The Poems of Goethe
Part 5 out of 11
And now come, thou well-worn broom,
And thy wretched form bestir;
Thou hast ever served as groom,
So fulfil my pleasure, sir!
On two legs now stand,
With a head on top;
Waterpail in hand,
Haste, and do not stop!
So that rightly
Flow the torrent,
And with teeming waters yonder
In the bath discharge its current!
See! he's running to the shore,
And has now attain'd the pool,
And with lightning speed once more
Comes here, with his bucket full!
Back he then repairs;
See how swells the tide!
How each pail he bears
Straightway is supplied!
Stop, for, lo!
All the measure
Of thy treasure
Now is right!--
Ah, I see it! woe, oh woe!
I forget the word of might.
Ah, the word whose sound can straight
Make him what he was before!
Ah, he runs with nimble gait!
Would thou wert a broom once more!
Streams renew'd for ever
Quickly bringeth he;
River after river
Rusheth on poor me!
Now no longer
Can I bear him;
I will snare him,
Ah, my terror waxes stronger!
What a look! what fearful sight
Oh, thou villain child of hell!
Shall the house through thee be drown'd
Floods I see that wildly swell,
O'er the threshold gaining ground.
Wilt thou not obey,
Oh, thou broom accurs'd?
Be thou still I pray,
As thou wert at first!
Never please thee?
I will seize thee,
Hold thee fast,
And thy nimble wood so tough,
With my sharp axe split at last.
See, once more he hastens back!
Now, oh Cobold, thou shalt catch it!
I will rush upon his track;
Crashing on him falls my hatchet.
Bravely done, indeed!
See, he's cleft in twain!
Now from care I'm freed,
And can breathe again.
Woe, oh woe!
Both the parts,
Quick as darts,
Stand on end,
Servants of my dreaded foe!
Oh, ye gods protection send!
And they run! and wetter still
Grow the steps and grows the hail.
Lord and master hear me call!
Ever seems the flood to fill,
Ah, he's coming! see,
Great is my dismay!
Spirits raised by me
Vainly would I lay!
"To the side
Of the room
As of old!
Spirits I have ne'er untied
Save to act as they are told."
THE BRIDE OF CORINTH.
[First published in Schiller's Horen, in connection with a
friendly contest in the art of ballad-writing between the two
great poets, to which many of their finest works are owing.]
ONCE a stranger youth to Corinth came,
Who in Athens lived, but hoped that he
From a certain townsman there might claim,
As his father's friend, kind courtesy.
Son and daughter, they
Had been wont to say
Should thereafter bride and bridegroom be.
But can he that boon so highly prized,
Save tis dearly bought, now hope to get?
They are Christians and have been baptized,
He and all of his are heathens yet.
For a newborn creed,
Like some loathsome weed,
Love and truth to root out oft will threat.
Father, daughter, all had gone to rest,
And the mother only watches late;
She receives with courtesy the guest,
And conducts him to the room of state.
Wine and food are brought,
Ere by him besought;
Bidding him good night. she leaves him straight.
But he feels no relish now, in truth,
For the dainties so profusely spread;
Meat and drink forgets the wearied youth,
And, still dress'd, he lays him on the bed.
Scarce are closed his eyes,
When a form in-hies
Through the open door with silent tread.
By his glimmering lamp discerns he now
How, in veil and garment white array'd,
With a black and gold band round her brow,
Glides into the room a bashful maid.
But she, at his sight,
Lifts her hand so white,
And appears as though full sore afraid.
"Am I," cries she, "such a stranger here,
That the guest's approach they could not name?
Ah, they keep me in my cloister drear,
Well nigh feel I vanquish'd by my shame.
On thy soft couch now
Slumber calmly thou!
I'll return as swiftly as I came."
"Stay, thou fairest maiden!" cries the boy,
Starting from his couch with eager haste:
"Here are Ceres', Bacchus' gifts of joy;
Amor bringest thou, with beauty grac'd!
Thou art pale with fear!
Loved one let us here
Prove the raptures the Immortals taste."
"Draw not nigh, O Youth! afar remain!
Rapture now can never smile on me;
For the fatal step, alas! is ta'en,
Through my mother's sick-bed phantasy.
Cured, she made this oath:
'Youth and nature both
Shall henceforth to Heav'n devoted be.'
"From the house, so silent now, are driven
All the gods who reign'd supreme of yore;
One Invisible now rules in heaven,
On the cross a Saviour they adore.
Victims slay they here,
Neither lamb nor steer,
But the altars reek with human gore."
And he lists, and ev'ry word he weighs,
While his eager soul drinks in each sound:
"Can it be that now before my gaze
Stands my loved one on this silent ground?
Pledge to me thy troth!
Through our father's oath:
With Heav'ns blessing will our love be crown'd."
"Kindly youth, I never can be thine!
'Tis my sister they intend for thee.
When I in the silent cloister pine,
Ah, within her arms remember me!
