November 16, 2010


First, there is wine, which warms the soul as well as the body.

Plato, Timaeus 60A
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November 15, 2010


The only place they registered at all was on a small black device called a Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic which winked away quietly to itself. It nestled in the darkness inside a leather satchel which Ford Prefect wore habitually round his neck. The contents of Ford Prefect's satchel were quite interesting in fact and would have made any Earth physicist's eyes pop out of his head, which is why he always concealed them by keeping a couple of dog-eared scripts for plays he pretended he was auditioning for stuffed in the top. Besides the Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic and the scripts he had an Electronic Thumb — a short squat black rod, smooth and matt with a couple of flat switches and dials at one end; he also had a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million "pages" could be summoned at a moment's notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons why the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words Don't Panic printed on it in large friendly letters. The other reason was that this device was in fact that most remarkable of all books ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor — The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitch hiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 3
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November 13, 2010

A child is a grenade

... a child is a grenade. When you have a baby, you set off an explosion in your marriage, and when the dust settles, your marriage is different from what it was. Not better, necessarily; not worse, necessarily; but different.

Nora Ephron, Heartburn
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November 12, 2010


"It's like a beautiful thing that suddenly turns out to be broken into hundreds of pieces, and even when you glue it back together it's always going to have been horrily broken."
 "That's what a marriage is. ... Pieces break off, and you glue them back on. ... After a certain point it's just patch, patch, patch."

Nora Ephron, Heartburn
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November 11, 2010

Missing Socks

"Where are all the missing socks?"..."They're in heaven. ... You die, you go to heaven, and they bring you a big box, and it's got all your lost socks in it, and your mufflers and your gloves, and you get to spend eternity sorting them all out."

Nora Ephron, Heartburn
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Beware of men who cry

...beware of men who cry. It's true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own.

Nora Ephron, Heartburn
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November 10, 2010

Dutch Treat

...the major concrete achievement of the women's movement in the 1970s was the Dutch treat.

Nora Ephron, "Heartburn"
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Learn to die

I have somewhere read, that the great use of Philosophy is to learn to die. I will not therefore so far disgrace mine, as to show any Surprise at receiving a Lesson which I must be thought to have so long studied. Yet, to say the Truth, one Page of the Gospel teaches this Lesson better than all the Volumes of ancient or modern Philosophers. The Assurance it gives us of another Life is a much stronger Support to a good Mind, than all the Consolations that are drawn from the Necessity of Nature, the Emptiness or Satiety of our Enjoyments here, or any other Topic of those Declamations which are sometimes capable of arming our Minds with a stubborn Patience in bearing the Thoughts of Death, but never of raising them to a real Contempt of it, and much less of making us think it is a real good.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, XVIII iv
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Platonic Affection

That refined Degree of Platonic Affection, which is absolutely detached from the Flesh, and is, indeed, entirely and purely spiritual, is a Gift confined to the female Part of the Creation; many of whom I have heard declare (and, doubtless, with great Truth), that they would, with the utmost Readiness, resigns a Lover to a Rival, when such Resignation was probed to be necessary for the temporal Interest of such Lover. Hence, therefore, I conclude that this Affection is in Nature, though I cannot pretend to say I have ever seen an Instance of it.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, XVI v
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November 9, 2010


 . . that natural Weakness of the human Mind, which makes it desirous to know the worst, and renders uncertainty the most intolerable of Pains. . .

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, XV v
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What the Bible Has to Say About Sex

Editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible Michael Coogan recently applied his thorough knowledge of Scripture to a universal and eternally relevant topic: sex. In God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says , he discusses everything from marriage and prostitution to "fire" in God's own loins (yeah, you may want to reread the Book of Ezekiel). Coogan puts the Bible, which is often inconsistent on such hot topics, in perspective, and you may find yourself surprised by what the ancient texts have to say. (See 10 surprising facts about the world's oldest Bible.)
Your book begins with a discussion of the erotic Song of Solomon. Does its inclusion in the Bible mean there was a positive attitude toward sex back then?
I think there was a positive attitude toward sex in general, because reproduction was essential. Anything that led to reproduction was certainly viewed positively, and the idea of refraining from sex for religious reasons was something that was fairly unusual in Judaism in most periods. In many passages it's a highly erotic text, and it was a text that rabbinic literature tells us used to be sung in taverns. Yet when I was in seminary many decades ago, it was razored out of many of the Bibles that we had. (See pictures of religion in the ruins of Katrina.)
Is there any word in the Bible that isn't a euphemism for genitals? There's feet , hand , knees , flesh .
The word for testicles is stones . There aren't what we would call precise anatomical terms. As with any literature, passages in the Bible can have more than one level of meaning. And sometimes there may be a kind of sexual innuendo or double entendre there that is implicit. (Read "The Case for Teaching the Bible.")
Even laughing has a sexual connotation.
That's a great one, and you don't see it until you get to the story about Isaac telling the foreign king that his wife Rebecca is his sister, and then the king sees Isaac making Rebecca laugh, and he says, "She's not your sister, she's your wife!" Usually the translation itself is not literal; the translations will say fondling, caressing, or something like that. But the Hebrew word actually means to make laugh. It's the same word that's used in other contexts, as in the story of the golden calf, so there's a hint of an orgy there, which complicates the offense.
How important is it to read the Bible in its original languages?
It's essential for some of us to do it, if for no other reason so that translations can be made that are as accurate as possible. Often translators reflect their own views and their own biases just as much as the biblical writers do. I was interested recently in this case that the Supreme Court had in the Westboro Baptist Church. I looked at their website, and he lists all the passages that he says the Bible talks about sodomy. Well, in most of them sodomy isn't discussed at all. The term sodomy is a translator's term to translate Hebrew words that never mean sodomy in the sense of anal intercourse between males. (Read "Should the Highest Court Protect the Ugliest Speech?")
Given all the examples of polygamy, where in the Bible is marriage sanctioned as a union only between one man and one woman?
There is no unequivocal statement in the Bible, especially the Hebrew Bible, that says that monogamy should be the norm. For the most part, biblical characters we know well, if they could afford it, had many wives. Solomon, the greatest lover of them all — maybe why he's attributed with writing the Song of Songs — had 300 wives. So the fundamentalist Mormons who insist that polygamy is biblical are right, in a sense. If you're going to be a strict literalist, there's nothing wrong with polygamy. (See the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.)
We never know if Adam and Eve are married, right?
That's right. There's no marriage ceremony described. Here's another case where the issue of translation comes up. The same Hebrew word can be translated either as woman or wife. So when it says that the man knew his wife, and she got pregnant — that's another euphemism, to know in the biblical sense — it could also be the man knew his woman and she got pregnant.
You devote a chapter to the status of women. Is the reason there are so many misconceptions about the Bible and sex the fact that we often forget how patriarchal those societies were?
The status of women is important as background, but it's also another example of how we have, for the most part, while accepting the Bible as authoritative, moved beyond it and in some ways rejected some of its main points of view. If we can do that for things like slavery or the subordinate status of women, then we can do it on other issues as well, like same-sex marriage. We have to ask the question, How is it that we'll take some parts of the Bible and say they are absolutely and eternally binding, and other parts can simply be ignored?
As for abortion, the Bible doesn't say much.
It doesn't say anything. That's one of the things I find most interesting, because both sides of the contemporary debate about abortion will quote the Bible in support of their position. They have to quote verses that don't really talk about abortion.
Addressing the sexuality of God, you write, "Yahweh is envisioned as a sexual being," according to certain passages.
He is described as a sexual being, but the language is both mythical and metaphorical. (See pictures of John 3:16 in pop culture.)
Those descriptions, in Ezekiel, for example, even if they're allegories, are pretty explicit.
They're very explicit. They've in fact been called pornographic.
Were people in biblical times less prudish than we are today?
I think in some ways they were, even though they used a lot of euphemisms. When they were thinking about their god, they thought of him in ways not that different from the way other people thought about their gods. If you could describe God as a king or a shepherd or a warrior, then you can also describe him as a husband, and doing the sorts of things that husbands do. In the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity arose, the idea that a deity would come down to earth and have sex with a mortal would have been not surprising at all.
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As Love, like Fire, when once thoroughly kindled, is soon blown into a Flame.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, XV ii
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Tullius Tiro

TULLIUS TIRO was the pupil and freedman of Marcus Cicero and an assistant in his literary work. He wrote several books on the usage and theory of the Latin language and on miscellaneous questions of various kinds. Pre-eminent among these appear to be those to which he gave the Greek titleπανδέκται, 1 implying that they included every kind of science and fact. In these he wrote the following about the stars which are called the Suculae, or “Little Pigs”: 2 “The early Romans,” says he, “were so ignorant of Grecian literature and so unfamiliar with the Greek language, that they called those stars which are in the head of the Bull Suculae, or 'The Little Pigs,' because the Greeks call them ὑάδες; for they supposed that Latin word to be a translation of the Greek name becauseὕες in Greek is sues in Latin. But the ὑάδες,” says he, “are so called, οὐκ ἀπὸ τῶν ὑῶν (that is, not from pigs), as our rude forefathers believed, but from the word ὕειν; for both when they rise and when they set they cause rainstorms and heavy showers. And pluere, (to rain) is expressed in the Greek tongue by ὕειν.

