06 June 2013

Perfect Bliss for a Restless Traveler

The happiness that eludes

It is so strange how, when I came here first, and gazed upon that lovely valley from the hillside, I felt charmed with the entire scene surrounding me. . . . Then, that delightful chain of hills, and the exquisite valleys at their feet! Could I but wander and lose myself amongst them!

I went, and returned without finding what I wished. Distance, my friend, is like futurity. A dim vastness is spread before our souls: the perceptions of our mind are as obscure as those of our vision; and we desire earnestly to surrender up our whole being, that it may be filled with the complete and perfect bliss of one glorious emotion. But alas! when we have attained our object, when the distant there becomes the present here, all is changed: we are as poor and circumscribed as ever, and our souls still languish for unattainable happiness.

So does the restless traveler pant for his native soil, and find in his own cottage, in the arms of his wife, in the affections of his children, and in the labor necessary for their support, that happiness which he had sought in vain through the wide world.

—J.W. von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

Painting: Pierre-Paul Prudhon, Madame Anthony and her Children (1785)

1 comment:

  1. This was an interesting quote. My husband and I were in Frankfurt on a trip, and I actually went to Goethe's house. Ever since then I've wanted to read The Sorrows of Young Werther, but time has gotten away. "So many books, so little time . . ." :-)

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