Thee alone I love,
While love's pangs I prove;
Soon the earth will veil my misery."
"No! for by this glowing flame I swear,
Hymen hath himself propitious shown:
Let us to my fathers house repair,
And thoult find that joy is not yet flown,
Sweetest, here then stay,
And without delay
Hold we now our wedding feast alone!"
Then exchange they tokens of their truth;
She gives him a golden chain to wear,
And a silver chalice would the youth
Give her in return of beauty rare.
"That is not for me;
Yet I beg of thee,
One lock only give me of thy hair."
Now the ghostly hour of midnight knell'd,
And she seem'd right joyous at the sign;
To her pallid lips the cup she held,
But she drank of nought but blood-red wine.
For to taste the bread
There before them spread,
Nought he spoke could make the maid incline.
To the youth the goblet then she brought,--
He too quaff'd with eager joy the bowl.
Love to crown the silent feast he sought,
Ah! full love-sick was the stripling's soul.
From his prayer she shrinks,
Till at length he sinks
On the bed and weeps without control.
And she comes, and lays her near the boy:
"How I grieve to see thee sorrowing so!
If thou think'st to clasp my form with joy,
Thou must learn this secret sad to know;
Yes! the maid, whom thou
Call'st thy loved one now,
Is as cold as ice, though white as snow."
Then he clasps her madly in his arm,
While love's youthful might pervades his frame:
"Thou might'st hope, when with me, to grow warm,
E'en if from the grave thy spirit came!
Breath for breath, and kiss!
Overflow of bliss!
Dost not thou, like me, feel passion's flame?"
Love still closer rivets now their lips,
Tears they mingle with their rapture blest,
From his mouth the flame she wildly sips,
Each is with the other's thought possess'd.
His hot ardour's flood
Warms her chilly blood,
But no heart is beating in her breast.
In her care to see that nought went wrong,
Now the mother happen'd to draw near;
At the door long hearkens she, full long,
Wond'ring at the sounds that greet her ear.
Tones of joy and sadness,
And love's blissful madness,
As of bride and bridegroom they appear,
From the door she will not now remove
'Till she gains full certainty of this;
And with anger hears she vows of love,
Soft caressing words of mutual bliss.
"Hush! the cock's loud strain!
But thoult come again,
When the night returns!"--then kiss on kiss.
Then her wrath the mother cannot hold,
But unfastens straight the lock with ease
"In this house are girls become so bold,
As to seek e'en strangers' lusts to please?"
By her lamp's clear glow
Looks she in,--and oh!
Sight of horror!--'tis her child she sees.
Fain the youth would, in his first alarm,
With the veil that o'er her had been spread,
With the carpet, shield his love from harm;
But she casts them from her, void of dread,
And with spirit's strength,
In its spectre length,
Lifts her figure slowly from the bed.
"Mother! mother!"--Thus her wan lips say:
"May not I one night of rapture share?
From the warm couch am I chased away?
Do I waken only to despair?
It contents not thee
To have driven me
An untimely shroud of death to wear?
"But from out my coffin's prison-bounds
By a wond'rous fate I'm forced to rove,
While the blessings and the chaunting sounds
That your priests delight in, useless prove.
Water, salt, are vain
Fervent youth to chain,
Ah, e'en Earth can never cool down love!
"When that infant vow of love was spoken,
Venus' radiant temple smiled on both.
Mother! thou that promise since hast broken,
Fetter'd by a strange, deceitful oath.
Gods, though, hearken ne'er,
Should a mother swear
To deny her daughter's plighted troth.
From my grave to wander I am forc'd,
Still to seek The Good's long-sever'd link,
Still to love the bridegroom I have lost,
And the life-blood of his heart to drink;
When his race is run,
I must hasten on,
And the young must 'neath my vengeance sink,
"Beauteous youth! no longer mayst thou live;
Here must shrivel up thy form so fair;
Did not I to thee a token give,
Taking in return this lock of hair?
View it to thy sorrow!
Grey thoult be to-morrow,
Only to grow brown again when there.
"Mother, to this final prayer give ear!
Let a funeral pile be straightway dress'd;
Open then my cell so sad and drear,
That the flames may give the lovers rest!
When ascends the fire
From the glowing pyre,
To the gods of old we'll hasten, blest."
THE GOD AND THE BAYADERE.
AN INDIAN LEGEND.
[This very fine Ballad was also first given in the Horen.]
(MAHADEVA is one of the numerous names of Seeva, the destroyer,--
the great god of the Brahmins.)
MAHADEVA,* Lord of earth
For the sixth time comes below,
As a man of mortal birth,--
Like him, feeling joy and woe.
Hither loves he to repair,
And his power behind to leave;
If to punish or to spare,
Men as man he'd fain perceive.
And when he the town as a trav'ller hath seen,
Observing the mighty, regarding the mean,
He quits it, to go on his journey, at eve.
