Remember This

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Remember how you rejoiced at the sweet, fresh green spring, how enchanted you were by the silver-white, sky-blue lake, how you greeted the mountains, how you found everything beautiful that encountered you and you encountered, how you were enfolded by a splendidly vast, undisturbed freedom and how happy you were in its embrace, how joyfully you took things as they came, how you enjoyed each beautiful, bright, dear day, how on the warm nights the moon gazed upon you like a brother upon whom you placed all your trust and faith, how the many hours glided imperceptibly by like a pleasure boat rocking on the water, as if the water had fallen in love with carrying and by so doing felt an unspeakable delight in bearing weight and in stillness; how constant and still the old mountain was and how white clouds like glowing flames from behind the mountains climbed into the sky, how kindly the people greeted you on the now day-lit, now night-darkened streets as if you were their friend, though to them you had to be totally unknown, how the villages with their cozy homes and abundant gardens, resplendent with sweet, luxuriant disorder lay there as if dreaming of primordial times, how the grass and grains ripened so benevolently and delectably; how the hill curved and how the lowlands gently went on, how in the forest you were welcomed by an unnamable cloister-like clam and silence, as if you were meant to think you were strolling through the realm of vastness and oblivion, and how the dear, delicate birds sang in the forest, so that when you heard their song you immediately had to stand still and listen deeply moved, as if you were hearing the voice of eternity; how you were moved by a child in its mother’s arms, how you saw an old man on his deathbed, and how it was your father who lay there dead, who had passed on to the silent dead—remember this, remember this. Forget, forget nothing, don’t forget the sweetness, don’t forget the severity. If indifference and unkindness take hold of your being, stir your memory and think of all the beautiful, and all the burdensome things. Remember there is life and there is death, remember there are moments of bliss and there are graves. Do not be forgetful, but instead remember this.

—1914

Excerpted from Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories, forthcoming from New York Review Books Classics.

Robert Walser (1878-1956) was a German-speaking Swiss writer.

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