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Literature soothes when little else will. The complexities of life exist in all eras, in all our souls and bodies. Great love, be it romantic or platonic or familial, is as desired for as oxygen is necessary to breathe. Some walk through life without the desire to summit a mountain, or dive to the depths of the ocean preferring instead to have safety. Other take the risks, in business or in adventurism or in love. They fuel the desire of others, and bathe in its waters.

Individual liberty requires privacy, not only modesty or comity. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Roman Elegies are a wonder. The passage below, from Bid Me Not be Silent, is exquisitely crafted. Citing the unspoken arrangement between two people to craft that privacy, a safe place, a warm comfort in the storm of every day life, Goethe evokes the importance of building an “Ours” on whatever terms or in whatever circumstance. Beauty is in silence as much as it is anything.

Bid me be silent, bid me not speak, Secrecy is a duty to me: I could reveal my heart complete, But Fate doesn’t wish it to be.

In due season, the sun’s bright path Drives the night away, the light must shine: The hard stone opens its breast at last And yields Earth water from hidden mines.

Every man seeks rest in a dear friend’s arms, Where the heart can express its inner pain: But my lips are sealed by secret charms, And none but a god can part them again.

—Media Lizzy