"The tree of my mind of its leaves is stripped, my witticisms too fine are clipped, the kernel out of the shell has been nipped."

— Engels, Friedrich (1820-1895)

September, 1838
"The tree of my mind of its leaves is stripped, my witticisms too fine are clipped, the kernel out of the shell has been nipped."
Metaphor in Context
[September] 18th Cur me poematibus exanimas tuis, [Why do you torture me with your poems?] you will be shouting. But I am going to torture you still more with them or rather because of them. Guilelmus [Wilhelm Graeber] has still got an exercise book of my verse, just as I wrote it. I'm now asking for this exercise book back and you can send it in the following way: you can cut out all the blank paper and you can then enclose a few sheets with every letter you write: it won't increase the postage. If need be you can also add one or two bits of reading matter if you pack it cunningly and press the letter well, for instance, laying it for a night between a couple of dictionaries before you send it, so they won't notice anything. — See that Blank gets the sheet I've enclosed for him. I am getting a terribly extensive correspondence, with you in Berlin, with Wurm in Bonn, and similarly with Barmen and Elberfeld. But if I didn't have it, how would I kill the endless time I have to spend at the office without being allowed to read? The day before yesterday I spent with the Old Man, [Heinrich Leupold] id est principalis -- his wife is called the Old Woman [Altsche] (the elk, alce in Italian, pronounced just like that) -- in the country where his family lives, and I enjoyed it very much. The Old Man is an excellent fellow, he always scolds his boys in Polish. You Ledshiaks, you Kashubs, he shouts. On the way back I tried to give a philistine who was also there some idea of the beauty of Low German, but saw it was impossible. A philistine like that is really an unhappy soul yet over-happy nonetheless in his stupidity, which he regards as the greatest wisdom. I went to the theatre the other evening. They were playing Hamlet, but in a quite horrifying manner. So I would rather say nothing at all about it. — It's good that you are going to Berlin. There will be more art there than you are likely to get at any other university except Munich; the poetry of nature, on the other hand, is lacking -- sand, sand, sand! It is far better here. The roads outside the town are mostly very interesting and very charming with their groups of various trees. But the mountains, the mountains, that's what you miss. What is also lacking in Berlin is the poetry of student life, which is at its best in Bonn, and to which the wandering about in the poetic surroundings contributes not a little. Well, you too will be going to Bonn one day. My dear Wilhelm, I would madly love to answer your witty letter with one equally witty, if it were not for the fact that I don't feel at all witty and especially at the moment I am lacking precisely in that desire which one cannot give oneself and without which everything is forced. But I feel as if for me the end were near, as if my head no longer held a single idea, as if my life were being stolen away. The tree of my mind of its leaves is stripped, my witticisms too fine are clipped, the kernel out of the shell has been nipped. And my Mahamas hardly merit the name, while yours robbed Rückert of all his fame; those here written with gout are smitten, they limp, they totter, fall, nay, have fallen to the bottom of the pit of oblivion, not climbed the peaks of readers' opinion. Oh doom, here I sit in my room, and even if I hammered my head sore, only water would come out with a roar. That helps not a louse, it does not bring wit into the house. When I went to bed last night I banged my head and it sounded just like when you knock against a bucket of water and the water splashes against the other side. I had to laugh at the way my nose was properly rubbed in the truth. Yes, water, water! My room is full of spooks. Last night I heard a death-watch beetle in the wall. In the alley near me there is a noise of ducks, cats, dogs, hussies and people. And incidentally I expect a letter from you just as long if not longer than this one, et id post notas -- let there be no mistake about it.
Searching "mind" at www.marxists.org
Engels, Friedrich. Letter To Friedrich and Wilhelm Graeber, in Barmen, 1838 <Link to www.marxists.org>
Date of Entry

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