How happy your last letters have made me—those since Christmas Eve! I should like to call you by all the endearing epithets1), and yet I can find no lovelier word than the simple word “dear”, but there is a particular way of saying it. My dear one, then, I have wept for joy to think that you are mine, and often wonder if I deserve you. One would think that no one man’s heart and brain could stand all the things that are crowded into one day. Where do these thousands of thoughts, wishes, sorrows, joys, and hopes come from? Day in, day out, the procession goes on. But how light-hearted I was yesterday and the day before! There shone out of your letters so noble a spirit, such faith, such a wealth of love! What would I not do for love of you, my own Clara! The knights of old were better off2); they could go through fire or slay dragons to win their ladies, but we of today have to content ourselves with more prosaic3) methods, such as smoking fewer cigars, and the like. After all, though, we can love, knights or no knights; and so, as ever, only the times change, not men’s hearts.
I have a hundred things to write to you, great and small, if only I could do it neatly, but my writing grows more and more indistinct, a sign, I fear, of heart weakness. There are terrible hours when your image forsakes4) me, when I wonder anxiously whether I have ordered my life as wisely as I might, whether I had any right to bind you to me, my angel, or can really make you as happy as I should wish. These doubts all arise, I am inclined to think, from your father’s attitude towards me. It is so easy to accept other people’s estimate of oneself. Your father’s behavior makes me ask myself if really I am so bad—of such humble standing—as to invite such treatment from anyone. Accustomed to easy victory over difficulties, to the smiles of fortune, and to affection, I have been spoiled by having things made too easy for me, and now I have to face refusal, insult and calumny5). I have read of many such things in novels, but I thought too highly of myself to imagine I could ever be the hero of a family tragedy of the Kotzebue6) sort myself. If I had ever done your father an injury, he might well hate me; but I cannot see why he should despise me and, as you say, hate me without any reason. But my turn will come and I will show him how I love you and himself; for I will tell you, as a secret, that I really love and respect your father for his many great and fine qualities, as no one but yourself can do. I have a natural inborn love and reverence for him, as for all strong characters, and it makes his antipathy for me doubly painful. Well, he may sometime declare peace, and say to us, “Take each other, then.”
You cannot think how your letter has raised and strengthened me.… You are splendid, and I have much more reason to be proud of you than you of me. I have made up my mind, though, to read all your wishes in your face. Then you will think, even though you don’t say it, that your Robert is a really good sort, that he is entirely yours, and loves you more than words can say. You shall indeed have cause to think so in the happy future. I still see you as you looked in your little cap that last evening. I still hear you call me du7). Clara, I heard nothing of what you said but that du. Don’t you remember?
But I see you in many another unforgettable guise. Once you were in a black dress, going to the theatre with Emilia List; it was during our separation. I know you will not have forgotten; it is vivid with me. Another time you were walking in the Thomasgässchen with an umbrella up, and you avoided me in desperation. And yet another time, as you were putting on your hat after a concert, our eyes happened to meet, and yours were full of the old unchanging love. I picture you in all sorts of ways, as I have seen you since. I did not look at you much, but you charmed me so immeasurably.… Ah, I can never praise you enough for yourself or for your love of me, which I don’t really deserve.
1. epithet [ˈepɪθet] n. 绰号，称号
2. better off：较幸运的；境况更好的
3. prosaic [prəʊˈzeɪɪk] adj. 平凡的
4. forsake [fə(r)ˈseɪk] vt. 放弃，抛弃
5. calumny [ˈkæləmnɪ] n. 诽谤，中伤
6. Kotzebue：奥古斯特·冯·科策比(August von Kotzebue, 1761~1819)，德国戏剧家，写过两百多部戏剧。
7. du：〈 德〉你(第二人称代词，主要用在同辈或比较亲密的人之间)