He was leaving now the place,
When an outcast met his eyes,--
Fair in form, with painted face,--
Where some straggling dwellings rise.
"Maiden, hail!"--"Thanks! welcome here!
Stay!--I'll join thee in the road.'
"Who art thou?"--"A Bayadere,
And this house is love's abode."
The cymbal she hastens to play for the dance,
Well skill'd in its mazes the sight to entrance,
Then by her with grace is the nosegay bestow'd.
Then she draws him, as in play,
O'er the threshold eagerly:
"Beauteous stranger, light as day
Thou shalt soon this cottage see.
I'll refresh thee, if thou'rt tired,
And will bathe thy weary feet;
Take whate'er by thee's desired,
Toying, rest, or rapture sweet."--
She busily seeks his feign'd suff'rings to ease;
Then smiles the Immortal; with pleasure he sees
That with kindness a heart so corrupted can beat.
And he makes her act the part
Of a slave; he's straight obey'd.
What at first had been but art,
Soon is nature in the maid.
By degrees the fruit we find,
Where the buds at first obtain;
When obedience fills the mind,
Love will never far remain.
But sharper and sharper the maiden to prove,
The Discerner of all things below and above,
Feigns pleasure, and horror, and maddening pain.
And her painted cheeks he kisses,
And his vows her heart enthrall;
Feeling love's sharp pangs and blisses,
Soon her tears begin to fall.
At his feet she now must sink,
Not with thoughts of lust or gain,--
And her slender members shrink,
And devoid of power remain.
And so the bright hours with gladness prepare
Their dark, pleasing veil of a texture so fair,
And over the couch softly, tranquilly reign.
Late she falls asleep, thus bless'd,--
Early wakes, her slumbers fled,
And she finds the much-loved guest
On her bosom lying dead.
Screaming falls she on him there,
But, alas, too late to save!
And his rigid limbs they bear
Straightway to their fiery grave.
Then hears she the priests and the funeral song,
Then madly she runs, and she severs the throng:
"Why press tow'rd the pile thus? Why scream thus, and rave?"
Then she sinks beside his bier,
And her screams through air resound:
"I must seek my spouse so dear,
E'en if in the grave he's bound.
Shall those limbs of grace divine
Fall to ashes in my sight?
Mine he was! Yes, only mine!
Ah, one single blissful night!"
The priests chaunt in chorus: "We bear out the old,
When long they've been weary, and late they've grown cold:
We bear out the young, too, so thoughtless and light.
"To thy priests' commands give ear!
This one was thy husband ne'er;
Live still as a Bayadere,
And no duty thou need'st share.
To deaths silent realms from life,
None but shades attend man's frame,
With the husband, none but wife,--
That is duty, that is fame.
Ye trumpets, your sacred lament haste to raise
Oh, welcome, ye gods, the bright lustre of days!
Oh, welcome to heaven the youth from the flame!"
Thus increased her torments are
By the cruel, heartless quire;
And with arms outstretching far
Leaps she on the glowing pyre.
But the youth divine outsprings
From the flame with heav'nly grace,
And on high his flight he wings,
While his arms his love embrace.
In the sinner repentant the Godhead feels joy;
Immortals delight thus their might to employ.
Lost children to raise to a heavenly place.
I. THE PARIAH S PRAYER.
DREADED Brama, lord of might!
All proceed from thee alone;
Thou art he who judgeth right!
Dost thou none but Brahmins own?
Do but Rajahs come from thee?
None but those of high estate?
Didst not thou the ape create,
Aye, and even such as we?
We are not of noble kind,
For with woe our lot is rife;
And what others deadly find
Is our only source of life.
Let this be enough for men,
Let them, if they will, despise us;
But thou, Brama, thou shouldst prize us,
All are equal in thy ken.
Now that, Lord, this prayer is said,
As thy child acknowledge me;
Or let one be born in-stead,
Who may link me on to thee!
Didst not thou a Bayadere
As a goddess heavenward raise?
And we too to swell thy praise,
Such a miracle would hear.
[The successful manner in which Goethe employs the simple
rhymeless trochaic metre in this and in many other Poems will
perhaps be remarked by the reader.]
WATER-FETCHING goes the noble
Brahmin's wife, so pure and lovely;
He is honour'd, void of blemish.
And of justice rigid, stern.
Daily from the sacred river
Brings she back refreshments precious;--
But where is the pail and pitcher?
She of neither stands in need.
For with pure heart, hands unsullied,
She the water lifts, and rolls it
To a wondrous ball of crystal
This she bears with gladsome bosom,
Modestly, with graceful motion,
To her husband in the house.
She to-day at dawn of morning
Praying comes to Ganges' waters,
Bends her o'er the glassy surface--
Sudden, in the waves reflected,
Flying swiftly far above her,
From the highest heavens descending,
She discerns the beauteous form
Of a youth divine, created
By the God's primeval wisdom
In his own eternal breast.
When she sees him, straightway feels she
Wondrous, new, confused sensations
In her inmost, deepest being;
Fain she'd linger o'er the vision,
Then repels it,--it returneth,--
And, perplex'd, she bends her flood-wards
With uncertain hands to draw it;
But, alas, she draws no more!
For the water's sacred billows
Seem to fly, to hasten from her;
She but sees the fearful chasm
Of a whirlpool black disclosed.
Arms drop down, and footsteps stumble,
Can this be the pathway homewards?
Shall she fly, or shall she tarry?
Can she think, when thought and counsel,
When assistance all are lost?
So before her spouse appears she--
On her looks he--look is judgment--
Proudly on the sword he seizes,
To the hill of death he drags her,
Where delinquents' blood pays forfeit.
What resistance could she offer?
What excuses could she proffer,
Guilty, knowing not her guilt?
And with bloody sword returns he,
Musing, to his silent dwelling,
When his son before him stands:
"Whose this blood? Oh, father! father!"
"The delinquent woman's!"--"Never!
For upon the sword it dries not,
Like the blood of the delinquent;
Fresh it flows, as from the wound.
Mother! mother! hither hasten!
Unjust never was my father,
Tell me what he now hath done."--
"Silence! silence! hers the blood is!"
"Whose, my father?"--"Silence! Silence!"
"What! oh what! my mother's blood!
What her crime? What did she? Answer!
Now, the sword! the sword now hold I;
Thou thy wife perchance might'st slaughter,
But my mother might'st not slay!
Through the flames the wife is able
Her beloved spouse to follow,
And his dear and only mother
Through the sword her faithful son."
"Stay! oh stay!" exclaim'd the father:
"Yet 'tis time, so hasten, hasten!
Join the head upon the body,
With the sword then touch the figure,
And, alive she'll follow thee."
Hastening, he, with breathless wonder,
Sees the bodies of two women
Lying crosswise, and their heads too;
Oh, what horror! which to choose!
Then his mother's head he seizes,--
Does not kiss it, deadly pale 'tis,--
On the nearest headless body
Puts it quickly, and then blesses
With the sword the pious work.
Then the giant form uprises,--
From the dear lips of his mother,
Lips all god-like--changeless--blissful,
Sound these words with horror fraught:
"Son, oh son! what overhast'ning!
Yonder is thy mother's body,
Near it lies the impious head
Of the woman who hath fallen
Victim to the judgment-sword!
To her body I am grafted
By thy hand for endless ages;
Wise in counsel, wild in action,
I shall be amongst the gods.
E'en the heav'nly boy's own image,
Though in eye and brow so lovely,
Sinking downwards to the bosom
Mad and raging lust will stir.
"'Twill return again for ever,
Ever rising, ever sinking,
Now obscured, and now transfigur'd,--
So great Brama hath ordain'd.
He 'twas sent the beauteous pinions,
Radiant face and slender members
Of the only God-begotten,
That I might be proved and tempted;
For from high descends temptation,
When the gods ordain it so.
And so I, the Brahmin woman,
With my head in Heaven reclining,
Must experience, as a Pariah,
The debasing power of earth.
Son, I send thee to thy father!
Comfort him! Let no sad penance,
Weak delay, or thought of merit,
Hold thee in the desert fast
Wander on through ev'ry nation,
Roam abroad throughout all ages,
And proclaim to e'en the meanest,
That great Brama hears his cry!
"None is in his eyes the meanest--
He whose limbs are lame and palsied,
He whose soul is wildly riven,
Worn with sorrow, hopeless, helpless,
Be he Brahmin, be he Pariah,
If tow'rd heaven he turns his gaze,
Will perceive, will learn to know it:
Thousand eyes are glowing yonder,
Thousand ears are calmly list'ning,
From which nought below is hid.
"If I to his throne soar upward,
If he sees my fearful figure
By his might transform'd to horror,
He for ever will lament it,--
May it to your good be found!
And I now will kindly warn him,
And I now will madly tell him
Whatsoe'er my mind conceiveth,
What within my bosom heaveth.
But my thoughts, my inmost feelings--
Those a secret shall remain."
III. THE PARIAH'S THANKS.
MIGHTY Brama, now I'll bless thee!
'Tis from thee that worlds proceed!
As my ruler I confess thee,
For of all thou takest heed.
All thy thousand ears thou keepest
Open to each child of earth;
We, 'mongst mortals sunk the deepest,
Have from thee received new birth.
Bear in mind the woman's story,
Who, through grief, divine became;
Now I'll wait to view His glory,
Who omnipotence can claim.
DEATH-LAMENT OF THE NOBLE WIFE OF ASAN AGA.
[From the Morlack.)
WHAT is yonder white thing in the forest?
Is it snow, or can it swans perchance be?
Were it snow, ere this it had been melted,
Were it swans, they all away had hastend.
Snow, in truth, it is not, swans it is not,
'Tis the shining tents of Asan Aga.
