Childhood has its secrets and its mysteries; but who can tell or who can explain them! We have all roamed through this silent wonder-wood—we have all once opened our eyes in blissful astonishment, as the beautiful reality of life overflowed our souls. We knew not where, or who, we were—the whole world was ours and we were the whole world's. That was an infinite life—without beginning and without end, without rest and without pain. In the heart, it was as clear as the spring heavens, fresh as the violet's perfume—hushed and holy as a Sabbath morning.
What disturbs this God's-peace of the child? How can this unconscious and innocent existence ever cease? What dissipates the rapture of this individuality and universality, and suddenly leaves us solitary and alone in a clouded life?
Say not, with serious face. It is sin! Can even a child sin? Say rather, we know not, and must only resign ourselves to it.
Is it sin, which makes the bud a blossom, and the blossom fruit, and the fruit dust?
Is it sin, which makes the worm a chrysalis, and the chrysalis a butterfly, and the butterfly dust?
And is it sin, which makes the child a man, and the man a gray-haired man, and the gray-haired man dust? And what is dust?
Say rather, we know not, and must only resign ourselves to it.
Yet it is so beautiful, recalling the spring-time of life, to look back and remember one's self. Yes, even in the sultry summer, in the melancholy autumn and in the cold winter of life, there is here and there a spring day, and the heart says: "I feel like spring." Such a day is this—and so I lay me down upon the soft moss of the fragrant woods, and stretch out my weary limbs, and look up, through the green foliage, into the boundless blue, and think how it used to be in that childhood.
Then, all seems forgotten. The first pages of memory are like the old family Bible. The first leaves are wholly faded and somewhat soiled with handling. But, when we turn further, and come to the chapters where Adam and Eve were banished from Paradise, then, all begins to grow clear and legible. Now if we could only find the title-page with the imprint and date—but that is irrevocably lost, and, in their place, we find only the clear transcript—our baptismal certificate—bearing witness when we were born, the names of our parents and godparents, and that we were not issued sine loco et anno.
But, oh this beginning! Would there were none, since, with the beginning, all thought and memories alike cease. When we thus dream back into childhood, and from childhood into infinity, this bad beginning continually flies further away. The thoughts pursue it and never overtake it; just as a child seeks the spot where the blue sky touches the earth, and runs and runs, while the sky always runs before it, yet still touches the earth—but the child grows weary and never reaches the spot.
But even since we were once there—wherever it may be, where we had a beginning, what do we know now? For memory shakes itself like the spaniel, just come out of the waves, while the water runs in, his eyes and he looks very strangely....