HOME     Library     CONTENTS: Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard
I   -   II  -   III  -   IV  -   V  -   VI  -   VII  -   VIII  -   IX  -   X  -   XI    


III A   -   III B   -   III C





On the whole one has to say that modern philosophy, even in its most grandiose forms, nevertheless is really only an introduction to making it possible to philosophize. Hegel undeniably completes — but only the development which had its beginning with Kant and was directed toward knowledge. In Hegel one finds in a more profound form, that which earlier philosophy unreflectively assumed as a beginning — that on the whole there is reality in thought. But the whole line of thought proceeding from this assumption (or now happy over this result) entered into genuine anthropological contemplation, which has not yet been undertaken.

See K.K., pp. 20-21.

July 5, 1840


These words of Plato (spoken by the Egyptian priest to Solon), Greek are the best and most pregnant aphorism on the essentially Greek.

August 10, 1840


Fantasies for a Coach Horn*

Goodbye, you, my home
Goodbye, accept my greetings.

Greetings to you, mighty nature, with your fugitive beautfy. It is not you I want, it is the memory of you. In vain do you stop me along my way. You must bow beneath the mighty power of destiny, which rolls over you and with every turn of the wheel gives birth to the fate that for you is irresistable.

* I am not especially musical, and it is the only instrument I sometimes play, and since there now seems to be a desire to replace the coach horn with a regular trumpet and to have the mail-coach driver take an examination in performance, it is high time to give a valedictory. It is a shame that the transportation authorities cannot get birds to perform certain soulful pieces instead of this ridiculous chirping and cocky chattering from which no one can learn a thing or get an genuine and elevating satisfaction — moreover, retired journalists and other has-beens could be placed in the various forest districts as echoes. No doubt a consequence of this would be that it would not always be so punctual, for example, when Echo is somewhere else on a visit, but one could at least hear something worth hearing, for each district ought to have certain characteristic renditions, and since one would know beforehand what would be performed in a particular district, everyone could travel according to his own taste. But I do not deny that it would be an inconvenient job to have to leap out of bed whenever some hare-brained German wanted to make sure that there was an Echo. Then, too, they would have to be very competent linguistically, lest they be asked questions in a language they did not understand, very attentive, too, lest there be confusion as to meaning and it be all too frequently necessary to say: I beg your pardon — .


Addition to previous:

Greetings and salutations, you village beauty, [you] young girl, inquisitively sticking your head out the window; fear not, I will not disturb your peace; just look straight at me so that I will not completely forget you.


Addition to previous:

Greetings and salutations, you winged tenants of the sky, you who so easily ascend to regions the rest of us strive with all our might and main to reach —


Addition to previous:

Superficiality is so characteristic of travelers; that is why, when the coachman blows his horn, they usually say he is blowing the fat off the soup.


Addition to previous:

Wake up, arise, dress up in all your glory! It is not you who in fickle flight will rush past over our heads; you will remain; it is we who swiftly will glide past you.


Melodrama for the Coach Horn

But do spare me
the perpetual tooting.


There is no one I would rather have fall down or be blocked by the drawbridge Knippelsbro than those bustling businessmen who have so exceedingly much to do in the world; whereas the rest of us, if Knippelsbro is raised, find it a convenient opportunity to meditate —


Precisely because a wholly new life arises in a human being through Christianity, it will be impossible to determine anything about the immediacy which precedes and which to all eternity will precede the mediacy and dialectic produced by reflection; likewise the natural birth of the soul must be regarded as being spontaneously related to creative divinity. Thus it is seen that the question about what begins there will remain a purely metaphysical one, and a person reflecting upon it must always be conscious of a relationship to the divine; but for the very reason that spiritual birth itself lies beyond all consciousness, it must lie within the divine, and the fact that the single individual can reflect upon it shows the priority of the divine.



Those who are called in the eleventh hour —


I have always been charged with using long parentheses. Studying for my final examination is the longest parenthesis I have experienced.


Somewhere in England there is a gravestone with only these words on it: The Unhappiest. I can imagine that someone would read it and think that no one at all lies buried there but that it was destined for him.


The human race pictured as the prodigal son.

There came the moment in the world when the race spoke to God as the son in the gospel spoke to his father: divide and share with us; let us have the inheritance coming to us.



Troels Lund told that once as a lad, during a visit with an older Lund, he wanted very much to get hold of a pipe before going for a walk in the woods and was able to borrow one. At that time the object of all his desires was to own a pipe. Twenty years later he received the same pipe as a gift — alas, how much he had wished for since that time!


Unfortunately I am too intelligent not to feel the anguish of knowledge, too deficient to feel its blessedness — and the knowledge which leads to salvation and the salvation which leads to knowledge of the truth have so far remained a secret to me.