He within is lying, sorely wounded;
To him come his mother and his sister;
Bashfully his wife delays to come there.
When the torment of his wounds had lessen'd,
To his faithful wife he sent this message:
"At my court no longer dare to tarry,
At my court, or e'en amongst my people."
When the woman heard this cruel message,
Mute and full of sorrow stood that true one.
At the doors she hears the feet of horses,
And bethinks that Asan comes--her husband,
To the tower she springs, to leap thence headlong,
Her two darling daughters follow sadly,
And whilst weeping bitter tears, exclaim they:
These are not our father Asan's horses;
'Tis thy brother Pintorowich coming!"
So the wife of Asan turns to meet him,
Clasps her arms in anguish round her brother:
"See thy sister's sad disgrace, oh brother!
How I'm banish'd--mother of five children!"
Silently her brother from his wallet,
Wrapp'd in deep red-silk, and ready written,
Draweth forth the letter of divorcement,
To return home to her mother's dwelling,
Free to be another's wife thenceforward.
When the woman saw that mournful letter,
Fervently she kiss'd her two sons' foreheads,
And her two girls' cheeks with fervour kiss'd she,
But she from the suckling in the cradle
Could not tear herself, so deep her sorrow!
So she's torn thence by her fiery brother,
On his nimble steed he lifts her quickly,
And so hastens, with the heart-sad woman,
Straightway tow'rd his father's lofty dwelling.
Short the time was--seven days had pass'd not,--
Yet enough 'twas; many mighty princes
Sought the woman in her widow's-mourning.
Sought the woman,--as their wife they sought her.
And the mightiest was Imoski's Cadi,
And the woman weeping begg'd her brother:
By thy life, my brother, I entreat thee,
Let me not another's wife be ever,
Lest my heart be broken at the image
Of my poor, my dearly-cherish'd children!"
To her prayer her brother would not hearken,
Fix'd to wed her to Imoski's Cadi.
Yet the good one ceaselessly implored him:
"Send, at least a letter, oh, my brother,
With this message to Imoski's Cadi:
'The young widow sends thee friendly greeting;
Earnestly she prays thee, through this letter,
That, when thou com'st hither, with thy Suatians,
A long veil thou'lt bring me, 'neath whose shadow
I may hide, when near the house of Asan,
And not see my dearly cherish'd orphans.'"
Scarcely had the Cadi read this letter,
Than he gather'd all his Suatians round him,
And then tow'rd the bride his course directed,
And the veil she ask'd for, took he with him.
Happily they reach'd the princess' dwelling,
From the dwelling happily they led her.
But when they approach'd the house of Asan,
Lo! the children saw from high their mother,
And they shouted: "To thy halls return thou!
Eat thy supper with thy darling children!"
Mournfully the wife of Asan heard it,
Tow'rd the Suatian prince then turn'd she, saying:
"Let, I pray, the Suatians and the horses
At the loved ones' door a short time tarry,
That I may give presents to my children."
And before the loved ones' door they tarried,
And she presents gave to her poor children,
To the boys gave gold-embroider'd buskins,
To the girls gave long and costly dresses,
To the suckling, helpless in the cradle,
Gave a garment, to be worn hereafter.
This aside saw Father Asan Aga,--
Sadly cried he to his darling children:
"Hither come, ye dear unhappy infants,
For your mother's breast is turn'd to iron,
Lock'd for ever, closed to all compassion!"
When the wife of Asan heard him speak thus,
On the ground, all pale and trembling, fell she,
And her spirit fled her sorrowing bosom,
When she saw her children flying from her.
May the bard these numbers praise,
That are sung his fame to raise.
THE Poems composed by Goethe under this title are five in
number, of which three are here given. The other two are entirely
personal in their allusions, and not of general interest. One of
them is a Requiem on the Prince de Ligne, who died in 1814, and
whom Goethe calls "the happiest man of the century," and the
other was composed in honour of the 70th birthday of his friend
Zelter the composer, when Goethe was himself more than 79 (1828).
The following sweet aria introduced in the latter is, however,
THE flowers so carefully rear'd,
In a garland for him I oft twin'd:
How sweet have they ever appear'd,
When wreath'd for a friend dear and kind.
Then incense sweet ascended,
Then new-horn blossoms rose,
With gentle zephyrs blended
In tones of soft repose.
A village Chorus is supposed to be assembled, and about to
commence its festive procession.
[Written for the birthday of the Duchess Louisa of Weimar.]
THE festal day hail ye
With garlands of pleasure,
And dances' soft measure,
With rapture commingled
And sweet choral song.
Oh, how I yearn from out the crowd to flee!
What joy a secret glade would give to me!
Amid the throng, the turmoil here,
Confined the plain, the breezes e'en appear.
Now order it truly,
That ev'ry one duly
May roam and may wander,
Now here, and now yonder,
The meadows along.
