Ancient Word of the Day: Weltschmerz


Weltschmerz: n: (literally) World Pain (from German). The feeling of sadness at the suffering that surrounds you in the world. The pain of being an empath and sensitive to all despair and distress in the world. An ill-defined weariness at the burdens carried universally by all of humankind.

The Sensual World of The Unseen By Photographer Duane Michaels

“Sickness brought me this

Thought, in that scale of his:

Why should I be dismayed

Though flame had burned the whole World, as it were a coal,

Now I have seen it weighed Against a soul?”

W. B. Yeats, ‘A Friend’s Illness’ (1916)
The Sensual World of The Unseen By Photographer Duane Michaels

Weltschmerz comes into English usage via ‘The Life of Byron’ by Karl Elze (1872).

“It was Byron who introduced world-sorrow (Weltschmerz) into modern English literature, though in English it may be remarked that we have no expression for such a thing. On the other hand, in the literature of Germany, world-sorrow plays a far more important part. This world sorrow rests primarily in the ever-present grief of the human race at the transitoriness of all things earthly, the gloomy destiny and uncertain lot of man,” ~ Karl Elze.

‘The Life of Byron’ by Karl Elze (1872).
Poetry and music from the film ‘Wings of Desire’ (Der Himmel uber Berlin)

When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.

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3 thoughts on “Ancient Word of the Day: Weltschmerz

    1. Content Catnip – Catnip, The World. – Digital dawdler, foodie, bookworm, culture vulture, rainbow lorikeet perennially in love with the arts, history and science. Constantly seeking inspiring people, knowledge and places.
      Content Catnip says:

      Yeah it’s amazing isn’t it….pretty much sums up how many people are feeling at this moment in time, or perhaps it’s a part of what it means to be human to feel this way? Thank you for the comment

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