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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, Edgar Taylor: “Lay of the Minnesingers, or German Troubadours of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries.” London: 1825.
Walther von der Vogelweide, one of the most distinguished of the Minnesingers, was born in the latter half of the Twelfth Century of a noble family belonging to the Upper Thurgau. The name Vogelweide (Bird-meadow) appears to have been taken from that of their castle. The poet led a wandering life; sometimes at the court of Frederic, the Duke of Austria and Stiria; then kindly received by Philip Augustus, King of France.
But he remained long at the magnificent court of the Landgrave of Thuringia, the great patron of the poets of his age, who instituted the poetical contest called the War of Wartburg, in which Walther took part. A work is still preserved called “The Wartburg War,” consisting of the alternate songs of the bards who took part in this poetical joust.
Tradition places the date of this tuneful tourney in the year 1207, the most brilliant epoch of ancient German poetry, not only for the illustrious names which have been handed down to our day, but for the impulse given to the ancient national and heroic poetry by unknown minstrels. Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia, had gathered round his court many of the most famous Minnesingers, who had celebrated in lays and ballads the warlike deeds of his martial house.
Heinrich von Ofterdingen appears as the champion of the Austrian prince. He throws down the gauntlet to all the poets, and offers to maintain the virtues of his hero against all the singer tribe, under penalty of being hanged in case of defeat.
Walther, as court poet of the Thuringian prince, accepts the challenge, and enters the lists against Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Walther regrets that he is obliged to declare against the Duke of Austria and his brave cavaliers; then he praises the King of France, Philip Augustus, in whose reign the poetry of the North of France rivaled the glory of the Provençal muse.
This the poet could testify from his own knowledge, for he had crossed the Rhine and visited the banks of the Seine. But in the course of the contest he partially recants, and sets the gracious Duke above the monarch, calling him the Sun; but the Landgrave he compares to the brightness that precedes the Sun.
Ofterdingen complains of Walther, accuses him of playing an unfair game, and resorts to Klinsor of Hungary to sustain the supremacy of Austria. The other champions call for Stempfel of Eisenach, who stands ready the halter; but Ofterdingen is protected by the Landgravine, who intercedes in his defense.
The place of the scene was the great Wartburg castle, a hall that still exists, and is shown as a monument of the joust…
Walther seems to have adopted all the habits and manners of the wandering minstrels of the times. He traveled from court to court, generally received with honor, tarrying with the German princes who protected the arts of poetry and music, and sometimes at foreign courts, and was welcomed everywhere.
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!”
Preamble to The Book of Songs. Excerpt, The Works of Heinrich Heine, Vol. 17, 15-25. Translated from the German by Charles Godfrey Leland.
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.
“I too had a song I cherished,
But the dear song is o’er;
When the heart in your body is perished,
Then songs are sung no more!”
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!
Preamble to The Book of Songs. Excerpt, The Works of Heinrich Heine, Vol. 17, 1-15. Translated from the German by Charles Godfrey Leland.
Once did I dream of wildest passion’s glow,
Of love-locks, bloom of flowers, and songs of birds,
Of sweetest lips that uttered bitter words,
Of woeful verse married to airs of woe.
Faded and vanished are those visioned time!
Vanished the dreamt-of Shade I loved the best;
Nothing remains but that which, love-possessed,
I shaped and moulded into gentle rhymes.
Thou, orphaned song, was left — thou, too, shalt fade!
Go, seek that Shade which fled with dreams too fleeting;
And, if thou find it, hear it all my greeting,
An airy breath I send to airy Shade.
A dream of awful mystery
Appalled and yet delighted me.
Shapes hideous float before me still,
And in my heart dim horrors thrill.
A wondrous garden was the place
Wherein I thought at ease to pace;
A wealth of flowers the garden had
Which smiled on me, and made me glad.
The little birds were chattering all
Their merry lovers’ madrigal;
The blazing sun shot rays of gold
On bloom of tincture manifold.
And spicy scents from herbage flow;
Softly and sweet the zephyrs blow;
And all things glint and all things smile,
And show their loveliness the while.
Within this blooming land midway
A limpid marble fountain lay,
O’er which a beauteous damsel bent,
On washing some white robe intent.
With eyes so mild, with cheeks so fair,
A pictured saint with golden hair,
And as I gazed it seemed that she
Was strange, and yet well known to me.
The bonny maid, she works away;
She sings a wondrous roundelay:
“Ripple, ripple, brooklet bright,
Wash my linen fair and white.”
Forward I moved, and drawing near,
“Tell me,” I whispered in her ear.
“Oh damsel sweet and wondrous fair,
For whom is this white garment rare?”
“Make ready soon,” swift answered she,
“A shroud I’m washing now — for Thee!”
And lo, the word was hardly said
When like a bubble all was sped.
* * *
The magic lasted. Soon I stood
Within a gloomy, savage wood;
Heav’n high the trees around up-raught,
I stood amazed, and thought and thought.
And hark! dull echoes clang around
Like distant hatchets’ hewing sound;
Through brake and brier I hurried fast,
And reached an open space at last.
Where ‘mid the green the space was cleared
A giant oak his branches reared;
and lo, upon the sturdy oak
That same strange maid dealt many a stroke.
And never resting, blow on blow,
She swung the ax, and murmur’d low:
“Iron clink, iron clank,
Shape a chest of good oak-plank.”
Forward I moved, and drawing near,
“Tell me,” I whispered in her ear,
“Oh little damsel loveliest,
For whom mak’st thou this oaken chest?”
