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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘First Flower Piece’

By Jean Paul (J. P. F. Richter) (1763–1825)

ONCE on a summer evening I was lying in the sunshine on a mountain, and fell asleep. Then I dreamed that I awoke in a church-yard. The down-rolling wheels of the steeple-clock, which was striking eleven, had awakened me. I looked for the sun in the empty night-heaven, for I thought an eclipse was veiling it with the moon. All the graves were open, and the iron doors of the charnel-house were moved to and fro by invisible hands. Shadows which no one cast, flitted on the walls; and other shadows walked erect in the thin air. In the open coffins none were sleeping now but children. In the sky hung in large folds merely a gray sultry mist, which a giant shadow like a net was drawing down nearer, tighter, and hotter. Above me I heard the distant fall of avalanches; under me the first step of an illimitable earthquake. The church wavered up and down with two unceasing discords, which contended with each other and vainly endeavored to mingle in unison. At times a gray gleam skipped up along its windows, and under the gleam the lead and iron ran down molten. The net of the mist and the reeling earth thrust me into that fearful temple, at the door of which, in two poisonous thickets, two glittering basilisks were brooding. I passed through unknown shadows, on whom ancient centuries were impressed. All the shadows were standing round the empty altar; and in all of them the breast, instead of the heart, quivered and beat. One dead man only, who had just been buried in the church, still lay on his pillow without a quivering breast, and on his smiling countenance stood a happy dream. But as a living one entered, he awoke, and smiled no more; he lifted with difficulty his heavy eyelids, but within was no eye, and in his beating breast there was, instead of a heart, a wound. He lifted up his hands and folded them to pray; but the arms lengthened out and dissolved, and the hands, still folded, fell away. Above, on the vault of the church, stood the dial-plate of eternity, on which no number appeared, and which was its own index hand; but a black finger pointed thereon, and the dead sought to see the time by it….

An immense and immeasurably extended hammer was about to strike the last hour of time and shatter the universe, when I awoke.

My soul wept for joy that I could still pray to God; and the joy, and the weeping, and the faith in him, were my prayer. And as I arose, the sun was glowing deep behind the full purpled ears of corn, and casting meekly the gleam of its twilight red on the little moon, which was rising in the east without an aurora; and between the sky and the earth, a gay transient air people was stretching out its short wings, and living, as I did, before the Infinite Father; and from all nature around me flowed peaceful tones as from distant evening bells.