters, who have been caught up in this net." — What struck me was that among the people he had named there were none of those with whom I used to associate. The circumstances did not mesh but they somehow touched each other and I could only hope to spare my young friends. Except the clever man urged ever more stingently. I could not deny that several nights I had come home quite late, that I knew how to procure a house key, that I had been seen more than once with people of lesser status and questionable character in places of enjoyment, that a girl was involved in the affair. Suffice it to say everything had been discovered except their names. This gave me the courage to stand firm in my silence. — "Don't let me go away with nothing," the brave friend stated. "The matter will not be pushed aside. Immediately after me another will come, who will not leave you so much latitude. You will make a bad situation worse through your stubbornness."

Now I imagined the good cousins, and especially Gretchen. I saw them arrested, prosecuted, punished, shamed and I felt a bolt of lightning rip through my soul. Although they had observed all the proprieties towards me, the cousins could have gotten involved in evil business, at least the oldest, whom I had never liked and who always came home later and never had anything very happy to report. However I still held back any information. — I am personally unaware, I stated, of any wrongdoing and


from that vantage I can be at peace, however it is not impossible that those, with whom I am associated, may have gotten involved in some foolhardy or illicit dealings. People may search for them, people may find them; they may be handed over and prosecuted. I have nothing to reproach myself for and I will not castigate others who have shown themselves amicable and kindly towards me. — He didn't let me finish, instead calling out with a few gestures. "Indeed, people will find them. These miscreants came together in three houses. (He named the streets, he indicated the houses, and unfortunately the house, to which I used to go, was among them.) The first nest has already been seized," he continued, "and at this moment they're going after the other two." In a few hours everything will be known. Make a formal statement and avoid legal investigation, judicial confrontation, and all the unpleasantness it entails." — The house was named and indicated. I now considered continued silence useless. I could only hope the innocence of our meetings would prove more beneficial for me. — Sit down, I declared, and held him back at the door. I will tell you everything to ease your heart and mine. I only ask one thing. From now on do not doubt in my truthfulness.

I told the friend the entire course of the matter, at the beginning quite quietly and composed. Then as I recounted the people, places, and situations and made my deposition concerning the innocent joy and delightful pleasures for these criminal proceedings, painful sympathy welled up inside me until I broke out in tears and abandoned myself to boundless sorrow.


The family friend, who hoped that I was on my way to revealing the whole truth of the affair (for he considered my pain an indication that I had had a realization and would reveal something dreadful against my will,) tried his best to console me, believing he was on the verge of true discovery. He succeeded only to the extent that I could tell my story in scanty detail. Pleased with the innocence of the account yet still somewhat dubious, he asked me new questions, to which I replied animatedly and with pain and rage. Eventually I asserted I had nothing further to say and wanted to know if I had anything to fear. I was innocent, from a good home and well regarded, however anyone could be innocent without others recognizing that fact or settling in their favor. At the same time I declared that if people were not willing to spare them, see past their foolishness and excuse their mistakes as they had with me, if they received the least harsh treatment or injustice, then I would do injury to myself and no one could prevent it. Here again the friend tried to comfort me, but I didn't trust him, and when he left me I was in a dreadful state. I reproached myself for telling the story and bringing all the details to light. I perceived that others would interpret the childish dealings, the youthful inclinations and intimacies quite differently, and perhaps I had involved good Pylades in this affair and brought misfortune upon him. All these images pressed, one right after the other, before my mind, intensifying and spurring my pain until I couldn't help but cry, spreading myself lengthwise


Go to pages 253-256


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