“No time to lose!” swift answer’d she,
“A coffin ’tis I make — for Thee!”
And lo, the word was said
When like a bubble all was sped.
* * *
It stretched out wan, it stretched out wide,
Bare, barest moor on every side;
Scarce knowing what I felt or saw,
I trembling paused in spell-bound awe.
And soon as farther on I hied
A streak of gleaming white I spied;
I sped with all the speed I might,
And lo! it was that damsel bright.
On the wide heath stood the white maid,
Deep delving in the earth, with spade.
To look on her I almost feared,
She was so fair, and yet so weird.
The bonny maid she works away,
She sings a wondrous roundelay:
“Sharp and broad, good spade, good spade,
That a deep broad trench be made.”
Forward I moved, and drawing near,
“Tell me?” I whispered to her ear,
“O damsel sweet and wondrous fair,
What means the hole thou delvest there?”
And swift she answered: “Hush, poor fool!
I dig a grave for Thee, so cool!”
Scarce did these words the fair maid shape,
When lo! the trench was wide agape.
And as I gazed into the hole
Chill horror shivered through my soul.
I plunged into the hideous deep,
And as I plunged — I woke from sleep.
I saw myself all in a dream by night
In glossy evening coat and satin vest,
Ruffles on wrist, as for some gala dressed,
And by me stood my mistress sweet and bright.
“So you’re betrothed,” I murmured with a slight
Inclining. “Pray, fair lady, take my best
Good wishes.” But my throat was tight compressed
By the unfeeling, long drawled tones polite.
And floods of bitter tears streamed forth unbidden
From my beloved’s eyes, and in their breaking.
The vision fair was almost from me hidden.
Oh ye sweet eyes, love-stars so seeming true,
Though ye have lied to me in dreams and waking
Often, how gladly still I trust in you!
I saw in dreams a man-kin small and sprightly,
Who walked with ell-long steps, on stilts as ’twere,
Dainty in broadcloth, linen white and fair,
But who within was coarse, unclean, unsightly.
Within he was an object to distress ye,
But dignity without, beyond compare!
He swaggered bold of what he’d do and dare,
And seemed a man to bully and oppress ye.
“And knowst though who it is? Come quick and see!”
So spoke the god of dreams and showed to me
A pictured vision in a mirror then.
Before an altar that small man stood still,
My Love beside him; both replied: “I will,”
And all Hell’s laughing demons yelled: “Amen!”
What makes my mad blood rave and rush?
What makes my heart to flame and flush?
My blood doth boil and flame and dart,
And scorching flame devours my heart.
My blood is pulsing wild and mad
Because of that vile dream I had.
The son of Night approach’d me dim,
And led me gasping forth with him.
He led me to a palace bright
With blazing torch and taper-light.
‘Mid sounding harps, ‘mid stir and din,
I reached the hall — I entered in.
There was a wedding revelry;
The guests sat round the board in glee.
And when the bridal pair I spied,
Ah, woe! my darling was the bride.
It was my winsome Love in sooth,
And for the groom, a stranger youth.
I crept behind her chair of state,
And hardly breathing, there I wait.
The music swelled; I stood amazed,
The loud delights my spirits dazed:
The bride’s glance was supremely blest,
And both her hands the bridegroom pressed.
The bridegroom brims his beaker high,
And drinks and gives it lovingly
To her, who thanks with sweet low laugh.
Ah woe! my red blood did she quaff?
The bride took up an apple fair
And gave it to the bridegroom there;
He took his knife and cut it free.
Ah woe! it was the heart of me!
Their glances met a long sweet space;
He clasps the bride in keen embrace;
Her cheeks so rosy red kissed he.
Ah woe! chill Death was kissing me!
The tongue within my mouth was lead,
No single word could I have said.
Loud music sounded thro’ the hall,
The dainty bride-pair led the ball!
I stood there silent as the dead,
The nimble dances round me sped.
One low-toned word he whispers next;
She blushes, but she is not vext!
In sweetest dream, in stillest Night,
My love came by enchantment’s might,
As by enchantment’s might she crept
To the small chamber where I slept.
I gazed on her, of vision mild!
I gazed on her, she softly smiled;
My heart swelling high that smile to see,
And reckless words stormed forth from me:
“Take all, take all things that are mine!
Oh best beloved, all shall be thine,
So I may be thy paramour
Till cock-crow from the midnight hour!”
She gazed with loving sad surprise,
Her inmost heart within her eyes,
And low entreating murmured she:
“Yield thy salvation unto me!”
“To thee the life I hold so dear,
My youth, my blood, with joy and cheer,
Oh angel maiden, shall be given,
But never more my hope of Heaven.”
Swiftly my lips repelled her prayer,
But ever lovelier bloomed she there,
And ever more entreated she:
“Yield thy salvation unto me!”
I sounded like a hopeless moan;
Into my being’s depth was thrown
A sea of fire all tempest-tossed;
My breath came thick — it ceased almost.
White angels, glorious to behold,
first shone with haloes bright as gold;
But then a crew of goblins foul
Rushed wildly up against my soul.
They wrestled with the angels all,
They drove away the angles all;
And before long the swarthy crew,
Like films of mist had vanished too.
I was near death with sheer delight,
My arms were round my darling bright;
She nestled to me like a roe,
And yet she wept with wildest woe.
The fair child weeps, I well know why;
My kisses still the rosebud’s cry;
“Forbid, fair child, thy tears to flow,
Surrender to my love’s fierce glow.”
“Surrender to my love’s fierce flow!”
My blood grew sudden ice, for lo!