So, indeed, Tiro in his Pandects. But, as a matter of fact, our early writers were not such boors and [435] crowns as to give to the stars called hyades the name of suculae, or “little pigs,” because ὕες are called sues in Latin; but just as what the Greeks call ὑπέρ we call super, what they call ὕπτιος we callsupinus, what they call ὑφορβός we call subulcus, and finally, what they call ὕπνος we call first sypnus, and then, because of the kinship of the Greek letter y and the Latin o, somnus—just so, what they call ὑάδες were called by us, first shades, and then suculae.

But the stars in question are not in the head of the Bull, as Tiro says, for except for those stars the Bull has no head; but they are so situated and arranged in the circle that is called the “zodiac,” that from their position they seem to present the appearance and semblance of a bull's head, just as the other parts, and the rest of the figure of the Bull, are formed and, as it were, pictured by the place and location of those stars which the Greeks call πλειάδες and we, Vergiliae.

1 Literally, all-embracing.
2 pp. 7 ff. Lion.

The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius. With An English Translation. John C. Rolfe. Cambridge. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1927.

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, Book XIII, IX, section 1
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Tullius Tiro

Cicero had a slave named Tiro. Tiro was Cicero's secretary, confidant, right-hand man, editor, and after Cicero's death, the publisher of a number of Cicero's speeches (and thus, although you may not yet believe me, we are substantially indebted to the man). He also wrote a biography of Cicero, a book on grammar and a book on philosophical questions. He also invented a type of shorthand. Cicero, his brother and his children were very close to Tiro. When Tiro was ill, Cicero worried and fretted over him like a nervous hen. Cicero's son, Marcus, wrote to Tiro whenever he was in hot water with the old man, suggesting a relationship we would find more between an indulgent uncle and nephew, rather than that between a young lord and family slave. In 53 BCE, Cicero freed Tiro. On the occasion, his brother Quintus wrote Cicero a letter of congratulations: "I am truly grateful for what you have done about Tiro, in judging his former condition to be below his deserts and preferring us to have him as a friend rather than a slave. Believe me, I jumped for joy when I read your letter and his. Thank you, and congratulations." [Tr. K. Bradley, Slavery and Society at Rome]. Scholars believe that Tiro may have turned 50 on the day he was freed.

Roman Civilization
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November 8, 2010


. . . for they impart to us the Knowledge and Assurance of Things much more worthy our Attention, than all which this World can offer to our Acceptance. Of Things which Heaven itself hath condescended to reveal to us, and to the smallest Knowledge of which the highest human wit unassisted could never ascend. I began now to think all the Time I had spent with the best Heathen Writers, was little more than Labour lost: for however pleasant and delightful their Lessons may be, or however adequate to the right Regulation of our Conduct with Respect to this World only, yet when compared with the Glory revealed in Scripture, their highest Documents will appear as trifling, and of as little Consequence as the Rules by which Children regulate their childish little Games and Pastime. True it is, that Philosophy makes us wiser, but Christianity makes us better Men. Philosophy elevates and steels the Mind, Christianity softens and sweetens it. The Former makes us the Object of human Admiration, the Latter of Divine Love. That insures us a temporal, but this an eternal Happiness.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, VIII xiii
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. . . for who ever heard of a Gold-finder that had the Impudence or Folly to assert, from the ill Success of his Search, that there was no such thing as Gold in the World? Whereas the Truth-finder, having raked out that jakes his own Mind, and being there capable of tracing no Ray of Divinity, nor anything virtuous, or good, or lovely, or loving, or very fairly, honestly and logically concludes, that no such things exist in the whole Creation.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, VI iii
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November 7, 2010


