“Der Abend” – Caspar David Friedrich, 1820-21.
Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend
Would that I had never left you,
woodlands, lofty and wondrous!
You held me lovingly in your embrace
for many a long, long year.
Where, in your twilit spots,
there was birdsong and silver streams,
there also sprang up many songs
from my bosom, fresh and bright.
Your surging, your echoes,
your never-tiring whispering,
your melodies all
awoke song in my breast.
Here in these wide meadows
everything is desolate and mute to me,
and I gaze up into the blue sky,
looking for shapes in the clouds.
While you compelled song from my breast,
it seldom stirs now,
just as the bird sings only a half song
when parted from tree and leaf.
Rest, my love, in the shade
Of green, darkening night;
The grass rustles on the meadow,
The shadows fan and cool thee
And true love is awake.
Sleep, go to sleep!
Gently rustles the grove,
Eternally am I thine.
Hush, you hidden songs,
And disturb not her sweetest repose!
The flock of birds listens,
Stilled are their noisy songs.
Close thine eyes, my darling,
Sleep, go to sleep;
In the twilight
I will watch over thee.
Murmur on, you melodies,
Rush on, you quiet stream.
Lovely fantasies of love
do these melodies evoke:
Tender dreams swim after them.
Through the whispering grove
Swarm tiny golden bees
which hum thee to sleep.
..This girl’s image speaks to me:
As I dreamt of her for restless ages,
I see her now before my eyes.
I have often lifted my eyes at dead of night,
Longing for a wife.
Satan’s spite left me but a pounding heart
To remind me of my torment.
The dull glow I feel burning here,
Can I in my misery call it love?
Ah, no! It is a yearning for redemption:
would that through such an angel it came true!
As from the mist of times long gone.
I dreamt that I was young and hale again,
It was the mansion in my native land;
I ran along the pathway to the vale,
Ran with Ottilia, racing hand in hand.
How neatly formed, her tiny figure looks!
Those sweet green eyes have such a roguish play,
And on those little feet she stands so firm,
A type of grace and strength’s united sway.
Her voice’s music is so sweet and true
You almost fancy through her heart to see;
And all she says is clever, full of sense;
Her ruddy lips a budding rose might be!
It is not sensuous longing that I feel;
I’m not in love; my senses calm remain,
And yet her manners have a wondrous charm,
And as I kiss her hand I thrill with pain.
Methinks at last I plunked a lily fair,
And gave it to her, saying: from my heart
Accept my troth, Ottilia, be my own,
That I may be as gentle as thou art.
The answer that she gave I ne’er shall know
For I awake to find myself in tears, —
That I am ill and lying on my bed,
Forlorn as I have been these many years.
“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.
The tyrants of the world from hell’s abysm
Summoned the demons of revenge and pride,
The countless hosts in whom they did confide, –
And gathering round the flag of despotism
The priest, the slave, and the liberticide, –
All who had bound men’s souls within their den, –
Tore down the loftiest cedar of the height,
The tree sublime; and, drunk with anger then,
Threatened in ghastly bands our few astonished men.
The little ones, confounded, trembled then
At their appalling fury; and their brow
Against the Lord of Hosts these impious men
Uplifting, sought with Heaven-insulting vow,
The triumph of thy people’s overthrow, –
Their armed hands extending, and their crest
Moving omnipotent, because that thou
Wert as a tower of refuge, to invest
All whom man’s quenchless hope had prompted to resist.
Thou said those insolent and scornful ones;
“Knows not this earth the vengeance of our wrath,
The strength of our illustrious fathers’ thrones?
Or did the Roman power avail? Or hath
Rebellious Greece, in her triumphant path,
Scattered the seeds of freedom on your land?
Italia!Austria!Who shall save you both?
Is it your God? – Ha ha!Shall he withstand
The glory of our might, our conquering right hand?
“Our Rome, now tamed and humbled, into tears
And psalms converts her songs of freedom’s rights;
And for her sad and conquered children fears
The carnage of more Cannae’s fatal fights,
Now Asia with her discord disunites;
Spain threatens with her horrors to asail
All who still harbour Moorish proselytes;
Each nation’s throne a traitor crew doth veil;
And, though in concord joined, what could their might avail?
“Earth’s haughtiest nations tremble and obey,
And to our yoke their necks in peace incline.
And peace, for their salvation, of us pray,
Cry, ‘Peace!’ but that means death, when monarchs sign.
Vain is their hope!Their lights obscurely shine!
Their valiant gone, their virgins in our powers,
Their glories to our sceptres they resign:
From Nile to Euphrates and Tiber’s towers.
Whate’er the all-seeing sun looks down on, all is ours.”
“Thou, Lord! Who wilt not suffer that thy glory
They should usurp who in their might put trust,
Hearing the vauntings of these anarchs hoary,
These holy ones beheld, whose horrid lust
Of triumph did thy sacred altars crust
With blood; nor wouldst thou longer that the base
Should he permitted to oppress thy just,
Then, mocking, cry to Heaven, “Within what place
Abides the God of these? Where hideth he his face?”
For the due glory of thy righteous name,
For the just vengeance of thy race oppressed,
For the deep woes the wretched loud proclaim,
In pieces hast thou dashed the dragon’s crest,
And clipped the wings of the destroying pest:
Back to his cave he draws his poisonous fold,
And trembling hisses; then in torpid breast
Buries his fear:for thou, to Babel sold
Captive, no more on earth thy Zion wilt behold.
Portentous Egypt, now with discord riven,
The avenging fire and hostile spear affright;
And the smoke, mounting to the light of heaven,
O’erclouds her cities in its pall of night:
In tears and solitude she mourns the sight,
But thou, O Graecia! The fierce tyrant’s stay,
The glory of her excellence and might,
Dost thou lament, old Ocean Queen, thy prey,
Nor fearing God, dost seek thine own regenerate day?
Wherefore, ingrate, didst thou adorn thy daughters
In foul adultery with an impious race?
Why thus confederate in the unholy slaughters
Of those whose burning hope is thy disgrace?
With mournful heart, yet hypocritic face,
Follow the life abhorred of that vile crew?
God’s sharpened sword thy beauty shall efface,
Falling in vengeance on thy neck.O, who,
Thou lost one his right hand in mercy shall subdue?
But thou, O pride of ocean! Lofty Tyre!
Whoin thy ships so high and glorious stood,
O’ershadowing earth’s limits, and whose ire
With trembling filled this orb’s vast multitude;
How have ye ended, fierce and haughty brood?
What power hath marked your sins and slaveries foul,
Your neck until this cruel yoke subdued?
God, to avenge us, clouds thy sunlike soul,
And causes on thy wise this blinding storm to roll.
Howl, ships of Tarsus, howl! For, lo! Destroyed
Lies your high hope.Oppressors of the free!
Lost is your strength, your glory is defied.
Thou tyrant-shielder, who shall pity thee?
And thou, O Asia! Who didst bow the knee
To Baal, in vice immerged, who shall atone
For thy idolatries?For God doth see
Thine ancient crimes, who silent prayers have flown
For vengeance unto Heaven before his judgment throne.
Those who behold thy mighty arms when shattered,
And Ocean flowing naked of thy pines,
Over his weary waves triumphant scattered
So long, but now wreck-strewn, in awful signs,
Shall say, beholding thy deserted shrines,
“Who ‘gainst the fearful One hath daring striven?
The Lord of our Salvation their designs
O’erturned, and, for the glory of his heaven,
To man’s devoted race this victory hath given.”
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.