The earth itself with crash and start
Before my feet gaped wide apart.
From the swart gulf the swarthy crew
Arose; the fair child’s colour flew;
The fair child from my arms was gone,
And I was standing all alone.
Then in fantastic circle hurled,
The swarthy crew around me whirled;
Nearer to clutch me surged the crowd,
And scornful laughter bellowed loud.
The lessening circle hemmed me round;
Still did that burthen dread resound;
“Salvation was renounced by thee,
Ours art thou for Eternity.”
The price has been paid thee, why palterest thou?
Oh black-blooded fiend, why palterest now?
See here in my chamber, fretfully wait,
and midnight’s at hand, ’tis the bride who is late.
The breezes blow chill from the churchyard side;
Ye winds, have ye happened to see my wee bride?
The hosts of pale shadows around me press,
They curtsy with grinning and nodding — Oh yes!
Speak up, what message bringst thou to me,
Swart rogue in the flame-red livery?
“I announce the illustrious company near,
With their chariots and dragons they soon will be here.”
Grey mannikin, darling, hey, what is your will?
O dead baccalaureus, waiting here still?
He eyes me with speechless and troubled gaze,
And shakes his head, and goes back his ways.
My shaggy familiar, why purr and stare?
Why do the eyes of black tom-cat glare?
Why howl the long-loose-haired women? and why
Does the ancient nurse croon my lullaby?
Madam nurse, bide at home with your sing-song today,
‘Tis long since I needed a cradle-lay;
Today ’tis my wedding-feast that is planned,
And see where the comely guests are at hand.
That’s capital, gentlemen! What are ye at,
Each bearing his head in his hand, not his hat!
Ye sprawling-legged creatures in gallows clothes,
What makes ye so late? Not a breath of wind blows.
And see on her broom-stick old mother-witch rides;
Oh bless thy son, mother, whatever betides.
In the dead-white face, the lips quiver then,
And she cries out: “For ever and ever. Amen!”
Twelve wind-dried musicians come loitering in;
One halting blind crone tunes up her violin;
And the famous Jack-pudding, half yellow, half black,
Comes bearing the sexton a-pick-a-back.
Then tripping twelve nuns from their convent advance.
And the leering old procuress leads on the dance;
Twelve brawny backed parsons come trooping along,
And chant with mock reverence a scandalous song.
Old clothes-man, you’re black in the face; shout not so,
No second-hand coat wards the flames off below.
For ever and gratis there hell-fires will burn;
And for wood, great and little men’s bones serve the turn.
The flower girls, all humped and awry, gather round,
And head over heels thro’ the chamber they bound;
Hoho! ye owl faces with grasshopper shanks,
I’ll stop all your clatter and mountebank’s pranks.
And Hell universal has broke loose indeed,
And, howling and scowling, increases the breed,
and the waltz of damnation now breaks on the ear,
Hush, hush! for my love is about to appear.
Ye wretches, be still, or get out of the way,
I can scarce hear a word of all that I say.
Hark! listen again! are not wheels there outside?
Come forward, cook-maid, throw the gates wide.
Fair welcome, my fairest, how are you today?
Sir Parson, you’re welcome; be seated, I pray.
Sir Parson with tail and with hoofs like a horse,
I’m our reverence’s faithfulest servant, of course.
Fair bride, why art standing so silent and wan?
Sir Parson, proceed with the service anon.
I pay him a costly, a blood-costing fee,
But so that I win you that’s child’s play to me.
Kneel down, my sweet bride, by my side, by my side shalt thou kneel.
She kneels and she smiles — ah, the rapture I feel!
She sinks on my heart, on my big heaving breast,
And with shuddering rapture I hold her tight pressed.
The waves of her gold tresses flow round us both;
On my heart beats the heart of the maid, nothing loth;
Both hearts are a-beating with woe and delight,
and high to the heavens they both take their flight.
Our hearts are afloat on a sea of delight
Oh high, far above us, in God’s holy height;
But here on our heads there is horror and dread,
For here the vile hands of dark hell are outspread.
‘Twas the dark son of Midnight himself who hath played
The part of the parson, who blessed and who prayed;
From a blood-besprent book he drones chapter and verse,
His prayer is blaspheming, his blessing is curse.
There are hubbub and riot and groans more and more,
Like thunder in heaven, storm-waves on the shore.
And sudden the blue lightning flashes, and then
The witch cries: “For ever and ever. Amen!”
To be continued...
Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.
Had Napoleon lost the battle of Marengo, it is safe to say he never would have worn the crown of France. A return to Paris, defeated in Italy, meant for him a forced retirement from the head of National affairs and the substitution of Carnot, or some other sturdy republican in his place. With such a change, at that time, Waterloo, in all human probability would never have been fought, and “Napoleon at St. Helena” would never have become history.
The escape was a narrow one. In the space of half an hour, what appeared to be a crushing defeat was turned into a glorious victory. To Desaix’s opportune arrival upon the field and to Kellerman’s masterly cavalry charge, a great share of the glory of that day is due. The victory won was decisive and the campaign ended, with the close of the battle. Within two months after leaving Paris, Napoleon returned – again the savior of France.
The campaign of 1800 will ever be recorded as one of the most brilliant achievements in history, and the one which bore the mightiest results to the man who planned and carried it out to a successful issue.
Battaile de Marengo
by Louis Francois Lejeune
The Battle of Marengo
From flattering crowds, and laurel crowns,
To muse in thought profound,
An evening’s hour I sometimes seize,
And sigh beneath the Western breeze,
Which o’er these torn demolish’d trees,
Floats awfully around.
