“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.
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.
I came from the house of my mistress bright
And wandered half crazed thro’ the grim midnight;
And as thro’ the churchyard my way I took,
The still graves gave me a solemn look.
From the Minstrel’s grave some bright glance sped,
Twas a flickering ray that the wan moon shed;
And “Brother, I’m coming” was whispered low,
While a pale form rose from the grave below.
‘Twas the Minstrel himself from the grave who crept,
And on to the top of the grave-stone leapt;
With rapid hand he strikes the strings,
And in voice both hollow and harsh he sings:
“Oh! sad and dull, my lute-string, say,
Know ye still the theme that used to sway
The life-blood and enthral it?
Heaven’s bliss — the Angels call it so;
Hell’s pain, it is called by the fiends below,
But Love is what men call it.”
And scarce had the sound of the last word died
When, all around, the graves gaped wide;
And phantoms rose and swayed about
The Minstrel, raising in chorus the shout:
“Love, oh Love, it was thy might
Brought us to this doleful plight,
Closed our lips and sealed our sight,
Wherefore call’st thou in the night?”
And the clamour arises, confused and confounding,
With croaking and creaking, rebound, resounding:
Round the Minstrel circle the madden hordes,
And the Minstrel wildly smites the chords.
“Mad my masters, well, ’tis well
Welcome are ye;
Nought could bar ye
When ye heard my magic spell.
Though from year to year we be
Mouse-still in our coffins, we
Make today a day of glee!
But are we alone? Just see!
We were asses all when living,
Our existence madly giving
To a mad love’s raging fires.
Pastime surely will not fail,
If each spirit tells the tale
Of what brought him from above,
Of his woes
And his throes
In the frenzied chase of Love.”
Then light as the breeze there hopped forth soon
The leanest of phantoms, and hummed this tune:
“A tailor’s ‘prentice steady
With needle and with shears;
I grew expert and ready!
With needle and with shears;
“When my master’s daughter lured me
With needle and with shears;
And through my bosom skewered me
With needle and with shears!”
Then the chorus of spirits laughed long and loud,
And a second stalked solemnly out of the crowd.
“Brigands such as Rinaldini,
Robin Hood and Orlandini,
But Karl Moor the most by far,
These I took for exemplar!
“And I plunged — pray let me show it —
Into Love, in mode heroic,
And a female form divine
Jostled thro’ this brain of mine.
“And my heart and hopes were maddened,
And my love being almost maddened,
I at last dipped fingers rash
In my worthy neighbour’s cash.
“Then some high police curmudgeon
Chose to take the thing in dungeon,
That I dried the tears of grief
With my neighbour’s handkerchief.
“And in good policeman fashion
Marched me off without compassion;
So the gaol stupendous pressed
Me to its maternal breast.
“Thoughts of her! aye, picking oakum
Did voluptuously provoke ’em!
Till Rinaldo came one day
And bore my soul with him away.”
Then all the spirits laughed long and loud,
And a well be-rouged dandy stepped from the crowd.
“I was king of the boards and enchanted
The town in the true lover’s part;
I bellowed, ‘Ye gods,’ and I ranted,
I breathed forth my Aha, from my heart.
“In Romeo I chiefly attracted:
Each Juliette an angel I thought;
Through the part so the life I enacted,
She ne’er understood what I sought.
“When once in the fifth act despairing
‘O my Saint! O my Juliet!’ I cried;
My bodkin relentlessly baring,
I stuck it too deep in my side.”
Then all the spirits laughed long and loud,
And a fourth appeared in a snow-white shroud.
“From his lofty chair the Professor was prosing,
Was prosing while I took a nap serene;
But a thousand times rather than napping or dozing,
By his dear little daughter would I have been.
“From her window she gave me sweet nods as I passed by
My flower of flower, my life’s sole light!
But my flower of flower was plucked at the last by
A Philistine huckster, a wealthy wight.
“Then I cursed all women and scoundrels wealthy,
And some devil’s drug with my wine did blend;
And I pledged King Death in a goblet stealthy.”
