"My heart is like a sick child; and like a sick child I let it have its way."

— Goethe, Johann Wolfgang (1749-1832)

Place of Publication
Weygand'sche Buchhandlung
1774, rev. 1787, 1779 in English
"My heart is like a sick child; and like a sick child I let it have its way."
Metaphor in Context
YOU offer me books; I will have nothing to do with them: for heaven's sake don't send me any. I don't wish to be again guided, heated, agitated. Alas! my heart is of itself but too much agitated already. I want strains that may lull me; and Homer furnishes them in abundance. Often have I strove to calm the blood that seemed boiling in my veins; often have I endeavoured to stop the keen and sudden passions of my heart--But 'tis not to you that I need explain its feelings; you have often seen with concern my quick transitions from sorrow to immoderate joy, and from soft melancholy to violent and dangerous passions. My heart is like a sick child; and like a sick child I let it have its way:--But that between ourselves; for I know I mould be blamed for it.
(Vol. I, Letter IV [May 13], pp. 11-12)

Du fragst, ob du mir meine Bücher schicken sollst? – lieber, ich bitte dich um Gottes willen, laß mir sie vom Halse! Ich will nicht mehr geleitet, ermuntert, angefeuert sein, braust dieses Herz doch genug aus sich selbst; ich brauche Wiegengesang, und den habe ich in seiner Fülle gefunden in meinem Homer. Wie oft lull' ich mein empörtes Blut zur Ruhe, denn so ungleich, so unstet hast du nichts gesehn als dieses Herz. Lieber! Brauch' ich dir das zu sagen, der du so oft die Last getragen hast, mich vom Kummer zur Ausschweifung und von süßer Melancholie zur verderblichen Leidenschaft übergehen zu sehn? Auch halte ich mein Herzchen wie ein krankes Kind; jeder Wille wird ihm gestattet. Sage das nicht weiter; es gibt Leute, die mir es verübeln würden. (Am 13. Mai, p. 9 in Reclam)
Google Books
An international bestseller with 27 entries for the uniform title "Leiden des jungen Werthers. English" in the ESTC (1779, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, 1784, 1785, 1786, 1787, 1788, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1799).

I consulted, concurrently, the German and eighteenth-century English translations. See Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Werter: a German Story. 2 vols (London: Printed for J. Dodsley, 1779), <Link to ECCO>. But, note, the translation is not always literal; the translator repeatedly tones down Werther's figurative language (especially, it seems, in the second volume): "A few expressions which had this appearance [of extravagance] have been omitted by the French, and a few more by the English translator, as they might possibly give offence in a work of this nature" (Preface).

Searching English text from a 1784 printing (Dodsley, "A New Edition") in Google Books <Link to volume I><Link to voume II>

Reading Die Leiden des jungen Werther (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2002). German text from http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/3636/1. Printed in 1774 in Leipzig, Weygand'sche Buchhandlung.
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.