Perfume of Violets from Memories: a story of German love from the German of Max Müller


I believe I can even yet remember when I saw the stars for the first time. They may have seen me often before, but one evening it seemed as if it were cold. Although I lay in my mother's lap, I shivered and was chilly, or I was frightened. In short, something came over me which reminded me of my little Ego in no ordinary manner. Then my mother showed me the bright stars, and I wondered at them, and thought that she had made them very beautifully. Then I felt warm again, and could sleep well.
    Furthermore, I remember how I once lay in the grass and everything about me tossed and nodded, hummed and buzzed. Then there came a great swarm of little, myriad-footed, winged creatures, which lit upon my forehead and eyes and said, "Good day." Immediately my eyes smarted, and I cried to my mother, and she said: "Poor little one, how the gnats have stung him!" I could not open my eyes or see the blue sky any longer, but my mother had a bunch of fresh violets in her hand; and it seemed as if a dark-blue, fresh, spicy perfume were wafted through my senses. Even now, whenever I see the first violets, I remember this, and it seems to me that I must close my eyes so that the old dark-blue heaven of that day may again rise over my soul.
Still further do I remember, how, at another time, a new world disclosed itself to me — more beautiful than the star-world or the violet perfume. It was on an Easter morning, and my mother had dressed me early. Before the window stood our old church. It was not beautiful, but still it had a lofty roof and tower, and on the tower a golden cross, and it appeared very much older and grayer than the other buildings. I wondered who lived in it, and once I looked in through the iron-grated door. It was entirely empty, cold and dismal. There was not even one soul in the whole building, and after that I always shuddered when I passed the door. But on this Easter morning, it had rained early, and when the sun came out in full splendor, the old church with the gray sloping roof, the high windows and the tower with the golden cross glistened with a wondrous shimmer. All at once the light which streamed through the lofty windows began to move and glisten. It was so intensely bright that one could have looked within, and as I closed my eyes the light entered my soul and therein everything seemed to shed brilliancy and perfume, to sing and to ring. It seemed to me a new life had commenced in myself and that I was another being, and when I asked my mother what it meant, she replied it was an Easter song they were singing in the church. What bright, holy song it was, which at that time surged through my soul, I have never been able to discover. It must have been an old church hymn, like those which many a time stirred the rugged soul of our Luther. I never heard it again, but many a time even now when I hear an adagio of Beethoven's, or a psalm of Marcellus, or a chorus of Handel's, or a simple song in the Scotch Highlands or the Tyrol, it seems to me as if the lofty church windows again glistened and the organ-tones once more surged through my soul, and a new world revealed itself—more beautiful than the starry heavens and the violet perfume.
Memories: a story of German love from the German of Max Müller