Must the morning always return? Will the despotism of the earthly never cease? Unholy activity consumes the angel-visit of the Night. Will the time never come when Love’s hidden sacrifice shall burn eternally? To the Light a season was set; but everlasting and boundless is the dominion of the Night. Endless is the duration of sleep. Holy Sleep—gladden not too seldom in this earthly day-labor, the devoted servant of the Night. Fools alone mistake thee, knowing nought of sleep but the shadow which, in the twilight of the real Night, thou pitifully castest over us. They feel thee not in the golden flood of the grapes—in the magic oil of the almond tree—and the brown juice of the poppy. They know not that it is thou who hauntest the bosom of the tender maiden, and makest a heaven of her lap—never suspect it is thou, opening the doors to Heaven, that steppest to meet them out of ancient stories, bearing the key to the dwellings of the blessed, silent messenger of secrets infinite.
Novalis, Hymns to the Night
Seek not to discover the deficiencies and imperfections in works of art before you have learned to recognize and find beauty. This memorandum is based on my daily experience of observing that beauty goes unrecognized by the majority of people because they wish to play the critic before they have begun to be students. They are like schoolboys who are all clever enough to discover the weaknesses of the schoolmaster. Our vanity will not allow us to pass by with only an idle gaze, and our self-complacency wants to be flattered; therefore we seek to pass judgment. But just as it is easier to make a negative statement than a positive one, so imperfections are much more easy to observe and detect than perfection; and it takes less effort to judge others than it takes to improve ourselves.
How my heart beats when by accident I touch her finger, or my feet meet hers under the table! I draw back as from a flame, but a secret force impels me forward again, and I begin to feel faint. Oh! Her innocent, pure heart never knows what agony these little familiarities inflict on me. Sometimes when we are talking she lays her hand on mine and in the eagerness of conversation comes closer to me, and her divine breath brushes my lips—I feel as if lightning had struck me, and I could sink into the earth. And yet, Wilhelm, with all this heavenly intimacy— if I should ever dare—you understand. No! my heart is not so depraved; it is weak, weak enough—but isn’t that a kind of depravity?
She is sacred to me. All desire is silenced in her presence; I don’t know what I feel when I’m near her. It is as if my soul beat in every nerve of my body. There is a melody which she plays on the piano with the touch of an angel—so simple is it, and yet so lofty! It’s her favorite song, and when she strikes the first note all my worry and sorrow disappear in a moment.
I believe every word that is said of the ancient magic of music. How her simple song enchants me! And how she knows when to play it! Sometimes, when I feel like shooting a bullet into my head, she begins to sing. The gloom and madness are dispersed, and I breathe freely again.
Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
Distance, my friend, is like the future. A dim vastness is spread before our soul; our feelings are as obscure as our vision, and we desire to surrender our whole being, that it may be filled with the perfect bliss of one glorious emotion–but alas! when we rush towards our goal, when the distant there becomes the present here, all is the same; we are as poor and limited as ever, and our soul still languishes for unattainable happiness.
And so the restless traveler at last longs for his native soil, and finds in his own cottage, in the arms of his wife, in the affection of his children, and the labor necessary for their support, all that happiness which he sought in vain in the wide word.
Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther