A SALON SCENE
Evening: In the festive halls the light of many candles gleams,
Shedding from the mirrors' crystal thousand-fold reflected beams.
In the sea of light are gliding, with a stately, solemn air,
Honored, venerable matrons, ladies young and very fair.
And among them wander slowly, clad in festive garments grand,
Here the valiant sons of battle, there the rulers of the land.
But on one that I see moving every eye is fixed with fear--
Few indeed among the chosen have the courage to draw near.
He it is by whose firm guidance Austrians' fortunes rise or sink,
He who in the Princes' Congress for them all must act and think.
But behold him now! How gracious, courteous, gentle he's to all,
And how modest, unassuming, and how kind to great and small!
In the light his orders sparkle with a faint and careless grace,
But a friendly, gentle smile is always playing on his face
When he plucks the ruddy rose leaves that some rounded bosom
wears, Or when, like to withered blossoms, kingdoms
he asunder tears.
Equally enchanting is it, when he praises golden curls,
Or when, from anointed heads, the royal crowns away he hurls.
Yes, methinks 'tis heavenly rapture, which delights the happy
man whom his words to Elba's fastness or to Munkacs'
Could all Europe now but see him, so engaging, so gallant,
How the ladies, young and old, his winning smiles delight,
enchant; how the church's pious clergy, and the doughty
men of war, and the state's distinguished servants by
his grace enraptured are.
Man of state and man of counsel, since you're in a mood so
kind, since you're showing to all present such a gracious
frame of mind, see, without, a needy client standing waiting
at your door whom the slightest sign of favor will make
And you do not need to fear him; he's intelligent and fair;
Hidden 'neath his homely garments, knife nor dagger does
he wear. 'Tis the Austrian people, open, honest, courteous
as can be. See, they're pleading: "May we ask you for the
freedom to be free?"
In the midst of this space
swept a burning ball,
where stood a man
giant in stature and grand in pride,
who played the violin.
Was this sphere of Light the sun?
I know not.
But in the features of the man I recognized Paganini,
ideally beautified, celestially refined,
atoned for divinely, and smiling.
This body was fresh and fair in vigorous manliness;
a light-blue garment
was about his now far nobler limbs,
the black hair flowed in shining locks on his shoulders,
as he stood there, firm and confidently,
like the sublime statue of a god.
He played the violin,
as if all creation obeyed his tones.
He was the man-planet round whom the universe moved,
ringing with measured joy and in a happy rhythm.
Were those great lights which swept so calmly gleaming
round him stars of heaven?
Were those sweet-sounding harmonies
the music of the spheres,
of which poets and seers have told so much?
Sometimes when with effort I looked forth
and far into the dim distance,
I seemed to see white waving garments,
in which colossal pilgrims wandered in disguise,
with staves in their hands;
The gold heads of their staves were those same great lights
which I had taken for stars.
These pilgrims went in a vast procession
around the great player;
the heads of their staves flashed reflective light
from the tones of his violin;
and the chorals which rang from their lips,
and which I had taken for the
noise of spheres, were really only the
rebounding echoes of his violin.
A nameless passion dwelt in these sounds
like mysterious whispering on water,
or the tones of hunters’ horns by moonlight.
And then burst forth unbridled rejoicing,
as though a thousand bards were sweeping the strings
and raising their voices
in a song of victory.
That was the music which no ear has heard.
Only the heart can dream it
when by Night
it rests against the heart of the beloved.
WALLENSTEIN IN SOLILOQUY
Is it possible?
Is't so? I can no longer what I would?
No longer draw back at my liking? I
Must do the deed, because I thought of it?
And fed this heart here with a dream?
Because I did not scowl temptation from my presence,
Dallied with thoughts of possible fulfillment,
Commenced no movement, left all time uncertain,
And only kept the road, the access open?
By the great God of Heaven! It was not
My serious meaning, it was ne'er resolved.
I but amused myself with thinking of it.
The free-will tempted me, the power to do
Or not to do.
Was it criminal
To make the fancy minister to hope,
To fill the air with pretty toys of air,
And clutch fantastic sceptres moving toward me?
Was not the will kept free? Beheld I not
The road of duty close beside me—but
One little step, and once more I was in it!
