Page:The Works of J. W. von Goethe, Volume 12.djvu/345

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323
LETTERS FROM ITALY

Caserta, March 16, 1787.

Your dear letter of the 19th February reached me to-day, and I must forthwith despatch a word or two in reply. How glad should I be to come to my senses again, by thinking of my friends!

Naples is a paradise: in it every one lives in a sort of intoxicated self-forgetfulness. It is even so with me: I scarcely know myself; I seem to myself quite an altered man. Yesterday I said to myself, "Either you have always been mad, or you are so now."

I have paid a visit to the ruins of ancient Capua, and all that is connected with it.

In this country one first begins to have a true idea of what vegetation is, and why man tills the fields. The flax here is already near to blossoming, and the wheat a span and a half high. Around Caserta the land is perfectly level, the fields worked as clean and as fine as the beds of a garden. All of them are planted with poplars, and from tree to tree the vine spreads; and yet, notwithstanding this shade, the soil below produces the finest and most abundant crops possible. What will they be when the spring shall come in power? Hitherto we have had very cold winds, and there has been snow on the mountains.

Within a fortnight I must decide whether to go to Sicily or not. Never before have I been so tossed backward and forward in coming to a resolution: every day something will occur to recommend the trip; the next morning some circumstance will be against it. Two spirits are contending for me.

I say this in confidence, and for my female friends alone: speak not a word of it to my male friends. I am well aware that my "Iphigenia" has fared strangely. The public were so accustomed to the old form, expressions which they had adopted from frequent hearing and reading were familiar to them; and now quite a different tone is sounding in their ears,