My friend, how mournful are these plains;
How deep the solemn silence reigns,
Where nature lately smil’d!
Yonder where tulips blooming stood,
And roses blush’d around;
Gaunt mastiffs gorge, on lapper’d blood,
All around for miles, tremendous ruin’s spread!
By whom? You’ll cry:
Heaven, I reply.
Melas and I.
Were but the instruments, by whom whole nations bled!
Friend L, to you, on trembling wing,
The muse in shudd’ring tones shall sing,
Thalia’s self shall tell;
Shall paint that bloody scene, that dreadful sight,
Which stopp’d the songs in heaven, and turn’d the day to night,
And made a pause in hell!
Seraphs, from heaven’s high battlements,
Look’d down, and dropp’d a tear.
Wrap’d round with smoke, form’d gloom, the sun
Gleam’d with a blacken’d red!
While devils, thinking time was done,
That God, to finish had begun,
And the last hour at last was come,
Darted from earth, swift to their home,
And hid in hell for fear!
When from the slumbers of the night,
At morning light I rose,
Seem’d kindling to a flame;
Impell’d by heaven, my horse I sprung,
And bounded to the plain.
Then what a sight my wondering eyes beheld!
Austria’s lesions tow’ring o’er the field!
Compact and strong,
The dreadful throng,
Mov’d firmly on;
As if to force the Gaulic lines, or storm the gates of Death!
If that’s your mind, exclaim’d my soul,
Hungary’s passing bell may toll,
For here in blood your chiefs shall roll,
And pant away their breath.
Along Bormida’s broken hills,
Between the river and the north,
To keep our foes from marching forth,
Our army held its posts;
The spacious plain, that lay between
Those hills and deep Bormida’s stream,
Roar’d with the Austrian hosts.
One noble pass, nature had here supplied;
A smooth defile some hundred paces wide.
At all these posts our lines were thin,
For brave Desaix, with half the men,
Lay in reserve behind.
But seeing now, the hour was come,
When all was lost and all was won,
I cried, “Let swiftest couriers run,
And all our powers be joined.”
Meantime, the Austrian phalanx form’d
In terrible array;
Proud Melas, in refulgent arms,
Rides through his host, their courage warms,
And cries “Behold the day:
Behold the day, by Heaven design’d,
To crush th’ oppressors of mankind!
Be men this day, and down the tyrant’s hurl’d.
This day, the Corsican comes down;
This day we ransom Capet’s Crown,
And peace restore unto a bleeding world!”
This said, to eighty thousand men,
The bloody word was given;
Whose dread reply embowell’d air,
Shook earth, and enter’d heaven!
In haste, through Gallia’s lines I rode,
Along the dreadful van!
With military grandeur swell’d,
I scarcely felt as man!
To ardent warriors, loud I cried:
“Ye sons of France, ye heroes tried
Beneath the burning sun,
Who thrice have thunder’d down the Alps,
And Italy o’errun:
Ye shakers of Vienna’s wall!
To you, your former glory calls:
I’m too immense for faith, without renewed proof.
In thunder, then, convince the world,
Your standard over conquer’d Nile unfurl’d,
That mighty Charles and Wurmser overthrown,
Those proud defenders of a tyrant’s throne,
And Joseph hiring carts, to move his home,
Were but the opening wonders of your youth.”
On this, the horrid scene began,
And the dread tempest fell:
Twas then, Marengo’s thunders roar’d,
Down to the gates of hell!
For three long hours, the flame, the roar,
The dying screams, the streams of gore,
Waited on death, triumphing o’er
The undecided field.
At length o’er Austria’s Eagles victory hung,
My unsupported legions were o’ercome –
And all the chance, seem’d now from France,
Either to die, or yield.
This helpless situation, flow’d
From my mistake alone;
For when I bid the trumpets sound,
I thought Desaix was near;
When O, alas! Almost too late I found,
His legions lay full three leagues in the rear!
Of all the dreadful hours I’ve seen,
Pregnant with nations’ fates,
The muse yet never witness’d one,
Like that she now relates?
On either hand, our wings were turn’d;
The centre only, stood;
Guarding the dread defile, which roll’d
With rivulets of blood!
Upon the right, a strange tremendous sound
Was heard, like thousands in despair:
Each, in a panic scream.
Not quite, but half, by thund’ring cannons drown’d,
It died away, along Bormida’s stream,
Like the dire wailings of the unhappy dead,
A sinking down to worlds unknown,
With terror, and with dread!
Had Melas one decisive charge
Made through the hollow way,
Scarce heaven itself, could have retriev’d
The fortunes of the day.
But thinking all our powers were join’d,
Restrained by heaven or fear;
He sent his forces three miles round,
To take us in the rear.
Not knowing, all that stopp’d his progress then
Was barely just six thousand weary men!
On whom for fear, lest we should charge,
He made his cannon roar—
Vomiting death amongst our ranks,
Till down, around their gasping dead;
Flaoted the Gaulic gore!
‘Twas in this dreadful hour, I rose
Above my former fame;
From friends, obtesting heaven, I would retire;
I broke, and brav’d the whole Austrian fire,
Across the bleeding plain.
From rank to rank, on every side I flew,
Serenely calm; “My friends,” I cried,
“Desaix is just in view.”
The bosom of the earth was tore
Beneath my courser’s feet –
Whole platoons dropp’d, amidst their gore –
The shiver’d trees, in fragments fell around,
And join’d the cumbrous carnage of the ground:
While horrid devastation rag’d along,
And ruin seem’d complete!