Nyhavn 282, the Charlottenborg side —


July 17

Kallundborg —

On board the smack. How dreadfully boring the conversation usually is when one has to be together with others this way for such a long time; just as toothless old people have to turn food over and over in the mouth, a certain comment is repeated again and again until finally it has to be spit out. There were four clergymen along, and although the crossing lasted eight or nine hours (for me an eternity), the experienced passengers found it to be unusually swift, and this gave all the clergymen the occasion first to comment individually that skippers usually did not care to have clergymen on board because their presence brought headwinds and that the truth of this observation was now demolished, and then at the end of the crossing to join in full chorus to establish it as a principle that all this about headwinds was not so. Vainly did I stretch the sails of my own organs of hearing to capture a light breeze; a dead calm prevailed. From all four directions one heard only that skippers did not care to have clergymen on board (which shows what a dubious good the dissolution of parish boundaries is, for the fact that there was complete parish freedom on board the smack and I could listen to whichever clergyman I wanted to did not help in the least). Since each of the clergymen seemed equally interested and justified in being the owner of this story, none of them of course would grant another a privilegium exclusivum. — I had hoped that I would become seasick, or, failing that, that all the other passengers would be seasick. There is something special about watching people go on board for a sea journey. A journey at sea is like a miniature of all human life. People come on board from the most varied circumstances and occupations, but one common danger confronts them all (I am not thinking of the possible sinking of the ship): becoming seasick. The thought of it is the sounding board for the whole thing, the keynote that sounds in everything, whether it is expressed in a certain solemn taciturnity or in a forced liveliness or in an over-bearing cheerfulness; the specific in all these moods is their relation to this one thought, and this accounts for the tragi-comedy. Just as death is the infinite humorist who takes in everything (while man's humor, on the other hand, is always limited, because even in its most desperate form it always has a line beyond which it cannot go, the greatness of which it must acknowledge) — digests everything with equal ease: a king and a beggar, one who shrieks and howls and one who bears his cross in silence — just so does the comic element in seasickness consist in the fact that all earthly relativity, from which no one can completely emancipate himself, is here suspended, and the greatest contrasts lie alongside each other without any petty jealousy. But precisely because death has this enormous earnestness, it is itself the illumination in which great passions, both good and evil, are transparent, no longer limited by the external; this explains the love which expresses itself so touchingly because it is present in its extreme opposite, in separation. C. Boesen told me of a young girl who accompanied her married sister and her children on the ship; the married sister suffered the cramps of seasickness; the young girl was seasick herself but tried to keep going in order to help the children. Here love was certainly present, and perhaps just as strong as it was true, for it certainly takes great strength to overcome the tedium of seasickness so that one can concern himself about others; but love moved in an imperfect medium, for precisely in its transitory character seasickness is so trivial that it is impossible to remain properly serious when one thinks of a young girl constantly interrupted in her loving solicitude by — vomiting.

July 17, 1851


Aarhuus, July 18

Life in these country towns is just as wretched, ridiculous, and abgeschmakt as the gait assumed in walking the streets. It is useless to try to appear dignified (for to walk and meditate is absolutely impossible; the meditation itself would turn out to be nothing but dashes) — and then when one considers that he is the object of this typical country-town curiosity —

July 18, 1840


N.B. Anders at the review of the troops. — Kalløe Castle and Marsk Stig. ("King Mastix") — Knebel: the three hills. — The visit to Aarhuus Cathedral; the organ. — The ravenous hunger of market towns for "news from the capital"; they have no independent life like that of the country, which is especially attractive to someone like me who travels in order to forget.


I am so listless and dismal that I not only have nothing which fills my soul, but I cannot conceive of anything that could possibly satisfy it — alas, not even the bliss of heaven.


To you, O God, we turn for peace ..... but give us also the blessed assurance that nothing shall be able to take this peace from us, not we ourselves, not our foolish, earthly desires, my wild lusts, not my heart's restless craving!


My total mental and spiritual impotence at present is terrible precisely because it is combined with a consuming longing, with an intellectual-spiritual burning — and yet so formless that I do not even know what it is I need.


The Tramp; the Vagabond

A young man born in Christiansfeldt of a prosperous father who brought him up very strictly; he became dissolute; the father finally washed his hands of him; he went to Germany and took to the highways as a vagabond. Came back in a few years, went to Fyn where a venerable clergyman exhorted him to see the error of his ways; this helped; he stayed with him for a time, was treated very kindly, if not as a member of the family still not as a domestic servant, ate in his own room, etc. Handsome fellow that he was, as he worked in the garden one day he attracted the attention of an old colonel who was visiting the pastor. He wanted to have him as a servant. Prevailed upon him to do so. Now a new life began for the young man. The colonel was a bachelor and, as is not unusual for the elderly, became very fond of him, and it was not long before the young man became everything to him and altogether indispensable. — Two years went by in this way. One morning the colonel rings as usual, but no one comes; the old man becomes uneasy, goes to the young man's room, where he finds a letter addressed to him, begging his forgiveness: "but my walking stick has once again become too warm in my hand and I yearn for the German highways." No one has heard anything from him since then.

In connection with this I have a mind to use as a final episode the incident from Viborg prison that Mrs. Boesen told to me in Knebel.

She and her husband visited the prison. In a separate cell they found five or six adult gypsies (about 25 to 30 years old) who were being taught the alphabet in order to be prepared for confirmation. C. Boesen asked the teacher who was the smartest of them, and he pointed to one of them, whereupon C. encouraged him to persevere in his efforts "since, after all, he had nothing on his conscience and the prospect of becoming a useful citizen was now opening up for him in so many ways." They left the cell and wondered a little when the jailer locked up again and shut the teacher up with his pupils. They asked the jailer why and learned to their amazement that the teacher was also a prisoner who formerly had been a private tutor but had stolen money from a safe. C. B. now realized the significance of his words, since they must have been very mortifying to the teacher, who, seen from this standpoint, must have had a good deal on his conscience. — I will now try to imagine that this teacher was my tramp.


On Mols [.....]


