delight in humanness

Read something from the journal of Henri-Frédéric Amiel:

June 16, 1851.—This evening I walked up and down on the Pont des Bergues, under a clear, moonless heaven delighting in the freshness of the water, streaked with light from the two quays, and glimmering under the twinkling stars. Meeting all these different groups of young people, families, couples and children, who were returning to their homes, to their garrets or their drawing-rooms, singing or talking as they went, I felt a movement of sympathy for all these passers-by; my eyes and ears became those of a poet or a painter; while even one’s mere kindly curiosity seems to bring with it a joy in living and in seeing others live.

If you don’t know, you might have guessed: being on the Pont des Bergues meant being near the heart of a large and densely populated city — Geneva. What you might not have guessed is a bit of broad context that, it seems to me, makes this quotation read quite differently: being on the Pont des Bergues also meant, for Amiel, being away from his home and in a place where his native language was not spoken. Nonetheless, “a joy in living and in seeing others live.”

  • The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, translated by Mrs. Humphrey Ward, at gutenberg.org. Amiel’s hometown was Berlin.
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