At length like showers, to sun-burst flowers,
The great deliverers came;
Raging they broke, through fire and smoke,
And hillocks of the slain!
Transported at the long wished aid,
My daring plans were in a moment laid.
The troops, I in a solid column form’d;
Resolv’d to send, down to the world beneath,
Thousands, to tell the Austrian lines were storm’d,
Or Bonaparte had resign’d his breath!
But one half hour, these grand arrangements took;
During which time, disgorging flame,
Red globes, and death, across the plain,
One hundred cannons, roar’d amain;
Till heaven and earth resounding run –
With the dire clamour shook!
At length, prepar’d, the bleeding front,
To right and left I wheel’d;
And bade the column, form’d behind,
Rush thund’ring to the field.
The horrid pas de charge, at once was given,
Its tones re-murmur’d from the vault of heaven;
While like tremendous rolling flames,
By raging tempests driven,
The column in a torrent pour’d
On the Austrian host;
O’er bellowing cannons, and the dead;
O’er those that fought, and those that fled;
Like Aetna’s burning lava red,
Roaring, resistless, down it spread;
With bayonets plunge, down to Pluto’s dreary coasts
Thousands , who are now wandering there,
Pale, melancholy ghosts!
Thus ended this tremendous day
Of terrible renown;
‘T was thus, I snatch’d bright victorious prize,
Perhaps, the Imperial Crown,
But while we triumph, tears should pour,
For brave Desaix is gone:
As down upon the foes he bore,
Leading the van, thund’ring before,
Fate flew, and down amidst the gore,
He fell without a groan!
Hem’d round with glory, lo! He dies;
And worlds must do the same!
Even then, o’er nature’s smoking wreck,
Deathless, shall live the grandeur of his name,
Borne on Marengo’s dreadful sound
To everlasting fame.
Death of General Desaix
Excerpt from DE L’ALLEMAGNE – “Germany” by Madame Germaine de Staél-Holstein (published 1810, the 1813 John Murray translation), Vol. I, 265-272
That which was wanting to Klopstock was a creative imagination: he gave utterance to great thoughts and noble sentiments in beautiful verse; but he was not what might be called an artist. His intentions are weak; and the colours in which he invests them have scarcely even that plenitude of strength that we delight to meet with in poetry, and in all other arts which are expected to give to fiction the energy and originality of nature. Klopstock loses himself in the ideal: Goethe never gives up the earth; even in attaining the most sublime conceptions, his mind possesses vigour not weakened by sensibility.
Goethe might be mentioned, as the representative of all German literature; not that there are no writers superior to him in different kinds of composition, but that he unites in himself alone all that distinguishes German genius; and no one besides is so remarkable for a peculiar species of imagination which neither Italians, English or French have ever attained.
Goethe having displayed his talents in composition of various kinds, the examination of his works will fill the greatest part of the following chapters; but a personal knowledge of the man who possesses such an influence over the literature of his country will, it appears to me, assist us the better to understand that literature.
Goethe possesses superior talents for conversation; and whatever we may say, superior talents ought to enable a man to talk. We may, however, produce some examples of silent men of genius: timidity, misfortune, disdain, or ennui, are often the cause of it; but, in general, extent of ideas and warmth of soul naturally inspires the necessity of communicating our feelings to others; and those men who will not be judged by what they say, may not deserve that we should interest ourselves in what they think.
When Goethe is induced to talk, he is admirable; his eloquence is enriched with thought; his pleasantry is, at the same time, full of grace and of philosophy; his imagination is impressed by external objects, as was that of the ancient artists; nevertheless his reason possesses but too much the maturity of our own times. Nothing disturbs the strength of his mind, and even the defects of his character, ill-humour, embarrassment, constraint, pass like clouds round the foot of that mountain on the summit of which his genius is placed.
What is related of the conversation of Diderot may give some idea of that of Goethe; but, if we may judge by the writings of Diderot, the distance between these two men must be infinite. Diderot is the slave of his genius; Goethe ever holds the powers of his mind in subjection: Diderot is affected, from the constant endeavour to produce effect; but in Goethe we perceive disdain of success, and that to a degree that is singularly pleasing, even when we have most reason to find fault with his negligence.
Diderot finds it necessary to supply by philanthropy his want of religious sentiments: Goethe is inclined to be more bitter than sweet; but, above all, he is natural; and in fact, without this quality, what is there in one man that should have powers to interest another?
Goethe possesses no longer that resistless ardour which inspired him in the composition of Werter; but the warmth of his imagination is still sufficient to animate everything. It might be said, that he is himself unconnected with life, and that he describes it merely as a painter. He attaches more value, at present, to the pictures he presents to us, than to the emotions he experienced; time has rendered him a spectator. While he still bore a part in the active scenes of the passion, while he sufficed, in his own person, from the perturbations of the heart, his writings produced a more lively impression.
As we do not always best appreciate our own talents, Goethe maintains at present, that an author should be calm even when he is writing a passionate work; and that an artist should equally be cool, in order the more powerfully to act on the imagination of his readers. Perhaps, in early life, he would not have entertained this opinion; perhaps he was then enslaved by his genius, rather than its master; perhaps he then felt, that the sublime and heavenly sentiment being of transient duration in the heart of man, the poet is inferior to the inspiration which animates him, and cannot enter into judgment on it, so losing it at once.