The consciousness of sin ought not to be volatilized by careless observations about a commune naufragium anymore than it ought to be constricted into a despairing stare at what for the individual is self-inflicted; it should not degenerate into self-torment as if therein lay a kind of perfection. Just as the mind ought to be ready and willing to bear the dispensations of fate also when they appear as self-inflicted consequences, so a person ought to be assured that power will be given to him to bear them — but how can the individual be convinced that he will get power to bear a burden when it is one he has laid upon himself with his own hand and he therefore must strive proprio marte — ?


Socrates [.....]


The trouble with me is that when I was pregnant with ideas I was hypnotized by the ideal; that is why I give birth to deformities, and actuality does not conform to my burning longings — and may God grant that this will not be true also of love, for there too I have a secret anxiety than an ideal has been confused with an actuality. God forbid! As yet this is not so.

But this anxiety makes me eager to know the future and yet I fear it!


Sailing down the Gudenaa to Albæk; visiting Støvringgaard Manor; the evening light.


I have been considering preaching for the first time in the church at Sæding, and it would have to be next Sunday. To my surprise I see that the text is Mark 8:1-10 (feeding the 4,000), and the words "How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?" struck me, since I will be speaking in the poorest parish on the Jutland heath.


The visit at Hald; the carefree old man I met who lay on his back in the heather with only a stick in his hand. He accompanied me to the Non Mill. We came to a stream called Koldbæk; he assured me that it was the most delicious water in the whole region, whereupon he went down to it, lay full length on his stomach and drank from it. We continued on our way, and he confided to me that he actually had started out with the intention of begging.

What a happy fellow! So unconcerned as he slept there in the heather, so content refreshing himself there with the cold water. Suppose he slept a little too long, what of it, he was not playing the stock market..... and when he arrives at his destination, he will greet the family, talk about the hard times, lament "that he did not get to talk to the king in Viborg, since there was no one who got less than two rix-dollars"; he is then ushered into the servants' hall. People come home from the fields and food is served. The conversation centres on all that has taken place in the household, and while he satisfies his hunger he skims for an hour the cream of that meager stock of events (for compared to more complicated historical lives the still life is like Swiss cows compared to Holstein cows: they give less but better tasting milk — what aroma lingers over the sparse events of quiet domestic life). After that he rambles home, perhaps lying down to sleep along the way.

And this is the life we are brought up to disdain! And what a life the rest of us lead, whether we toil and moil or whether by sleeping we have more than we need! The earth no longer yields by itself what human life needs for sustenance, but nevertheless does not such a life remind us most of our paradisal origin? Even the motto under which life goes: "In God's Name." Is it not an incantation which gets in a supernatural way what cannot be gotten in a natural way? And is not the soul precisely by means of this way of life set free and emancipated from the tyranny in which superfluity binds us, no less than poverty?

Moreover, there are several stages in this life. This is the simplest. Others represent more individual features of the poetic: fiddlers, masters in story-telling, in currying favor, etc. These give recompense, as it were, for usu fructus. After all, is it not this life in all its forms which has pledged to possess nothing but which retains only usus fructus — ?

I did not like it that the good fellow wanted to kiss my hand because I gave him a mark. I would have preferred more bold confidence. —

(On the way I met an old woman carrying a cradle on her back. I could not help thinking of those old creatures who are poetry's dry nurses for children, dispensing to them the mother's milk of poetry. But I was mistaken, for although she seemed to know Hald from the old days, it turned out that she was acquainted with only a seventy- to eighty-year period.)

My beggar, however, was well-informed. When I asked him who had owned Hald long ago, he answered that it went back to very old times. I already had some misgivings and was afraid that this, too, would turn out to be seventy years, but then he told the story of Mr. Bugge who for seven years was besieged in Hald and at last had but one cow left, which was led out to water every day covered with a different hide. A poor old woman was admitted into the stronghold and came back with abundant gifts and assured the enemy that Hald could last out seven more years of siege without being starved out.


Hundrup told me about a luckless genius, a poor, addicted elementary school teacher named Andresen, who went around to the most common, ordinary places and showed off his mathematical proficiency. One time in just such a place he met a traveler, whom he promptly nabbed, and exhibited his skills in a number of sharp mathematical calculations on the condition of free board as his reward. When he had finished and the traveler, who actually had enjoyed his performance, asked how much he should pay him for his board, he answered: four shillings, two shillings for beer and two shillings for brandy.


Everywhere when I arrive in a country town the first one I meet is a man beating a drum and loudly proclaiming some important news or other — for example in Aarhuus: that because of the torrential rainstorm the streets are to be swept. How important everything is in these small towns. In Holstebro there was target-shooting, which had already gone on for one day. I wish the honorable inhabitants of Holstebro success so that this rare entertainment might last at least eight days. The bird did seem to be very tough and tenacious, for although the wing was shot off (at least the prize was bestowed upon the lucky winner), it still sat there. The town judge was present in all his high distinction and made microscopic observations by means of a telescope. The only thing the town lacked was an official newspaper to publish the results. Anders was just as highly entertained by the review of the troops in Aarhuus as by the Shooting Society in Holstebro, since they marched out onto the field with drums beating and flags flying. The king arrived in Viborg too late one night and therefore the assembled inhabitants did not go to bed but sat up like the wise virgins. The queen arrived at 2:30A.M., and then the torches were lighted. Up till now in each of the country towns where I have been after the king's visit, the inhabitants have maintained they know from a very reliable source that nowhere had he enjoyed himself as much as with them.

In Holstebro, the Jerusalem of drygoods merchants, I of course thought of father. I met the old man Fell who had been in partnership with Troels Lund.