Here we cannot suppress a pious Wish, . . . that cold Iron was to be used in digging no Bowels, but those of the Earth.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, V xii
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To say Truth, nothing is more erroneous than the Common Observation, that Men who are ill-natured and quarrelsome when they are drunk, are very worthy Persons when they are sober: for Drink, in reality, doth not reverse Nature, or create Passions in Men, which did not exist in them before. It takes away the Guard of Reason, and consequently forces us to produce those Symptoms, which many, when sober, have Art enough to conceal. It heightens and inflames our Passions (generally indeed that Passion which is uppermost in our Mind) so that the angry Temper, the amourous, the generous, the good-humoured, the avaricious, and all other Dispositions of Men, are in their Cups heightened and exposed.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, V ix
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Leaving Life

One of the Roman Poets, I remember, likens our leaving Life to our Departure from a Feast. A Thought which hath often occurred to me, when I have seen Men struggling to protract an Entertainment, and to enjoy the Company of their Friends a few Moments longer. Alas! how short is the most protracted of such Enjoyment! How immaterial the Difference between him who retires the soonest, and him who stays the latest!

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, V vii
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November 6, 2010

Love is a disease.

For Love may again be likened to a disease in this, that when it is denied a Vent in one Part, it will certainly break out in another. What her Lips therefore concealed, her Eyes, her Blushes, and many little involuntary Actions, betrayed.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, V ii
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Virtue in Youth

Henceforward, he saw every Appearance of Virtue in the Youth thro' the magnifying End, and viewed all his Faults with the Glass inverted, so that they became scarce perceptible.

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, III vii
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The Foundation of Happiness

. . . I have always thought Love the only Foundation of Happiness in a married State; as it can only produce that high and tender Friendship, which should always be the Cement of this Union; and, in my Opinion, all those Marriages which are contracted from other Motives, are greatly criminal; they are a Profanation of a most holy Ceremony, and generally end in Disquiet and Misery: for surely we may call it a Profanation, to convert this most sacred Institution into a wicked Sacrifice to Lust, or Avarice: and what better can be said of those Matches to which Men are induced merely by the Consideration of a beautiful Person, or a great Fortune!

Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, I xii

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Girls' Love

The Love of Girls is uncertain, capricious, and so foolish that we cannot always discover what the young Lady would be at; nay, it may almost be doubted, whether she always knows this herself.

Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, I xi

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. . . but her Patience was perhaps tired out: for this is a virtue which is very apt to be fatigued by Exercise.

Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, I vii

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October 26, 2010

Waking or asleep, she fills all my thoughts!

How her image haunts me! Waking or asleep, she fills all my thoughts! When I close my eyes, here, in my brain, where all the energies of inward vision are concentrated, are her black eyes. Here--I cannot express it; but if I shut my eyes, there are hers: dark as the ocean, as an abyss they lie before me, and fill the nerves of my brain.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, December 6, Book II

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Another Man's Wife

I cannot pray, "Let her be mine!" Yet she often seems to belong to me. I cannot pary, "Give her to me!" for she is another's.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, November 22, Book II

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Measure of sufferings

What is the destiny of man but to fill up the measure of his sufferings, and to drink his alotted cup of bitterness? And if that same cup proved bitter to the Son of God, why should I affect a foolish pride and call it sweet?

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, November 15, Book II

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See but touch not

A hundred times I have been on the verge of embracing her. God! What a torture it is to see so much loveliness before us, and yet not dare to touch it! And touching with our hands is the most natural of human instincts. Do not children touch everything they see? And I?

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, October 30, Book II
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Without her I have nothing

I possess so much, but my love for her absorbs it all. I possess so much, but without her I have nothing.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, October 27, Book II

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October 25, 2010


And my heart seems as if it could not bear without them; and yet--if I were to die; if I were to leave this circle--would they feel--or how long would they feel--the void which my loss would make in their lives? How long? Yes, such is the frailty of man that even where he has the greatest certainty of his own being, where he makes the truest and most forcible impression in the memory, in the heart of his beloved, there also he must perish--vanish--and that so soon!

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, October 26, Book II

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Alas! The void--the fearful void within me! Sometimes I think, if I could once--only once--press her to my heart, this void would all be filled.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, October 19, Book II

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As Nature turns to autumn, it becomes autumn within me and around me. My leaves are sear and yellow, and the trees near by are divested of their leaves.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, September 4, Book II

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October 22, 2010

God so loves us...

God so loves us that He accepts us just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there.