At first we are astonished to find coldness, and even some stiffness, in the author of Werter; but when we can prevail on him to be perfectly at his ease, the liveliness of his imagination makes the restraint which we first felt entirely disappear. He is a man of universal mind, and impartial because universal; for there is no indifference in his impartiality: his is a double existence, a double degree of strength, a double light, which, on all subjects, enlightens at once both sides of the question. When it is necessary to think, nothing arrests his course; neither the age in which he lives, nor the habits he has formed, nor his relations with social life: his eagle glance falls decidedly on the object he observes.
If his soul had developed itself by actions, his character would have been more strongly marked, more firm, more patriotic; but his mind would not have taken so wide a range over every different mode of perception; passions or interests would then have traced out to him a positive path.
Goethe takes pleasure in his writings, as well as in his conversation, to break the thread which he himself has spun, to destroy the emotions he excites, to throw down the image he has forced us to admire. When, in his fictions, he inspires us with interest for any particular character, he soon shows the inconsistencies which are calculated to detach us from it. He disposes of the poetic world, like a conqueror of the real earth; and thinks himself strong enough to introduce, as nature sometimes does, the genius of destruction into his own works.
If he were not an estimable character, we should be afraid of that species of superiority which elevates itself above all things; which degrades, and then again raises up, which affects us, and then laughs at our emotion; which affirms and doubts by turns, and always with the same success.
I have said, that Goethe possessed in himself alone, all the principal features of German genius; they are all indeed found in him to an eminent degree: a great depth of ideas, that grace which springs from imagination, a grace far more original that than which is formed by the spirit of society; in short, a sensibility sometimes bordering on the fantastic, but far that very reason the more calculated to interest readers, who seek in books something that may give variety to their monotonous existence, and in poetry, impressions which may supply the want of real events.
If Goethe were a Frenchman, he would be made to talk morning till night: all the authors, who were contemporary with Diderot, went to derive ideas from his conversation, and afforded him at the same time an habitual enjoyment, from the admiration he inspired. The Germans know not how to make use of their talents in conversation, and so few people even among the most distinguished, have the habit of interrogating and answering, that society is scarcely at all esteemed among them; but the influence acquired by Goethe is not the less extraordinary.
There are a great many people in Germany who would think genius discoverable even in the direction of a letter, if it were written by him. The admirers of Goethe form a sort of fraternity, in which the rallying words serve to discover the adepts to each other. When foreigners also profess to admire him, they are rejected with disdain, if certain restrictions leave room to suppose that they have allowed themselves to examine works, which nevertheless gain much by examination.
No man can kindle such fanaticism without possessing great faculties, whether good or bad; for there is nothing but power, of whatever kind it may be, which men sufficiently dread to be excited by it to a degree of love so enthusiastic.
To be continued …
Weimar’s Golden Days
Schiller vor Herzoginmutter Amalie, dem Herzogspaar Karl August und Luise, Goethe, Wieland, Herder, Musäus, den Brüdern Humboldt u.a. Farbdruck nach Gemälde von Theobald Reinhold Freiherr von Oer, 1860; Schloss Bellevue, Berlin.
From Thomas Carlyle’s “German Romance: Specimens of its Chief Authors; with Biographical and Critical Notices.” Vol. II, 1827. Excerpt: “The Golden Pot” by E.T. A. Hoffmann.
The Spirit looked upon the water, and the water moved itself, and chafed in foaming billows, and plunged thundering down into the Abysses, which opened their black throats, and greedily swallowed it. Like triumphant conquerors, the granite Rocks lifted their cleft peaky crowns, protecting the Valley, till the Sun took it into its paternal bosom, and clasping it with its beams as with growing arms, cherished it and warmed it.
Then a thousand germs, which had been sleeping under the desert sand, awoke from their deep slumber, and stretched out their little leaves and stalks toward the Sun their father’s face; and the smiling infants in green cradles, the flowrets rested in their buds and blossoms, til they too, awakened by their father, decked themselves in lights, which their father, to please them, tinted in a thousand varied hues.
But in the midst of the Valley was a black Hill, which heaved up and down like the breast of man when warm longing swells it. From the Abysses mounted steaming vapours, and rolled themselves together into huge masses, striving malignantly to hide the father’s face: but he called the Storm to him, which rushed thither, and scattered them away; and when the pure sunbeam rested again on the bleak Hill, there started from it, in the excess of its rapture, a glorious Fire-Lily, opening its fair leaves like gentle lips to receive the kiss of its father.
And now came a gleaming Splendour into the Valley; it was the youth Phosphorus; the Lily saw him, and begged, being seized with warm longing love: “Be mine for ever, fair youth! For I love thee, and must die if thou forsake me!” Then spake the youth Phosphorus: “I will be thine, thou fair flower; but then wilt thou, like a naughty child, leave father and mother; thou wilt know thy playmates no longer, wilt strive to be greater and stronger than all that now rejoices with thee as thy equal.
The longing which now beneficently warms thy whole being, will be scattered into a thousand rays, and torture and vex thee; for sense will bring forth senses; and the highest rapture, which the Spark I cast into thee kindles, will be the hopeless pain wherein thou shalt perish, to spring up anew in foreign shape. This spark is Thought!”
“Ah!” mourned the Lily, “Can I not be thine in this glow, as it now burns in me; not still be thine? Can I love then more than now; could I look on thee as now, if thou wert to annihilate me?” Then the youth Phosphorus kissed the Lily; and as if penetrated with light, it mounted up in flame, out of which issued a foreign Being, that hastily flying from the Valley, roved forth into endless Space, no longer heeding its old playmates, or the youth it had loved.
This youth mourned for his lost beloved; for he too loved her, it was love to the fair Lily that had brought him to the lone Valley; and the granite Rocks bent down their heads in participation of his grief.