When we passed the church in Idum the coachman told me that the pastor's name was Giedde, whereupon I got off to greet him. My reception was somewhat cool, and although I did not know his family I had by no means expected anything like this. It proved, however, to be a mistake, for the pastor's name was Gjeding.


The girls here in the Ringkjøbing region go around in men's hats. It looks very affected. As I passed by I saw one of them run out into the field. She could have been taken for a man, but her walk betrayed that it was a woman. In the afternoon I met one of them and expected to have the pleasure of her taking off her hat to me so that I could take mine off in return.


I sit here all alone (I have frequently been just as alone many times, but I have never been so aware of it) and count the hours until I shall see Sæding. I cannot recall any change in my father, and now I am about to see the places where as a poor boy he tended sheep, the places for which, because of his descriptions, I have been so homesick. What if I were to get sick and be buried in the Sæding churchyard! What a strange idea! His last wish for me is fulfilled — is that actually to be the sum and substance of my life? In God's name! Yet in relation to what I owed to him the task was not so insignificant. I learned from him what fatherly love is, and through this I gained a conception of divine fatherly love, the one single unshakable thing in life, the true Archimedean point.


I would like to know what a young girl [.....]


Here in Sæding parish there is a house in which it is said there lived a man who at the time of the plague survived everyone else and buried them. He dug deep furrows in the heather and buried the bodies in long rows.


Just as it is customary to say: nulla dies sine linea, so can I say of this journey: nulla dies sine lacryma.


The cows in Aarhuus, Randers, etc., are actually much more cultured than in Copenhagen (they know how to find their way home by themselves and the like). This accounts for the fact that people speak of them with a certain deference, as did my coachman from Salten. When I asked about the kind of cattle grazing there, he answered: "Those are all Aarhuus cows."


It seems as if I really must experience opposites. After staying for three days with my impoverished aunt, almost like Ulysses' cronies with Circe, the very first place I visited after that was so overcrowded with counts and barons that it was terrible. I spent the night in Them and the evening as well as the morning in the company of Count Ahlefeldt, who invited me to visit him at Langeland. The only acquaintance I met today was my noble old friend Rosenørn.


The parish clerk in Sæding made a very solemn farewell speech to me, assuring me that from my father's gift he perceived that he must have been a friend of education and I could rest assured that he would work for it in Sæding parish.


There is, however, an equilibrium in the world. To the one God gave joys, to the other tears and permission to rest every once in a while in his embrace — and yet the divine reflects itself far more beautifully in the tear-dimmed eye, just as the rainbow is more beautiful than the clear blue sky.


How glorious the sound of the dragoons blowing assembly; it seems as if I already heard the hoofbeats as they charged — listen, they are victorious, the cry of victory whistles through the air! — And yet, what are all other calls compared to the one the archangel will someday blow: "Awake, you who sleep, the Lord is coming!"


Out of life's various occupations..... he called the people to himself, and they flocked to him in the joyful times when he lived upon the earth. He proclaimed the heavenly kingdom. Those who still sought the earthly kingdom he sternly dismissed: "Let the dead bury their dead" etc...... and he himself went about among men as a shining example of how little a human being needs: "He had nowhere to lay his head; his bread was to do his father's will." And if he had then abandoned the earth, if after having taught them he had sent them away saying: Now I have cared for your spiritual well-being; now go away, go on and fill yourselves; I do not recognize these concerns; I scorn them — but he did not do this. I am consumed with pity for the people, he said..... He did not appear in the clouds as an airy form beckoning to men, saying: Forget the cares of the world, forget its joys, and follow me...... but he knew them, for he, too, had hungered in the desert. He does not divide, but unites, what God has joined, when he says: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

All these things shall be added unto us.

The situation here, we see, was that they had followed Christ in order to be taught, to be guided to find the kingdom of God; they did not demand food from him — and therefore it actually was added unto them.

We must note (1) God's caring for us, and if we are content we will find that there is always sufficient, even here in this poor country where one so often hears: How shall we find bread for so many in this barren country; for, as Luther has so well said, one never hears of a Christian dying of hunger.

(2) We must let our minds be led to higher things. Christ censures them later: they came to him not because they saw signs and miraculous acts but because they ate and were satisfied. God's concern for the earthly kingdom should, in fact, lead us to think upon higher things and not make us more and more unreasonable in our desires.

90 [1841]

The only consoling thought I have is that I could lay me down to die and then in my last hour do what I dare not do as long as I live — confess the love which makes me just as unhappy as it makes me happy.


O Lord, my God, give me again the courage to hope. Merciful God, let hope once again make fertile my sterile and barren mind.


Der heilige Franciscus ein Troubadour, by J. Görres.


Next to taking off all my clothes, owning nothing in the world, not the least thing, and then throwing myself in the water, I find most pleasure in speaking a foreign language, preferably a living one, in order to become entfremdet to myself.


My doubt is terrible. — Nothing is able to stop me — it is an accursed hunger — I am able to devour every argument, every consolation, and reassurance — I rush past every obstacle with the speed of 10,000 miles a second.


I feel like writing a novel about a man who deals in jewels. He would have to be a Jew. His reluctance to part with these precious objects (he loves them so much that sometimes he hesitates to sell them), an immense insight into decayed prosperity and the secrets of the affluent life — this diamond has belonged to a man who at the time had over two casks of gold at his disposal. I will not identify him; he is still living, a man of prestige, but his money is all gone. The extremely painful scenes when a person like that disposes of such objects. The otherwise humble Jew feels his superiority — the malicious glimpse into his plight, the secret whispers among the Jew's associates about whether the man is totally ruined or just temporarily, etc., etc.