[The Chorus retreats gradually, and the song becomes fainter and
fainter, till it dies away in the distance.]
In vain ye call, in vain would lure me on;
True my heart speaks,--but with itself alone.
And if I may view
A blessing-fraught land,
The heaven's clear blue,
And the plain's verdant hue,
Alone I'll rejoice,
Undisturbed by man's voice.
And there I'll pay homage
To womanly merit,
Observe it in spirit,
In spirit pay homage;
To echo alone
Shall my secret be known.
[Faintly mingling with Damon's song in the distance.]
Shall my secret--be known.--
My friend, why meet I here with thee?
Thou hast'nest not to join the festal throng?
No longer stay, but come with me,
And mingle in the dance and song.
Thou'rt welcome, friend! but suffer me to roam
Where these old beeches hide me from man's view:
Love seeks in solitude a home,
And homage may retreat there too.
Thou seekest here a spurious fame,
And hast a mind to-day to grieve me.
Love as thy portion thou mayst claim
But homage thou must share with all, believe me!
When their voices thousands raise,
And the dawn of morning praise,
On before us,
Heart and ear in pleasure vie;
And when thousands join in chorus,
With the feelings brightly glowing,
And the wishes overflowing,
Forcibly they'll bear thee high.
[The Chorus gradually approaches, from the distance.]
Distant strains are hither wending,
And I'm gladden'd by the throng;
Yes, they're coming,--yes, descending
To the valley from the height,
Let us haste, our footsteps blending
With the rhythm of the song!
Yes, they come; their course they're bending
Tow'rd the wood's green sward so bright.
[Gradually becoming louder.]
Yes, we hither come, attending
With the harmony of song,
As the hours their race are ending
On this day of blest delight.
Let none reveal
The thoughts we feel,
The aims we own!
Let joy alone
Disclose the story!
She'll prove it right
And her delight
Includes the glory,
Includes the bliss
Of days like this!
[This Cantata was written for Prince Frederick of Gotha, and set
to music by Winter, the Prince singing the part of Rinaldo.--See
(* See Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, Canto XVI.)
To the strand! quick, mount the bark!
If no favouring zephyrs blow,
Ply the oar and nimbly row,
And with zeal your prowess mark!
O'er the sea we thus career.
Oh, let me linger one short moment here!
'Tis heaven's decree, I may not hence away.
The rugged cliffs, the wood-encircled bay,
Hold me a prisoner, and my flight delay.
Ye were so fair, but now that dream is o'er;
The charms of earth, the charms of heaven are nought.
What keeps me in this spot so terror-fraught?
My only joy is fled for evermore.
Let me taste those days so sweet,
Heav'n-descended, once again!
Heart, dear heart! ay, warmly beat!
Spirit true, recall those days
Freeborn breath thy gentle lays
Mingled are with joy and pain.
Round the beds, so richly gleaming,
Rises up a palace fair;
All with rosy fragrance teeming,
As in dream thou saw'st it ne'er.
And this spacious garden round,
Far extend the galleries;
Roses blossom near the ground,
High in air, too, bloom the trees.
Wat'ry flakes and jets are falling.
Sweet and silv'ry strains arise;
While the turtle-dove is calling,
And the nightingale replies.
Gently come! feel no alarm,
On a noble duty bent;
Vanish'd now is ev'ry charm
That by magic power was lent.
Friendly words and greetings calm
On his wounds will pour soft balm.
Fill his mind with sweet content.
Hark! the turtle-dove is calling,
And the nightingale replies;
Wat'ry flakes and jets are falling,
Mingling with their melodies.
But all of them say:
Her only we mean;
But all fly away,
As soon as she's seen,--
The beauteous young maiden,
With graces so rife,
Then lily and rose
In wreaths are entwining;
In dancing combining,
Each zephyr that blows
Its brother is greeting,
All flying and meeting,
With balsam full laden,
When waken'd to life.
No! no longer may we wait;
Rouse him from his vision straight!
Show the adamantine shield!
Woe! what form is here reveal'd!
'Twill disclose the cheat to thee.
Am I doom'd myself to see
Thus degraded evermore?
Courage take, and all is o'er.
Be it so! I'll take fresh heart,
From the spot beloved depart,
Leave Armida once again,--
Come then! here no more remain.
Yes, 'tis well! no more remain.
Away then! let's fly
O'er the zephyr-kiss'd ocean!
The soul-lighted eye
Sees armies in motion,
See proud banners wave
O'er the dust-sprinkled course.
From his forefathers brave
Draws the hero new force.
With sorrow laden,
Within this valley's
The fairest maiden
Again I see.
Twice can this be?
What! shall I hear it,
And not have spirit
To ease her pains?
And now I've see her,
Alas! how changed!
With cold demeanour.
And looks estranged,
With ghostly tread,--
All hope is fled,
Yes, fled for ever.
The lightnings quiver,
Each palace falls;
The godlike halls,
Each joyous hour
With love's sweet day
All fade away!