But one of these opened its bosom, and there came a black-winged Dragon flying out of it, and said: “My brethren, the Metals are sleeping in there; but I am always brisk and waking, and will help thee.”
Dashing up and down on its black pinions, the Dragon at last caught the Being which had sprung from the Lily; bore it to the Hill, and encircled it with his wing; then was it the Lily again; but Thought, which continued with it, tore asunder its heart; and its love for the youth Phosphorus was a cutting pain, before which, as if breathed on by poisonous vapours, the flowrets which had once rejoiced in the fair Lily’s presence, faded and died.
The youth Phosphorus put on a glittering coat of mail, sporting with the light in a thousand hues, and did battle with the Dragon, who struck the cuirass with his black wing, till it rung and sounded; and at this loud clang the flowrets again came to life, and like variegated birds fluttered round the Dragon, whose force departed; and who, thus being vanquished, hid himself in the depths of the Earth.
The Lily was freed; the youth Phosphorus clasped her, full of warm longing, of heavenly love; and in triumphant chorus, the flowers, the birds, nay even the high granite Rocks, did reverence to her as the Queen of the Valley.”
ANNETTE ELIZABETH VON DROSTE-HÜLSHOFF
Translated by Charles Wharton Stork
DER KNABE IM MOOR
'Tis an eerie thing o'er the moor to fare
When the eddies of peat-smoke justle,
When the wraiths of mist whirl here and there
And wind-blown tendrils tussle,
When every step starts a hidden spring
And the trodden moss-tufts hiss and sing
'Tis an eerie thing o'er the moor to fare
When the tangled reed-beds rustle.
The child with his primer sets out alone
And speeds as if he were hunted,
The wind goes by with a hollow moan--
There's a noise in the hedge-row stunted.
'Tis the turf-digger's ghost, near-by he dwells,
And for drink his master's turf he sells.
"Whoo! whoo!" comes a sound like a stray cow's groan;
The poor boy's courage is daunted.
Then stumps loom up beside the ditch,
Uncannily nod the bushes,
The boy running on, each nerve a twitch,
Through a jungle of spear-grass pushes.
And where it trickles and crackles apace
Is the Spinner's unholy hiding-place,
The home of the cursèd Spinning-witch
Who turns her wheel 'mid the rushes.
On, ever on, goes the fearsome rout,
In pursuit through that region fenny,
At each wild stride the bubbles burst out,
And the sounds from beneath are many.
Until at length from the midst of the din
Comes the squeak of a spectral violin,
That must be the rascally fiddler lout
Who ran off with the bridal penny!
The turf splits open, and from the hole
Bursts forth an unhappy sighing,
"Alas, alas, for my wretched soul!"
'Tis poor damned Margaret crying!
The lad he leaps like a wounded deer,
And were not his guardian angel near
Some digger might find in a marshy knoll
Where his little bleached bones were lying.
But the ground grows firmer beneath his feet,
And there from over the meadow
A lamp is flickering homely-sweet;
The boy at the edge of the shadow
Looks back as he pauses to take his breath,
And in his glance is the fear of death.
'Twas eerie there 'mid the sedge and peat,
Ah, that was a place to dread, O!
Annette Elizabeth von Droste-Hulshoff
Set by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), “Liebesbotschaft”, op. 36 no. 6, from “Sechs Gedichte aus dem Liederbuch eines Malers, No. 6.” Translation © Emily Ezust, Lied & Art Song Texts Page.
Adrian Ludwig Richter – Mädchen auf der Wiese – 1823
Clouds that hurry toward the East,
where the one who’s mine is waiting,
all my wishes, my hopes and songs
shall fly with you on your wings,
shall steer you, hurrying ones, to her
so that my chaste love
shall think of me with loyal love.
Sing morning dreams to her still,
float gently in the garden,
sink like dew into the shadowy room,
strew pearls upon the flowers and trees
so that to that wonderful being, if she passes by,
all the merry blossoms
shall open with even brighter splendor.
And in the evening, in the silent calm,
spread the sinking sun’s light upon her!
It shall paint you purple and gold;
And in the sea, bright with glow and sunbeams,
the little ship plies its way,
so that she believes singing angels
are preserving her.
Yes, it may well be angels,
if my heart were pure like hers;
All my wishes, my hopes and songs
are drawn there on your wings,
are steered there by you, hurrying ones,
to my chaste love,
so that I alone may think of her.
.Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.
EBB AND FLOOD
The maiden paced along the shore,
Around her heart ‘twas well, ‘twas sore,
She spake: “thou wild, thou vasty sea,
What is’t inconstant driveth thee
That now in ebb, in flood again
Thy vex’d heart can no rest obtain?”
Thereat the sea its answer brought,
“It is the Moon who this hath wrought,
When her bright track approacheth me
I hasten heavenwards with glee,
But when her form retreating flies
I follow her with longing sighs.”
The maiden pensive whispered low:
“Now, heart, thy secret well I know.
Thee too doth rule a lofty star
Which now is near, and now is far.
T’wards him, all joyous thou dost strain,
For him, all trembling, pin’st again.
Flow on, O sea, O heart, ebb still!
And both is good, and both is ill.
When Love no more the world doth sway,
What resteth? All hath passed away.
Come bitter joy, come sorrow suave,
And rock me on thy changeful wave!”
Methinks, thou surely must be feeling
How oft, how true thou’rt in my mind,
What time in summer night comes stealing
As ’twere my voice upon the wind.