That the theater actually was for the pagans what the church is for us is apparent also in the fact that the theater had no admission charge; that it should cost something to go to the theater was just as unthinkable to the pagans as it would be for us to pay admission to go to a church. This concept of the theater can, in general, be expanded to a total view of paganism.


Tested Advice for Unwitty Authors

Price: $5.00

One carelessly writes down his personal observations. Later, by way of all the various proofs, one acquires a fair number of good ideas. Therefore take courage, you who have not yet dared to have something printed; do not despise typographical errors, and do not let on that they are misprints. Besides, no one can wrench your property away from you, since it really belongs to no one. The only problem is that you must have the help of a good friend who knows how to decide what is witty, so that you do not lend your name to new stupidities.


In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, with whom, on the whole, I have a very formal relationship, I do have one intimate confidante — my melancholy, and in the midst of my joy, in the midst of my work, she beckons to me, calls me aside, even though physically I remain on the spot. It is the most faithful mistress I have known — no wonder, then, that I must be prepared to follow at any moment.


There is a rambling of raisonnement which in its interminability has the same relation to the result as the incalculable lists of Egyptian kings have to the historical outcome.


Lines for a Girl Who Has Been Seduced

..... spare me your pity — you understand neither my sorrow nor my joy — I still love him so much that I have but one wish: to be young again and to be seduced by him once again.


I journeyed to Fredensborg with two absolutely incredible horses — when they were supposed to stand, they fell down; when they were supposed to get up, they needed support; when they went slowly, they limped; but when they set off in a fast trot, they were the best runners imaginable — it is the same with me, once I get started no one can keep up with me.

Addition to previous:

On the floor of the empty carriage lay five or six kernels of oats which danced to the vibrations and formed the strangest patterns — I fell to pondering over it.


R [above "light" — KJ]

..... and I loved her so much, she was light as a bird, as bold as an idea, I let her ascend higher and higher, I reached out my hand and she rested on it and fluttered her wings, and she called down to me: It is glorious up here. She forgot, she did not know, that it was I who made her light, I who gave her boldness of thought, that it was faith in me that made her walk upon the water, and I paid tribute to her and she accepted my tribute. At other times she fell to her knees before me and wanted only to gaze up at me and forget everything.


My girl — the Latinist says of an alert listener: pendet ex ore alicujus. He is thinking particularly of the ear which picks up what it hears, carries it through the secret passage of the ear, and hides it deep within. We say it with a completely different meaning, for how I do hang continually on your lips, how alert I am, yes, an exceptionally alert listener, so that even if nothing is said, I still hear the beating of your heart.


I live constantly on the border between felicitous Arabia and desert Arabia.


De vita. E. vita
Steamship cabin.


..... You say, "What have I lost or, more correctly, robbed myself of" — what have I lost, alas, how would you know or understand. If the question is raised, it is best for you to be silent — and how could anyone know it better than I, who had put my whole extremely reflected soul into a mountain of the best possible taste for her pure, deep [soul] — my somber thoughts — my gloomy dreams, my scintillating hopes — and besides all this, all my instability, in short, all that scintillating alongside her depth — and when I then became dizzy from looking deep into her infinite givingness, for nothing is as infinite as love — or when her feelings did not sink into the depths in the same way but danced on the surface in the buoyancy of love —

What have I lost, the one and only thing I loved; what have I lost in the eyes of man, my chivalrous word; what have I lost — that in which I have placed and, without fearing this blow, will always place my honor, my joy, my pride: in being faithful. ..... Yet right now my soul is as uneasy as my body, a cabin shaken by the double movements of the steamship.

In margin of previous:

And how difficult it is for me in this case, when I want so much to act, to find that the only activity allotted to me is what is usually left to women and children — to pray.


Why do you rub so vehemently
See, I obey your very hint
If you need me and call
I come like lightning.

Not I alone, my ®, but every other genie of the ring. Please note that by the various genie of the ring I mean all the various willing servants within me that respond to your beck and call, a servant for your every wish, and if possible ten for every one; but all these are collected within me in one genie of the ring, who, unlike the one who appeared before Aladdin, is not linked to you by an external and accidental bond, but with the longing of my whole soul, for did I not myself bring you the ring I obey.

In another sense both you and I are united together are the genie of the ring.


You say: She was beautiful. O, what do you know about it: I do know it, for her beauty has cost me tears — I myself brought flowers to adorn her, I would have hung all the ornaments in the world upon her, but of course only insofar as they would have accentuated her loveliness — and when she stood there dressed in all her finery — I had to leave — when her delighted, exuberant glance met mine — I had to leave — I went out and wept bitterly.


She did not love my shapely nose, she did not love my eyes, my small feet — she did not love my good head — she loved just me, and yet she did not understand me.


I can really see how important language was to me for hiding my melancholy — here in Berlin it is impossible for me; I cannot deceive with language.


And do you not think, then, that I long to give her this proof of my love, this reparation for all the humiliation she must have suffered from commiserating relatives and friends (God knows it was not my fault that it happened this way*) by once again rushing forth, by demonstrating that it was not a sense of duty, not fear of public opinion, which made me stay with her — but that I, the most unstable of all men, nevertheless came back to her. How disappointed they would be, how the toothless female gossip with which they were able to disconcert the girl would have to stop once I had staked my honor in calling [her] mine. In fact, if I did not abominate suicide, if I did not feel that all such virtues were glittering vices, I would go back to her — and then end my life, a plan I am sorry to say I have entertained for a long time, and which would make separation from me doubly hard for her, for who loves like a dying man; and this is actually the way I have felt about it every time I embraced her — it never occurred to me to live with her in the tranquil, trusting sense of that word. It is truly heartbreaking. My only desire was to remain with her, but from the moment I felt that it would inevitably come to grief, and unfortunately that moment came all too soon, I resolved to make her think that I did not love her; and now here I am, hated by everybody for my faithlessness, the apparent cause of her unhappiness, and yet I am as faithful to her as ever. However painful it might be to my human pride, I would even rejoice to see her happy with another, but at present she is consumed with grief, because I, who could make her happy, would not. And truly I could have made her happy, were it not etc.