Yes, fade away!
Already are heard
The prayers of the pious.
Why longer deny us?
The favouring zephyr
Forbids all delay.
Away, then! away!
With heart sadly stirr'd,
Your command I receive;
Ye force me to leave.
Unkind is the zephyr,--
Oh, wherefore not stay?
Away, then! away!
THE FIRST WALPURGIS-NIGHT.
SWEET smiles the May!
The forest gay
From frost and ice is freed;
No snow is found,
Glad songs resound
Across the verdant mead.
Upon the height
The snow lies light,
Yet thither now we go,
There to extol our Father's name,
Whom we for ages know.
Amid the smoke shall gleam the flame;
Thus pure the heart will grow.
Amid the smoke shall gleam the flame;
Extol we now our Father's name,
Whom we for ages know!
Up, up, then, let us go!
ONE OF THE PEOPLE.
Would ye, then, so rashly act?
Would ye instant death attract?
Know ye not the cruel threats
Of the victors we obey?
Round about are placed their nets
In the sinful heathen's way.
Ah! upon the lofty wall
Wife and children slaughter they;
And we all
Hasten to a certain fall.
CHORUS OF WOMEN.
Ay, upon the camp's high wall
All our children loved they slay.
Ah, what cruel victors they!
And we all
Hasten to a certain fall.
Who fears to-day
His rites to pay,
Deserves his chains to wear.
The forest's free!
This wood take we,
And straight a pile prepare!
Yet in the wood
To stay 'tis good
By day, till all is still,
With watchers all around us plac'd
Protecting you from ill.
With courage fresh, then let us haste
Our duties to fulfil.
CHORUS OF WATCHERS.
Ye valiant watchers, now divide
Your numbers through the forest wide,
And see that all is still,
While they their rites fulfil.
Let us in a cunning wise,
Yon dull Christian priests surprise
With the devil of their talk
We'll those very priests confound.
Come with prong, and come with fork.
Raise a wild and rattling sound
Through the livelong night, and prowl
All the rocky passes round.
Join in chorus with our howl!
CHORUS OF WATCHERS.
Come with prong, and come with fork,
Like the devil of their talk,
And with wildly rattling sound,
Prowl the desert rocks around!
Join in chorus with our howl!
Thus far 'tis right.
That we by night
Our Father's praises sing;
Yet when 'tis day,
To Thee we may
A heart unsullied bring.
'Tis true that now,
And often, Thou
Fav'rest the foe in fight.
As from the smoke is freed the blaze,
So let our faith burn bright!
And if they crush our golden ways,
Who e'er can crush Thy light?
A CHRISTIAN WATCHER.
Comrades, quick! your aid afford!
All the brood of hell's abroad;
See how their enchanted forms
Through and through with flames are glowing!
Dragon-women, men-wolf swarms,
On in quick succession going!
Let us, let us haste to fly!
Wilder yet the sounds are growing,
And the archfiend roars on high;
From the ground
Hellish vapours rise around.
CHORUS OF CHRISTIAN WATCHERS.
Terrible enchanted forms,
Dragon-women, men-wolf swarms!
Wilder yet the sounds are growing!
See, the archfiend comes, all-glowing!
From the ground
Hellish vapours rise around!
CHORUS OF DRUIDS.
As from the smoke is freed the blaze,
So let our faith burn bright!
And if they crush our golden ways,
Who e'er can crush Thy light?
THESE are the most singular of all the Poems of Goethe, and to
many will appear so wild and fantastic, as to leave anything but
a pleasing impression. Those at the beginning, addressed to his
friend Behrisch, were written at the age of eighteen, and most of
the remainder were composed while he was still quite young.
Despite, however, the extravagance of some of them, such as the
Winter Journey over the Hartz Mountains, and the Wanderer's
Storm-Song, nothing can be finer than the noble one entitled
Mahomet's Song, and others, such as the Spirit Song' over the
Waters, The God-like, and, above all, the magnificent sketch of
Prometheus, which forms part of an unfinished piece bearing the
same name, and called by Goethe a 'Dramatic Fragment.'
TO MY FRIEND.
[These three Odes are addressed to a certain Behrisch, who was
tutor to Count Lindenau, and of whom Goethe gives an odd account
at the end of the Seventh Book of his Autobiography.]
TRANSPLANT the beauteous tree!
Gardener, it gives me pain;
A happier resting-place
Its trunk deserved.
Yet the strength of its nature
To Earth's exhausting avarice,
To Air's destructive inroads,
An antidote opposed.
See how it in springtime
Coins its pale green leaves!
Poisons each flyblow straight.
The caterpillar's tooth
Is blunted by them;
With silv'ry hues they gleam
In the bright sunshine,
Its twigs the maiden
Fain would twine in
Youths its fruit are seeking.
See, the autumn cometh!
Sighs to the crafty spider,--
Sighs that the tree will not fade.