As though in every star that’s burning
Thou read’st as in an open book
My greetings still and full of yearning;
Not else thy absence could I brook.
E’en now, the blue sea waves careering
’Twixt thee and me a barrier stand,
Thou for the fatherland art steering,
I linger still on foreign strand,
No bridge the waste of waters spanneth,
No path to lead me to thy side,
Time’s iron hand may access banneth
And dreary days my plaint deride.
And yet, my ground I’ve not forsaken,
My anchor ground in storm’s domain,
I’ll trust my love for thee unshaken,
Which draws as with magnetic chain.
Thou feel’st it, in thy dreams thou’st wondered,
My form before thine eyes doth play,
Thus, spite of paths too early surrendered
I know that we shall meet one day.
Excerpt, “Gems of German Lyrics: Consisting of Selections from Ruckert, Lenau, Chamisso, Freiligrath and Others.” Translated into English Verse by Henry D. Wireman. 1869.
NIGHTINGALE AND ROSE
Sang with sweetness in the vale,
Thus, the pretty Nightingale:–
“Oh, so fair and wondrous sweet
Art thou, Rose, in thy retreat!
I, in what my heart abounds,
Must pour out in fleeting sounds,
Which are borne with mighty sway
On the wings of zephyrs light;
Soon are they
In their flight.
Oh, that I, what will not stay,
Only could in form array!
Never then should cease, as now,
Sounds which swell this heart of mine:
They should shine
Bright as thou,
Every note a leaf or spray,
Every song a rose of May!
Therefore, Rose, I love but thee
Rose then, wafting fragrance pure,
Softly whispered, shy, demure:–
“Oh, how sweetly, Nightingale,
Singest thou o’er hill and dale!
That which fills me with delight,
That which makes me glow so bright,
Gently through the zephyr sighs,
’Twill not stay,
Soon it dies.
What is born without a tone,
Soon forgotten, hardly known,
What my heart to please is fain:–
Could I loud and clear it sing,
It should ring,
Like thy strain,
Fragrance—song of Nightingale
Warbling over hill and dale!
Nightingale, I love but thee
Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.” Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville. 1853.
O let me read thee well,
Thy heart I fain would see.
Oh what a magic spell
Speaks in thy voice to me!
So many phrases rush
At random in our ear,
And when their echoes hush,
The heart is cold and drear.
E’en when thy distant voice,
Doth in my ear resound.
I listen and rejoice,
And ne’er forget the sound.
I tremble as I glow,
With flames I cannot quell;
My heart, thy voice, they know,
Each other but too well.
Excerpt, The Works of Heinrich Heine, Vol. 1, 157-160. Translated from the German by Charles Godfrey Leland..
What is dreaming? What is death? Is it only an interruption of life, and its full cessation? Yes, for people who only know the Past and the Future, and do not live an eternity in every moment of the Present, death must be terrible! When their two crutches, Space and Time, fall away, then they slip away into the eternal Nothing.
And dreams? Why are we not more afraid before going to sleep than to be buried? Is it not terrible that the body can be as if dead all night, while the spirit in us leads the wildest life … a life full of all those terrors of that parting which we have established between life and soul! When in the future both shall be again united in our consciousness, then there will be perhaps no more dreams, or else only invalids, those whose harmony has been disturbed, will dream. The ancients dreamed only softly and seldom; a strong and powerfully impressive dream was for them an event, and it was recorded in their histories…
And yet, what beautiful sweet dreams we have been able to dream! Our healthy descendants will hardly be able to understand them! All the splendours of the world disappeared from around us, and we found them again in our own souls; yes, there was the perfume of the trampled roses, and the sweetest songs of the frightened nightingales took refuge.
Thus I feel, and die of the unnatural anxieties and horrible dainties and sweet pains of our time. When I at night undress and lay me in bed, and stretch myself out at full length, and cover myself with the white sheets, I often shutter involuntarily, it seems so like being a corpse and burying myself. Then I close my eyes as quickly as I can to escape this fearful thought, and to save myself in the Land of Dreams.
It was a sweet, kind, sunshiny dream. The heaven was heavenly-blue and cloudless; the sea sea-green and still. A boundless horizon; and on the water sailed a gaily-pennoned skiff, and on its deck I sat caressingly at the feet of Jadviga. I read to her strange and dreamy love songs, which I had written on strips of rose-coloured paper, sighing yet joyful, and she listened with incredulous yet inclined ear and deeply loving smiles, and now and then hastily snatched the leaves from my hand and threw them in the sea. But the beautiful water-fairies, with snow-white breasts and arms, rose from the water and caught the fluttering love-lays as they fell.
As I bent overboard I could see clearly far down into the depths of the sea, and there sat, as in a social circle, the beautiful water-maids, and among them was a young sprite who, with deeply sympathetic expression, declaimed my love-songs. Wild enraptured applause rang out at every verse. The green-locked beauties applauded so passionately that necks and bosoms grew rosy red, and they praised cordially yet compassionately what they heard.
“What strange beings these mortals are! How wonderful their lives, how dire their destinies! They love, and seldom dare express their love; and when they give it utterance at last, they rarely understand one another.
And withal they do not lead eternal lives like ours; they are mortal. Only a little time is granted them to seek for happiness. They must grasp it quickly and press it hastily unto their hearts, ere it is gone. Therefore their songs of love are so deeply tender, so sweetly painful and anxious, so despairingly gay. Such strange blendings of joy and pain. The melancholy shadow of death falls on their happiest hours, and consoles them lovingly in adversity.
They can weep. What poetry there is in mortal tears…”
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