Where am I? Whither have I been transported?
No road, no track behind me, but a wall,
Rises obedient to the spells I muttered
And meant not—my own doings tower behind me.
Pauses and remains in deep thought.
A punishable man I seem, the guilt,
Try what I will, I cannot roll off from me;
The equivocal demeanor of my life
Bears witness on my prosecutor's party.
And even my purest acts from purest motives
Suspicion poisons with malicious gloss.
Were I that thing for which I pass, that traitor,
A goodly outside I had sure reserved,
Had drawn the coverings thick and double round me,
Been calm and chary of my utterance;
But being conscious of the innocence
Of my intent, my uncorrupted will,
I gave way to my humors, to my passion:
Bold were my words, because my deeds were not.
Now every planless measure, chance event,
The threat of rage, the vaunt of joy and triumph,
And all the May-games of a heart o’erflowing,
Will they connect, and weave them all together
Into one web of treason; all will be plan,
My eye ne'er absent from the far-off mark,
Step tracing step, each step a politic progress;
And out of all they'll fabricate a charge
So specious, that I must myself stand dumb.
I am caught in my own net, and only force,
Naught but a sudden rent can liberate me.
How else! Since that the heart's unbiased instinct
Impelled me to the daring deed, which now
Necessity, self-preservation, orders.
Stern is the on-look of necessity,
Not without shudder may a human hand
Grasp the mysterious urn of destiny.
My deed was mine, remaining in my bosom;
Once suffered to escape from its safe corner
Within the heart, its nursery and birthplace,
Sent forth into the foreign, it belongs
Forever to those sly malicious powers
Whom never art of man conciliated.
Paces in agitation through the chamber, then pauses, and, after the pause, breaks out again into audible soliloquy.
What is thy enterprise? Thy aim? Thy object?
Hast honestly confessed it to thyself?
Power seated on a quiet throne thou'dst shake,
Power on an ancient, consecrated throne,
Strong in possession, founded in all custom;
Power by a thousand tough and stringy roots
Fixed to the people's pious nursery faith.
This, this will be no strife of strength with strength.
That feared I not. I brave each combatant,
Whom I can look on, fixing eye to eye,
Who, full himself of courage, kindles courage
In me too. 'Tis a foe invisible
The which I fear—a fearful enemy,
Which in the human heart opposes me,
By its coward fear alone made fearful to me.
Not that, which full of life, instinct with power,
Makes known its present being; that is not
The true, the perilously formidable.
O no! it is the common, the quite common,
The thing of an eternal yesterday.
Whatever was, and evermore returns,
Sterling to-morrow, for to-day 'twas sterling!
For of the wholly common is man made,
And custom is his nurse! Woe then to them
Who lay irreverent hands upon his old
House furniture, the dear inheritance
From his forefathers! For time consecrates;
And what is gray with age becomes religion.
Be in possession, and thou hast the right,
. . . ,
Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels
..I have learned to look on Nature . . .
as a presence that disturbs me
with the joy of elevated thoughts;
a sense sublime…
Whose dwelling is the light of Setting Suns,
and the round ocean,
and the living air,
and the blue sky,
and in the mind of Man:
A motion and a spirit that impels
all thinking things,
all objects of all thought,
and rolls through all things.
Therefore am I still a lover of the meadows,
the woods and mountains;
and of all that we behold from this green earth . . .
Well pleased to recognize in nature
and the language of the sense
the anchor of my purest thoughts,
the nurse, the guide,
the guardian of my heart, and soul,
of all my moral being.
William Wordsworth, 1798
That emotions shall rapidly follow,
like blows on blows, or shock on shock;
that love, hatred, jealousy, ambition, pride,
point d’honneur –
in fact, all the passionate feelings
which constantly rage unchained in real life …
shall burst forth in wilder rage.
No, it is simply impossible…
to form any idea of this…
frenzy of passion.
We see its deeds, we hear its words;
but these deeds and words astonish us,
and awaken in us,
a vague presentiment,
but certainly do not give us an exact knowledge
of the feelings which they express
or from which they spring.
He who would truly know
what burning is
must really put his hand
into the fire.