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The Kreplach Joke

Once upon a time there was a little boy who hated kreplach. Every time he saw a piece of kreplach in the soup he screamed, "Aaaaah, kreplach!" So his mother decided to teach him not to be afraid of kreplach. She took him into the kitchen and rolled out some dough. "Just like a pancake," she said. "Just like a panckae," said the little boy. Then she took a piece of meat and rolled it into a ball. "Just like a meatball," she said. "Just like a meatball," said the little boy. Then she rolled up the meat in the dough and held it up. "Just like a dumpling," she said. "Just like a dumpling," said the little boy. Then she dropped it into the soup and put it in front of the little boy, and he screamed, "Aaaaah, kreplach!"
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October 21, 2010

I have nothinng but her.

I sometimes cannot understand how another can love her so, dare love her, when I love nothing in this world so completely, so devoutedly, as I love her, when I know only her, and have nothing but her in the whole world.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, September 3, Book II

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October 20, 2010

I smile at my own heart, and must obey it.

The fact is, I want to be near Charlotte again, that is all. I smile at my own heart, and must obey it.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, June 18, Book II

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October 19, 2010


If the mountain were not there, the road would be a good deal shorter and pleasanter; but there it is, and we must get over it.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, December 24, Book II

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She's everything

I cannot pray except to her. My imagination sees nothing but her; npthing matters except what has to do with her. In this state of mind I enjoy many happy hours, till at length I feel compelled to tear myself away from her.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, August 30, Book I

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Listening to Mozart makes you smarter

Listening to Mozart makes students smarter--but only for 10 to 15 minutes. So argues a team of psychologists from the University of California at Irvine, who published their preliminary findings in the British scientific journal ョMDITッNatureョMDNMッ. Listening to relaxation tapes or sitting in silence had no effect, but the college students scored between 8 and 9 points higher on an IQ test after hearing a Mozart sonata.

Time, October 25, 1993, p17
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The flowers of life are but illusions

. . . the flowers of life are but illusions. How many fade away and leave no trace; how few yield any fruit; and the fruit itself, how rarely does it ripen!

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, August 28, Book I
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I kissed the ribbon・・・

I kissed the ribbon a thousand times, and in every breath inhaled the memory of those happy and irrevocable days, which filled me with the keenest joy.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, August 28, Book I
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In vain do I stretch out my arms towards her when I awaken in the morning from my troubled dream. In vain I seek her at night in my bed, when an innocent dream has happily deceived me, and I thought that I was sitting near her in the fields, holding her hand and covering it with countless kisses. And when I feel for her in the half confusion of sleep, and awaken, tears flow from my oppressed heart; and bereft of all comfort, I weep over my future woes.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, August 21, Book I
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Happiness and Misery

Must it ever be thus--that the source of our happiness must also be the fountain of our misery?

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, August 18, Book I
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Iresistible reason for seeing her

I have often resolved not to see her so frequently. But who could keep such a resolution? Every day I succumb to temptation, and promise faithfully that tomorrow I will really stay away; but when tomorrow comes, I find some irresistible reason for seeing her, and before I can account for it, I am with her again.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, July 26, Book I

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I shall see her today!

"I shall see her today!" I say to myself with delight, when I rise in the morning, and happily look out at the bright beautiful sun. "I shall see her!" And then I have no further wish for the rest of the day; all, all is focused in that one thought.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, July 19, Book I
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October 18, 2010

Love is like a magic lantern.

Wilhelm, what is the world to our hearts without love? It is a magic lantern without light. You have but to set up the light within, and the brightest pictures are thrown on the white screen; and if that were all there is, fleeting shadows, we are yet happy, when, like children, we behold them and are transported with the wonderful sight.
Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, July 18, Book I

Being in love

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 become disordered. Her innocent, pure heart never knows what agony these little familiarities inflict upon me. Sometimes when we are talking she lays her hand upon mine, and in the eagerness of conversation comes closer to me, and her divine breath comes to my lips--I feel as if lightning had struck me, and I could sink into the earth.

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, July 16, Book I

Alas, that the friend of my youth is gone!

Alas, that the friend of my youth is gone! Alas, that I never knew her! I might say to myself, "You are a fool to seek what is not to be found here below." But she was mine. I have felt that heart, that noble soul, in whose presence I seemed to be more than I really was, because I was all that I could be. God! Was there a single power in my soul that remained unused? In her presence did I not fully develop that intense feeling with wich my heart embraces Nature? Was not our life together a perpetual interplay of the finest emotions, of the keenest wit, whose many shades, however ectravagant, bore the stamp of genius?
Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, May 17, Book I