And although it is unwise for my peace of mind to think about it, I nevertheless do think about the ineffable moment when I would go back to her. And although I generally consider myself able to take suffering which I regard as God's punishment, this, however, sometimes gets to be too severe. I also believe that I have done her wrong in not letting her know how much I am suffering. And when at times I remember having once said that science and scholarship would lose a devotee in me, I have a strong feeling that this was incorrect, for precisely because I am leaving her, science and scholarship have lost what it can lose in me, for I think only of her, and I am convinced that she is not suffering as much as I am. God grant that some good may still come to her from my suffering.


You must know that you will find your happiness in never having loved anyone but her, that you will stake your honor upon never loving another.


How great is a woman's devotion. — But the curse which hangs over me is that I never dare let any person become deeply and intimately attached to me. God in heaven knows the many times I have delighted like a child in planning something that would please her and then was obliged to make it a principle, for fear of drawing her closer to me, never to do anything in momentary joy but to wait until common sense and prudence forbade it. I believe that my relation to her can truly be called unhappy love — I love her — she is mine — her only wish is [for me] to remain with her — the family implores me to — it is my supreme desire — I must say no. To make it easier for her, I will try to lead her to believe that I was a downright deceiver, a wanton person, in order if possible to get her to hate me, for I believe it will be even harder for her if she suspects that it was melancholy — how much melancholy and wantonness do resemble each other.


..... and when I feel unhappy like this, it is my consolation, my only consolation, that she is not suffering with me. It is difficult to experience having the one you love break faith, but this daily suffering, ..... and if I did remain with her, I would have to be cheerful, and if despite all that she happened to see me suffer ..... when I am happy it is my constant sorrow that she cannot share it.


I cannot extricate myself from this relationship, for I cannot write about it, inasmuch as the instant I want to do that I am invaded by an anxiety, an impatience, which wants to act.


And perhaps you lament that men are faithless to you — perhaps you are wrong, for who knows so intimately another man's deepest secret — perhaps you are right, you perhaps have experienced it in action. — O, there is still one who is not faithless to you — and if it seems to you that men were closest to you, and if it seems hard to you that you have to learn to know the faithfulness of God by first learning to know the faithlessness of men, and if it seems far more beautiful to you possibly to learn to make out the faithfulness of God from the faithfulnes of men — O, you would never have perceived it in the same way as you do now. — You would never have perceived that God is your neighbor, your nearest, the one closest to you.


..... and this terrible restlessness — as if wanting to convince myself every moment that it would still be possible to return to her — O God, would that I dared to do it. It is so hard; my last hope in life I had placed in her, and I must deprive myself of it. How strange, I had never really thought of getting married, but I never believed that it would turn out this way and leave so deep a wound. I have always ridiculed those who talked about the power of women, and I still do, but a young, beautiful, soulful girl who loves with all her mind and all her heart, who is completely devoted, who pleads — how often I ave been close to setting her love on fire, not to a sinful love, but I need merely have said to her that I loved her, and everything would have been set in motion to end my young life. But then it occurred to me that this would not be good for her, that I might bring a storm upon her head, since she would feel responsible for my death. I prefer what I did do; my relationship to her was always kept so ambiguous that I had it in my power to give it any interpretation I wanted to. I gave it the interpretation that I was a deceiver. Humanly speaking, that is the only way to save her, to give her soul resilience. My sin is that I did not have faith, faith that for God all things are possible, but where is the borderline between that and tempting God; but my sin has never been that I did not love her. If she had not been so devoted to me, so trusting, had not stopped living for herself in order to live for me — well, then the whole thing would have been a trifle; it does not bother me to make a fool of the whole world, but to deceive a young girl. — O, if I dared return to her, and even if she did not believe that I was false, she certainly believed that once I was free I would never come back. Be still, my soul, I will act firmly and decisively according to what I think is right. I will also watch what I write in my letters. I know my moods. But in a letter I cannot, as when I am speaking, instantly dispel an impression when I detect that it is too strong.


This very moment there is an organ-grinder down in the street playing and singing — it is wonderful, it is the accidental and insignificant things in life which are significant. I think of the ship-boys, of the Laplanders who played in the moonlight on board ship — a Laplander: ordinarily who would pay any attention to him.


There is a church near her home, and I can still remember and clearly hear its dull beat. At the appointed time, the signal sounded in the midst of our small talk in the living room, and then the nocturnal whispers began. It was a church bell that suggested their time.


And this I know, that even now when I feel all too acutely the value of money, all that I have would be at her service if she wished it, and I would thank God that she gave me this chance to prove how much she means to me.


And when the sun shuts its vigilant eye, when history is past, I will not only wrap myself in my cloak but I will throw the night around me like a veil, and I will come to you — I will listen as the savage listens — not for your footsteps but for the beating of your heart.