He cried, “On my faith, Old Death’s a friend!”
Then all the spirits laughed long and loud;
With a rope round his neck came a fifth from the crowd.
“He reveled and swaggered, the Count o’er his wine,
With his diamonds rare and his daughter divine;
What care I, Sir Count, for your jewels so fine?
Tis your fair little daughter whom I would make mine.
“They both of them lay under bolt, lock and key,
And the Count a whole army of henchmen had he.
What cared I for henchmen, for belt, lock and key?
The rungs of a ladder I mounted with glee.
“So gaily I climbed to my darling’s window,
When savagest swearing is heard from below.
‘Stop, stop, my fine fellow, let me have my share,
I’ve also a fancy for diamonds rare.’
“‘Twas the Count who thus jeered me, and at me he flew,
And shouting, his myrmidons hustled me, too.
‘To hell with your rabble! No thief have you here,
And all I would steal is my own little dear!
“Entreaties availed not, no counsel could aid
In a moment were cords and a gibbet arrayed;
When next the sun came how astonished was he,
To discover me there on the bright gallows-tree!”
Then all the spirits laughed long and loud,
With his head in his hand came a sixth from the crowd.
“Love drove me to the poacher’s trade;
Thro’ forest, gun in hand, I strayed;
In the high trees the raves scoff,
And croak at me: ‘Heads off! Heads off!’
“Oh, could I track some pretty dove,
Home would I bear it to my Love.
Thro’ bush and briar, as thus I thought,
My sportman’s eye the quarry sought.
“What cooing’s that? What billing’s there?
Two tender turtles, I declare.
I crept up close and cocked my gun,
And lo! my own sweetheart was one!
“My dove, my bride, it was in sooth,
Embracing her a stranger youth.
Old marksman, see thy aim be good!
There lay the stranger in his blood.
“Ere long the headsman’s train marched thro’
The gloomy wood, and I marched too,
Chief actor — while the ravens scoff
And croak on high: ‘Heads off! heads off!'”
Then the spirits in merry chorus shout,
And then the Minstrel himself steps out.
And the maniac laughter rang doubly loud,
And circled about him the death-pale crowd;
When the church tower boomed forth One and then
With a shriek they plunged in the graves again.
I lay and slept; slept peacefully,
All pain and care dispelled;
In dreams a vision came to me
The fairest e’er beheld.
Pale as white marble to the view,
A maid of mystery rare,
With pearl-like eyes all brimmed with dew,
And strangely waving hair.
And soft and softly drawing sigh
The maid so marble pale,
She came upon my heart to lie
The maid so marble pale.
Ah! how my breast doth burn and start
And leap with joy and woe;
Nor leaps, nor starts the maiden’s heart,
That heart as cold as snow.
“My heart doth neither bear, nor move,
As very ice ’tis cold;
And yet I know the bliss of love,
Its passion uncontrolled!
“On lip and cheek there blooms no red,
Nor through my heart streams blood;
Yet strive not with such shuddering dread,
For thee I’m meek and good.”
And wilder still she clasped me round,
Till terror made me quail;
When the cock crowed — without a sound
Fled the maid, marble pale.
Yes, I have summoned many
Pale corpses by spells of might,
And now there is not any
Will slink back into the night.
The terror and horror drove from me
The master’s o’erpowering spell;
And so my own spectres o’ercome me,
And drag me back to hell.
Urge me not, ye swart friends, I implore ye!
Hurl me not to the darkness below;
There are many delights yet ‘fore me
In the sheen of our earth’s rosy glow.
For ever must I be straining
After one fair flower near;
What were my whole life’s meaning
If I did not love thee, dear?
Might I only clasp and press her
To my flowing heart once again,
On her cheeks, on her mouth to kiss her
Once only with rapturous pain!
Might I only hear one tender
Word from her lips at that hour,
O spirits, I would surrender
Myself to your gloomy power!
The spirits heard me, bending
Their heads as an awful sign.
Fair sweetheart — to them am I wending;
Dost thou love me — fair sweetheart mine!