“Lied des gefangenen Jägers”
My hawk is tired of perch and hood.
My idle greyhound loathes his food,
My horse is weary of his stall
And I am sick of captive thrall.
I wish I were, as I have been,
Hunting the hart in forest green,
With bended bow and bloodhound free,
For that’s the life is meet for me.
I hate to learn the ebb of time
From yon dull steeple’s drowsy chime,
Or mark it as the sunbeams crawl,
Inch after inch, along the wall.
The lark was wont my matins ring,
The sable rook my vespers sing;
These towers, although a king’s they be,
Have not a hall of joy for me.
No more at dawning morn I rise,
And sun myself in Ellen’s eyes,
Drive the fleet deer the forest through,
And homeward wend with evening dew.
Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry: A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.” Translated by Joseph Gostick. 1845.
To My old Friend
After long years once more thy writing lay
Before me, and – how wonderful – forth flew
Back on my heart our youthful friendship’s day,
When in the world’s great school we yet were new.
I now am an old man; my hair is grey,
And false shame I have long learned to subdue,
Yes! I will call thee friend, as I did then,
Will hail thee mine, and tell it unto men!
My poor, poor friend! the joggling fiend hath not
Me, as thyself, so treacherously undone;
Still have I striven, still hoped a brighter lot,
And truly, in the end, have little won’
Yet the Grey Man will boast not to have got
Hold of my shadow; nor hath ever done.
Here lies my native shadow, free unfurled:
I never lost my shadow in the world.
Yet, guiltless as a child, on me descended
The scorn men for thy nakedness did feel,
What! is our likeness then so subtly blended?
They shouted, “Where’s thy shadow, O Schlemihl?”
And when I showed it, laughing, they pretended
Blindness, and still laughed endless peal on peal.
What help? We learn in patience to endure;
Nay more – are glad – feel we our conscience pure.
And what then is the shadow? May I know it?
As I myself so oft am catechised?
Thus monstrously, and higher far to show it,
Than the harsh world itself it e’er hath prized?
Yes! and to nineteen thousand days we own it
Which passing o’er us, thus have us advised –
As formerly to shadow we gave being,
We now see life, a shadow, from us fleeing.
And thereupon we give our hands, Schlemihl!
On we will go, and to the Old One leave it;
How little for the whole world will we feel,
But our own union, firm and firmer weave it.
As thus unto our goal we nearer wheel,
Who laughs or blames — we’ll hear not, nor conceive it;
Till, ‘scaped from all the tempests of the deep
We’ll enter port, and sleep our soundest sleep.
Berlin, August 1834
Adelbert von Chamisso
Excerpt, “The Wonderful History of Peter Schlemihl” by Adelbert von Chamisso. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans. Paternoster Row. 1843. Translated by William Howitt. Illustrated by A. Fleischmann.
Nacht und Träume
Holy night, you sink down;
Dreams also float down
As your moonlight fills the room,
Fills the sleeping hearts of men.
They listen with pleasure;
Crying, when the day awakes:
Return, fair night!
Fair dreams, return!
Historic Heidelberg – 1815, Carl Anton Joseph Rottman
An die Sonne
Regal morning sun,
I greet you in your bliss,
I greet you heartily in your splendour!
The hills are already flowing with the gold
of your robes, and the birds
in every wood are all awake.
Everything feels your blessing;
the meadows beneath you sing;
everything becomes harmony:
and you listen with pleasure to the choir
of the merry woods; o listen,
listen also to my song of praise.
Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry: A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices. ” Translated by Joseph Gostick. 1845.
When from the sod and the flowerets spring,
And smile to meet the sun’s bright ray,
When birds their sweetest carols sing,
Is all the morning pride of May.
What lovelier than the prospect there?
Can earth boast anything more fair?
To me it seems an almost heaven,
So beauteous to my eyes
That vision bright is given.
But when a lady chaste and fair,
Noble, and clad in rich attire,
Walks through the throng with gracious sir,
As sun that bids the stars retire –
Then, where are all thy boastings, May?
What hast though beautiful and gay,
Compared with that supreme delight?
We leave thy loveliest flowers,
And watch that lady bright.
Wouldst thou believe me – come and place
Before thee all this pride of May;
Then look but on my lady’s face,
And which is best and brightest say,
For me, how soon (if choice were mine)
This would I take, and that resign,
And say, “Though sweet thy beauties, May
I’d rather forfeit all than lose my lady gay!”
“Aus Goethes Faust: Mephistos Floh Lied”
A king there was once reigning,
Who had a goodly flea,
Him loved he without feigning,
As his own son were he!
His tailor then he summon’d,
The tailor to him goes;
Now measure me the youngster
For jerkin and for hose!
In satin and in velvet
Behold the younker dressed;
Bedizen’d o’er with ribbons,
A cross upon his breast.
Prime minister they made him,
He wore a star of state;
And all his poor relations
Were courtiers, rich and great.
The gentlemen and ladies
At court were sore distressed;
The queen and all her maidens
Were bitten by the pest,
And yet they dared not scratch them,
Or chase the fleas away.
If we are bit, we catch them
And crack them without delay..’
SOLACE IN TEARS
Come, tell me why this sadness now,
When all so glad appears?
One sees it in thine eyes, my friend:
Thou’st surely been in tears.
“And if I go alone and weep,
‘T is grief I can’t impart;
And ‘t is so sweet, when tears will flow,
And ease the heavy heart.”
Thy gladsome friends, they call to thee:
O, come unto our breast!
And whatso’er thy heavy loss,
Confide it to the rest.
“Ye talk and stir, and do not dream
What ‘t is that ails poor me:
Ah, no! ‘t is nothing I have lost,
Though somewhat wanting be.”
Then gather up thy spirits once;
Thy blood is youthsome yet:
To youth like thine there wanteth not
The strength to seek and get.
“Ah, no! to get it, that were vain:
It stands off all too far;
It dwells so high, it shines so fair,
As fair as yonder star.”
The stars we do not seek to have;
We but enjoy their light,
As we look up in ecstasy,
On every pleasant night.
“And I look up in ecstasy,
Full many a lovely day;
So leave me to my mood at night,
To weep while weep I may.”
Translator: John S. Dwight, 1839
I travel silently in the coach -
you are so far from me -
but wherever it might take me,
I remain still with you.
There fly by forests, gorges
and lovely deep valleys,
and larks high in the sky,
as if your voice were calling.
The sun shines merrily
far beyond the area;
I am so happy and so tearful,
and I sing silently inside.
From the mountains, the path goes downward,
the posthorn rings out below;
my soul grows so cheerful
and I greet you from the bottom of my heart.