From out her yew-tree dwelling,
The gaudy foe advances
Against the kindly tree,
And cannot hurt it,
But the more artful one
Defiles with nauseous venom
Its silver leaves;
And sees with triumph
How the maiden shudders,
The youth, how mourns he,
On passing by.
Transplant the beauteous tree!
Gardener, it gives me pain;
Tree, thank the gardener
Who moves thee hence!
THOU go'st! I murmur--
Go! let me murmur.
Oh, worthy man,
Fly from this land!
Steaming mists of October
Here interweave their currents,
Blending for ever.
Here are engender'd;
Veils their malice.
The fiery-tongued serpent,
Hard by the sedgy bank,
Stretches his pamper'd body,
Caress'd by the sun's bright beams.
Tempt no gentle night-rambles
Under the moon's cold twilight!
Loathsome toads hold their meetings
Yonder at every crossway.
Fear will they cause thee.
Oh, worthy man,
Fly from this land!
BE void of feeling!
A heart that soon is stirr'd,
Is a possession sad
Upon this changing earth.
Behrisch, let spring's sweet smile
Never gladden thy brow!
Then winter's gloomy tempests
Never will shadow it o'er.
Lean thyself ne'er on a maiden's
Ne'er on the arm,
Misery-fraught, of a friend.
From out his rocky ambush
Upon thee turns
The force of his lynx-like eyes,
Stretches his talons,
On thee falls,
In thy shoulders
Cunningly plants them.
Strong are his skinny arms,
He shaketh thee,
And rends thy frame.
Death 'tis to part,
'Tis threefold death
To part, not hoping
Ever to meet again.
Thou wouldst rejoice to leave
This hated land behind,
Wert thou not chain'd to me
With friendships flowery chains.
Burst them! I'll not repine.
No noble friend
Would stay his fellow-captive,
If means of flight appear.
Of his dear friend's freedom
Gives him freedom
In his dungeon.
Thou go'st,--I'm left.
But e'en already
The last year's winged spokes
Whirl round the smoking axle.
I number the turns
Of the thundering wheel;
The last one I bless.--
Each bar then is broken, I'm free then as thou!
[This song was intended to be introduced in a dramatic poem
entitled Mahomet, the plan of which was not carried out by
Goethe. He mentions that it was to have been sung by Ali towards
the end of the piece, in honor of his master, Mahomet, shortly
before his death, and when at the height of his glory, of which
it is typical.]
SEE the rock-born stream!
Like the gleam
Of a star so bright
High above the clouds
Nourished him while youthful
In the copse between the cliffs.
Young and fresh.
From the clouds he danceth
Down upon the marble rocks;
Then tow'rd heaven
Through the mountain-passes
Chaseth he the colour'd pebbles,
And, advancing like a chief,
Tears his brother streamlets with him
In his course.
In the valley down below
'Neath his footsteps spring the flowers,
And the meadow
In his breath finds life.
Yet no shady vale can stay him,
Nor can flowers,
Round his knees all-softly twining
With their loving eyes detain him;
To the plain his course he taketh,
Join his waters. And now moves he
O'er the plain in silv'ry glory,
And the plain in him exults,
And the rivers from the plain,
And the streamlets from the mountain,
Shout with joy, exclaiming: "Brother,
Brother, take thy brethren with thee,
With thee to thine aged father,
To the everlasting ocean,
Who, with arms outstretching far,
Waiteth for us;
Ah, in vain those arms lie open
To embrace his yearning children;
For the thirsty sand consumes us
In the desert waste; the sunbeams
Drink our life-blood; hills around us
Into lakes would dam us! Brother,
Take thy brethren of the plain,
Take thy brethren of the mountain
With thee, to thy father's arms!
Let all come, then!--
And now swells he
Lordlier still; yea, e'en a people
Bears his regal flood on high!
And in triumph onward rolling,
Names to countries gives he,--cities
Spring to light beneath his foot.
Ever, ever, on he rushes,
Leaves the towers' flame-tipp'd summits,
Marble palaces, the offspring
Of his fullness, far behind.
Cedar-houses bears the Atlas
On his giant shoulders; flutt'ring
In the breeze far, far above him
Thousand flags are gaily floating,
Bearing witness to his might.
And so beareth he his brethren,
All his treasures, all his children,
Wildly shouting, to the bosom
Of his long-expectant sire.
SPIRIT SONG OVER THE WATERS.
THE soul of man
From heaven it cometh,
To heaven it soareth.
And then again
To earth descendeth,
Down from the lofty
Streams the bright flood,
Then spreadeth gently
In cloudy billows
O'er the smooth rock,
And welcomed kindly,
Veiling, on roams it,
Tow'rd the abyss.
Oppose its progress,--
Angrily foams it
Down to the bottom,
Step by step.
Now, in flat channel,
Through the meadowland steals it,
And in the polish'd lake
Wind is the loving
Wooer of waters;
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