From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Book 5, pages 253-256


on the ground and wetting the floor with my tears.

I don't know how long I had laid there when my sister came in. She was shocked by my appearance and did everything possible to set me right. She told me that a person from the Magistry had waited below with my father for the return of the family friend and that after closing themselves off in conference for a time they left, seeming quite pleased, even laughing as they spoke. She believed she had heard these words: It's good, the matter has no significance. — "Of course," I replied, "the matter has no significance for me or for us. I didn't break any laws, and if I had, there would have been people to help me through it. But what about them," I cried, "who will stand by them!" — My sister tried at length to console me with the argument that if they wished to protect a person of rank they would also have to throw a veil over misdeeds of less individuals. That would solve nothing. Soon after she left I turned myself back over to my pain as images of my inclinations and sorrows also called forth alternating versions of current and possible future misfortunes. I told myself story after story, saw one disaster pile on top of another, and especially envisioned how they would not fail to make Gretchen and me miserable.

The friend ordered me to stay in my room and discuss the business with no one except the family. This was fine with me because I found I preferred to be alone. My mother and sister visited me from time to time and I lacked for nothing. They worked their hardest to provide me with every comfort. They came to me


on the second day in the name of my now better informed father offering full amnesty, which I gratefully accepted except for the proposal that I go out with him to see the Imperial insignias, now being shown to the curious. I stubbornly declined, assuring him that I didn't want to known anything about the world or the Roman Empire until I knew how this dreadful matter, which for me would have no further consequences, would turn our for my poor acquaintances. They themselves knew nothing to say about the situation and they left me alone. In the following days people made a few attempts to get me out of the house and to move me to participate in the celebrations. They were useless. Neither the great gala day celebration, nor the opportunity to witness so many promotions in rank, nor the emperor and king's public table could move me. The electoral prince of the Palatinate might come to attend their majesties, they might visit the electors, people might come together for the last electoral session in order to handle tabled business and renew the electoral union. Nothing could call me out of my sorrowful isolation. I abandoned the ringing bells of the festival of gratitude, the emperor visiting the Capuchin church, the electors' and emperor's departure, and never stepped a foot outside my room. The last canonade, as unbridled as it was, did not excite me, and as the smell of gun powder faded and the shelling subsided, so too were all the splendid events distant from my mind. *

My only comfort came in revisiting my misery and imagining its thousandfold aspects. My gift for invention,


my poetic and rhetoric abilities cast themselves in unwholesome darkness and threated to be transformed by my life force, my body and my mind into unholy sickness. In this sad state nothing seemed worth wishing for, nothing seemed desireable. Yet at times I was gripped in endless longing to know how things were going for my poor friends and my beloved, what closer investigation would yield and whether they would be found guilty or innocent of some crime. I painted this picture in my mind with the greatest variety of detail and it never failed to hold them innocent and truly unfortunate. I soon wished to be freed from this uncertainty and I wrote a lengthy and threatening letter to the family friend, stating that he should not withhold from me the continuing path of the investigation. Then I ripped the letter up for fear of learning the true nature of my own misfortune while depriving myself of the comfort of imagination with which I alternately tormented then consoled myself up until now.

Thus I spent my days and nights in great disquiet, in rage and exhaustion until I eventually felt happy as physical illness kicked in with suitable severity and they had to call in the doctor and think of ways in which to pacify me. They believed they had done all they could for me, solemnly assuring me that all those involved to a greater or lesser extent in any wrongdoing would be treated with the greatest indulgence, that my closest friends were being released with slight reprimands and considered as good as innocent, and that Gretchen had left the city to return to her homeland. * They hesitated after telling me this last part and I did not take it very well. I could not perceive in it


voluntary departure, only shameful exile. My physical and intellectual condition was not improved by this news. Urgent need pressed me further and I had plenty of time to torment myself with the composition of a complete novel on the sad events and the unavoidably tragic catastrophe. *

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This is the end of Poetry and Truth, Part 1

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Go to Notes on pages 257-263


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