Let me thank you not only for your personal gesture of seeing to it that I now am in possession of a copy of your poems [Gedichte, 2 vols., 2nd ed. (Göttingen 1789], but also for having thought of granting me this pleasure considerably earlier than even I myself suspected. Your bookseller [Johann Christian Dieterich] did not send me the parcel until 29 June, and two days later I myself took an excursion into the countryside, where amid the beautiful natural setting, in the bosom of delight, the enjoyment of such poetry is itself a kind of gratitude and reward for the poet himself, and I would now like to thank you myself after enjoying this pleasure.
These poems guide us in every sense into an enchanted world, for after the gentle music turns us into submissive listeners, you yourself then use force — which for such a poet is in fact a quite superfluous weapon — and end up demanding your reward as defiantly as if you had done something that not even such a song could reconcile. The cruel world accuses us women of essentially one shortcoming, albeit one manifested in a thousand forms — namely, excessively soft feelings and emotions; and beautiful humanity overwhelmingly forgives us anything for the sake of one, sacred — amid whatever errors: yet sacred — virtue, namely, love.
And it is this most beautiful of all feminine virtues that your song celebrates also in its errors, and it is for that reason that I and indeed every sensitive woman will forgive you your defiant insistence on having your reward and will willingly, beneficently extend that reward to you. May every German youth and man learn this from the crowned singer of his people — gratitude for love, and reverence for the error that love committed for him. Until then, I find more morality in the Caloandre fidele [G. A. Marini, Calloandro fedele (Venice 1583), French trans. Paris 1787] and Tiran le blanc [J. Martorell, Tirant lo Blanc (Valencia 1490), French trans. Amsterdam n.d.] than in all the Richardsoniads [Samuel Richardson] and Hermesiads [Johann Timotheus Hermes] of the last twenty years. You have managed to guide masculine tenderness back to that masculine path, and every woman who reads your sublime song will love the poet amid the sweet deception of the truth of these songs. . . .
Translation © 2011 Doug Stott