Letters of Frederick Engels

To Marie Engels
In Barmen

Bremen, March 12, 1839

Dear Marie,

(Continuation of my letter to Hermann.) The Stadtbote is full of absolute nonsense and I am writing poems about it at the office which ridicule it by always praising it to the skies, just incoherent twaddle, and I send it to the paper signed Th. Hildebrandt and they print it in all innocence. I have got one in my desk at this very moment which I am going to send in. It runs like this:

Book Wisdom

He is not wise who from his reading draws
Nothing but floods of useless erudition.
For all his learning, life’s mysterious laws
Are a closed book beyond his comprehension.
He who acquires a thorough textbook grounding
In Botany, won’t hear the grass that grows.
Nor will he ever teach true understanding
Who tells you all the dogma that he knows.
Oh, no! the germ lies hid in man’s own heart.
Who seeks the art of. life must look within.
Burning the midnight oil will not impart
The secret of emotion’s discipline.
The man is lost who hears his own heart’s voice
And spurns it, Wilfully misapprehending.
Of all your words so noble and so wise
The most profound is human understanding.

So it goes, on and on, all mockery. Usually, when I am not quite sure what to send, I get hold of the Bote and scrape something together from that. The other day I sat Karl Leupold at my desk and dictated to him a rude letter to the Bote, [198] which they received and printed with the most fantastically stupid comments. But I must go out now. So I remain

Your loving brother