As agreed, I am returning the flowering plant which for eight days now has given me joy, has been the object of my tender loving care. But this is a small thing, for it is you yourself, after all, who loved it forth [opelsket] — loved it forth, what a beautiful and rich expression, what a treasure the language possesses — loved it forth, and should not your ardent gaze, which has rested on this tender plant again and again, should not the warmth of your love be more than adequate to make it blossom in a very short time. It is unbelievable that the ardor of your eyes has not consumed it, but is it not true, is it not regrettably true, that there were also times when you despaired of my love or had fearful intimations that our happiness would not last, and a gentle dew of tears refreshed it, and look, it doubled its growth, became twice as beautiful; in this way, too, it was loved forth.


How it does humble my pride not to be able to go back to her. I had so prided myself on remaining true to her, and yet I dare not. I am not in the habit of bringing disgrace on my honor — faithfulness has always been a matter of honor to me. And yet in her eyes I must appear as a deceiver, and it is the only way I can make good my mistake. I have maintained my position with a dreadful consistency, in spite of all my own deepest wishes. As for the external attacks by men who want to pressure me, I do nto pay much attention to them. And yet I am still plagued by anxiety. Suppose that she really begins to believe that I am a deceiver, suppose she falls in love with someone else, something which in many respects I naturally wish would happen — suppose that she then suddenly comes to know that I have really loved her, that I did this out of love for her, out of a deep conviction that it would never work, or in any case that with the greatest joy in the world and gratitude to God I would share all my joy with her, but not my sorrow — alas, the last can be worse than the first.


I enjoy no pleasures any more; I do not enter into them with abandon as in the old days; I do not want to be happy if she is said.


..... again today I checked myself in an attempt to let her know, to let her suspect in some way, that I still love her. My mind is so resourceful and there is a certain satisfaction in thinking a clever plan has been found. I would like to write a letter home which would be printed. The heading should be: My ® — that would be enough for her. The letter itself could be full of subtle hints. But I must not do it; I humble myself beneath God's hand. Every time I get an idea like that, and it usually happens many times a day, I transform it into a prayer for her, that it will all be for the best for her, which is my wish.


Today I saw a beautiful girl — I am not enthralled by that any more — I do not want it — no husband can be more faithful to his wife than I am to her. It is also good for me, for those little infatuations were very disturbing.


If it were she who had broken the engagement with me, it would have been easy to forget her, no matter how much I loved her; I would have dared hoist all sails in order to forget her; I would have dared write about her — but now I cannot persuade myself to do it. I remind myself of it often enough, and frequently the memory comes without my calling it forth. Because of all this my soul is becoming more earnest; alas, I hope it may be for the best for me.


My thoughts are continually hovering between two images of her — she is young, exuberant, animated, unsophisticated, in short, as I perhaps have never seen her — she is pale, withdrawn, waiting for the hours of solitude when she can weep, in short, again as I perhaps have never seen her.


Now the affair has been settled once and for all, and yet I will never be through with it. She does not know what an advocate she has in me. She was clever. Her parting words were the plea that I remember her once in a while. She knew very well that as soon as I remembered her there would be the devil to pay. But I would have done it anyway, without her asking it.


I am so happy to have heard Schelling's second lecture — indescribably. I have been pining and thinking mournful thoughts long enough. The embryonic child of thought leapt for joy within me as in Elizabeth, when he mentioned the word "actuality" in connection with the relation of philosophy to actuality. I remember almost every word he said after taht. Here, perhaps, clarity can be achieved. This one word recalled all my philosophical pains and sufferings. — And so that she, too, might share my joy, how willingly I would return to her, how eagerly I would coax myself to believe that this is the right course. — O, if only I could! — Now I have put all my hope in Schelling — but still, if I knew that I could make her happy, I would leave this very evening. It is very hard to have made a person unhappy, and it is very hard that to make her unhappy is almost the only hope I have of making her happy.


At times the idea comes to me: When I return [from Berlin], perhaps she will have decided for sure that I was a deceiver. Suppose that she had the power to crush me with a look) and outraged innocence can do just that) — I shudder to think of it, it is terrible — not the suffering, for that I would certainly go through if I knew it was for her good — but the humble game of playing with life implied here, pushing a person around this way wherever one wishes.



Solomon says: A good answer is like a sweet kiss. You know that I am well-known, yes, almost unpopular, because I am always asking questions. Ah, they do not know what I am asking about. Only you know of what I ask, only you can answer. O, give me an answer. Only you can give me a good answer, for a good answer, says Solomon, is like a sweet kiss.




A seducer who already has the love of several girls on his conscience becomes enamored of a girl whom he loves to the extent that he does not have the heart to seduce her, but neither can he really decide to take up with her. He happens to see someone with a striking resemblance to her; he seduces her in order that in this pleasure he can enjoy the other.


Here in Berlin, a Demoiselle Hedwig Schulze, a singer from Vienna, perorms the part of Elvira. She is very beautiful, decisive in bearing; in height, in the way she walks and dresses (black silk dress, bare neck, white gloves), she strikingly resembles a young lady I knew. It is a strange coincidence. I must make proper use of a little power against myself in order to dislodge this impression.


.....And when God wants to join someone to himself, he calls upon his most faithful servant, his most reliable messenger, sorrow, and says to him: pursue him, overtake him, do not leave his side.....and no woman can attach herself more jealously to the man she loves than does sorrow.


Where is the comic in the following incident. Today a man from the workhouse approached me out on the green and handed me a letter which he asked me to read. It began like this: In deepest submission I throw myself on my knees before you, etc. — I looked up from the paper involuntarily to see if he was doing that, but he was not. Would it have been more comic if he had? Does the comic lie in this contradiction between an idiomatic phrase and actuality?


"Schreibe" sprach jene Stimme und der Prophet antwortete "für wen?" Die Stimme sprach "für die Todten, für die Du in der Vorwelt lieb hast." "Werden sie mich lesen." "Ja, denn sie kommen zurück als Nachwelt."

See Herder, Zur Literatur und Kunst, XVI, p. 114.

In margin:
See also the same volume, pp. 8, 9, 10, regarding a poem worth reading by Bishop Synesius.


No doubt I could bring my Antigone to an end if I let her be a man. He forsook his beloved because he could not keep her together with his private agony. In order to do it right, he had to turn his whole love into a deception against her, for otherwise she would have participated in his suffering in an utterly unjustifiable way. This outrage enraged the family: a brother, for example, stepped forward as an avenger; I would then have my hero fall in a duel.

November 20, 1842


Plot. Someone publishes a novel, he uses fictitious names to draw attention away from the historical aspect of it. It so happens that he uses the name of an actual girl, one who has many little traits that fit the fictional girl. The girl in the novel is portrayed unsympathetically; the actual girl is disgraced. The author can extricate himself only by confessing the truth. But he cannot — collision.

November 20, 1842


In margin of previous:

Aeschylus' life could be the occasion for such a tragedy, since he unknowingly reveals the mysteries.

See Aristotle, Ethics, 3, 2.


The older one gets, the more he feels at certain times like shouting: Allah is great, somewhat as the Arabs do on almost every occasion in life. Today a paper was missing; it was extremely important for me to know whether or not it still existed; if it did, it could completely eliminate the need for a very elaborate piece of work — looking for some other things, I opened a secret drawer, and there it was — and I shouted: Allah is great.


My Umbrella, My Friend

It never forsakes me; it did that only once. It was during a terrible storm; I stood all alone on Kongens Nytorv, forsaken by everybody, and then my umbrella turned inside out. I was at a loss as to whether or not I should abandon it because of its faithlessness and become a misanthrope. I have acquired such an affection for it that I always carry it, rain or shine; indeed, to show it that I do not love it merely for its usefulness, I sometimes walk up and down in my room and pretend I am outside, lean on it, open it up, rest my chin on the handle, bring it up to my lips, etc.


If I did not know that I am a genuine Dane, I could almost be tempted to explain my self-contradictions by supposing that I am an Irishman. For the Irish do not have the heart to immerse their children totally when they have them baptized; they want to keep a little paganism in reserve; generally the child is totally immersed under water but with the right arm free, so that he will be able to wield a sword with it, embrace the girls.


My head is as empty and dead as a theater when the play is over.


..... after one has lived a dozen years in this appalling still life, this wretched, meager life has yielded just about as much cream as one can swallow in one single instant without overeating. I cannot march to that tempo.


May, 1842
Disjecta Membra


..... and if the bitter cup of suffering is handed to me, I will ask that, if possible, it be taken away, and if it is not possible, I will take it cheerfully, and I will not look at the cup but at the one who hands it to me, and I will not look at the bottom of the cup to see if it is soon empty, but I will look at him who hands it to me, and while I trustingly empty the goblet I will not say to any other man: Here's to your health, as I myself am savoring it, but I will say: Here's to my health, and empty its bitterness, to my health, for I know and am convinced that it is for my health that I empty it, for my health, as I leave not one drop behind.


..... and it was the delight of his eyes and his heart's desire. And he stretched out his arm and took it, but he could not keep it; it was offered to him, but he could not possess it — alas, and it was the delight of his eyes and his heart's desire. And his soul verged on despair, but he preferred the greater anguish, losing it and giving it up, to the lesser of having it wrongfully, or, to speak more exactly, as one should do in this holy place, he chose the lesser anguish to avoid the greater one of possessing it with a soul at strife ..... and oddly enough it turned out to be the best for him.


The nature of original sin has often been explained, and still a primary category has been lacking — it is anxiety [Angst]; this is the essential determinant. Anxiety is a desire for what one fears, a sympathetic antipathy; anxiety is an alien power which grips the individual, and yet one cannot tear himself free from it and does not want to, for one fears, but what he fears he desires. Anxiety makes the individual powerless, and the first sin always occurs in weakness; threfore it apparently lacks accountability, but this lack is the real trap.

Addition to 233:
Women are more anxious than men; therefore it was she whom the serpent chose for his attack, and he deceived her through her anxiety.

Addition to 233:
In volume VI, p.194, of his works, Hamann makes an observation which I can use, although he neither understood it as I wish to understood it nor thought further about it: "However, this Angst in the world is the only proof of our heterogeneity. If we lacked nothing, we should do no better than the pagans and the transcendental philosophers, who know nothing of God and like fools fall in love with lovely nature, and no homesickness would come over us. This impertinent disquiet, this holy hypochondria...."


Page from a Street Inspector's Diary

It was April 1, 1830, that I became district inspector below the stock exchange.

  1. Reflections on a fish tank in one of the fishing boats, the enormous horizon, still life in contrast
  2. A Laplander — idyll
    the coal market
the old market

the straw market

the tale of a gutter plank

The editor has been unable to restrain himself from slipping in a few observations.

It is Sunday afternoon — all so quiet — a shrimp-seller cries his wares —
A man with plantain — the out-of-the-way place where it grows
A woman selling oranges — harbinger of spring —
A little love story in the district


The tale of the rat that became a misanthrope.





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