Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt. 1869. Translated by C. Hermann Merivale.
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,
. . . ,
THE INVINCIBLE ARMADA
She comes, she comes—the burden of the deeps!
Beneath her wails the universal sea!
With clanking chains and a new god, she sweeps,
And with a thousand thunders, unto thee!
The ocean-castles and the floating hosts—
Ne’er on their like looked the wild water!—Well
May man the monster name “Invincible.”
O’er shuddering waves she gathers to thy coasts!
The horror that she spreads can claim
Just title to her haughty name.
The trembling Neptune quails
Under the silent and majestic forms;
The doom of worlds in those dark sails;—
Near and more near they sweep! and slumber all the storms!
Before thee, the array,
Blest island, empress of the sea!
The sea-born squadrons threaten thee,
And thy great heart, Britannia!
Woe to thy people, of their freedom proud—
She rests, a thunder heavy in its cloud!
Who, to thy hand the orb and sceptre gave,
That thou should’st be the sovereign of the nations?
To tyrant kings thou wert thyself the slave,
Till freedom dug from law its deep foundations;
The mighty Chart the citizens made kings,
And kings to citizens sublimely bowed!
And thou thyself, upon thy realm of water,
Hast thou not rendered millions up to slaughter,
When thy ships brought upon their sailing wings
The sceptre—and the shroud?
What should’st thou thank?—Blush, earth, to hear and feel
What should’st thou thank?—Thy genius and thy steel!
Behold the hidden and the giant fires!
Behold thy glory trembling to its fall!
Thy coming doom the round earth shall appal,
And all the hearts of freemen beat for thee,
And all free souls their fate in thine foresee—
Theirs is thy glory’s fall!
One look below the Almighty gave,
Where streamed the lion-flags of thy proud foe;
And near and wider yawned the horrent grave.
“And who,” saith He, “shall lay mine England low—
The stem that blooms with hero-deeds—
The rock when man from wrong a refuge needs—
The stronghold where the tyrant comes in vain?
Who shall bid England vanish from the main?
Ne’er be this only Eden freedom knew,
Man’s stout defence from power, to fate consigned.”
God the Almighty blew,
And the Armada went to every wind!
Do I believe, thou ask'st, the Master's word,
The Schoolman's shibboleth that binds the herd?
To the soul's haven is there but one chart?
Its peace a problem to be learned by art?
On system rest the happy and the good?
To base the temple must the props be wood?
Must I distrust the gentle law, imprest,
To guide and warn, by Nature on the breast,
Till, squared to rule the instinct of the soul,--
Till the School's signet stamp the eternal scroll,
Till in one mold some dogma hath confined
The ebb and flow--the light waves--of the mind?
Say thou, familiar to these depths of gloom,
Thou, safe ascended from the dusty tomb,
Thou, who hast trod these weird Egyptian cells--
Say--if Life's comfort with yon mummies dwells!--
Say--and I grope--with saddened steps indeed--
But on, thro' darkness, if to Truth it lead!
Nay, Friend, thou know'st the golden time--the age
Whose legends live in many a poet's page?
When heavenlier shapes with Man walked side by side,
And the chaste Feeling was itself a guide;
Then the great law, alike divine amid
Suns bright in Heaven, or germs in darkness hid—
That silent law--(call'd whether by the name
Of Nature or Necessity, the same),
To that deep sea, the heart, its movement gave--
Sway'd the full tide, and freshened the free wave.
Then sense unerring--because unreproved--
True as the finger on the dial moved,
Half-guide, half-playmate, of Earth's age of youth,
The sportive instinct of Eternal Truth.
Then, nor Initiate nor Profane were known;
Where the Heart felt--there Reason found a throne:
Not from the dust below, but life around
Warm Genius shaped what quick Emotion found.
One rule, like light, for every bosom glowed,
Yet hid from all the fountain whence it flowed.
But, gone that blessed Age!--our wilful pride
Has lost, with Nature, the old peaceful Guide.
Feeling, no more to raise us and rejoice,
Is heard and honored as a Godhead's voice;
And, disenhallowed in its eldest cell
The Human Heart--lies mute the Oracle,
Save where the low and mystic whispers thrill
Some listening spirit more divinely still.
There, in the chambers of the inmost heart,
There, must the Sage explore the Magian's art;
There, seek the long-lost Nature's steps to track,
Till, found once more, she gives him Wisdom back!
Hast thou--(O Blest, if so, whate'er betide!)--
Still kept the Guardian Angel by thy side?
Can thy Heart's guileless childhood yet rejoice
In the sweet instinct with its warning voice?
Does Truth yet limn upon untroubled eyes,
Pure and serene, her world of Iris-dies?
Rings clear the echo which her accent calls
Back from the breast, on which the music falls?
In the calm mind is doubt yet hush'd--and will
That doubt tomorrow, as today, be still?
Will all these fine sensations in their play,
No censor need to regulate and sway?
Fear'st thou not in the insidious Heart to find
The source of Trouble to the limpid mind?
No!--then thine Innocence thy Mentor be!
Science can teach thee naught--she learns from thee!
Each law that lends lame succor to the Weak--
The cripple's crutch--the vigorous need not seek!
From thine own self thy rule of action draw;
That which thou dost--what charms thee--is thy Law,
And founds to every race a code sublime--
What pleases Genius gives a Law to Time!
The Word--the Deed--all Ages shall command,
Pure if thy lip and holy if thy hand!
Thou, thou alone mark'st not within thy heart
The inspiring God whose Minister thou art,
Know'st not the magic of the mighty ring
Which bows the realm of Spirits to their King:
But meek, nor conscious of diviner birth,
Glide thy still footsteps thro' the conquered Earth!
MONUMENT OF MOOR THE ROBBER
A Suppressed Poem
Welcome! ’tis ended
Oh thou sinner majestic,
All thy terrible part is now played!
Noble abased one!
Thou, of thy race beginner and ender!
Wondrous son of her fearfulest humor,
Mother Nature’s blunder sublime!
Through cloud-covered night a radiant gleam!
Hark how behind him the portals are closing!
Night’s gloomy jaws veil him darkly in shade!
Nations are trembling,
At his destructive splendor afraid!
Thou art welcome! ‘Tis ended!
Oh thou sinner majestic,
All thy terrible part is now played!
In the cradle of wide-open heaven!
Terrible sight to each sinner that breathes,
When the hot thirst for glory
Raises its barriers over against the dread throne!
See! to eternity shame has consigned thee!
To the bright stars of fame
Thou hast clambered aloft, on the shoulders of shame!
Yet time will come when shame will crumble beneath thee,
When admiration at length will be thine!
With moist eye, by thy sepulchre dreaded,
Man has passed onward—
Rejoice in the tears that man sheddeth,
Oh thou soul of the judged!
With moist eye, by the sepulchre dreaded,
Lately a maiden passed onward,
Hearing the fearful announcement
Told of thy deeds by the herald of marble;
And the maiden—rejoice thee! rejoice thee!
Sought not to dry up her tears.
Far away I stood as the pearls were falling,
And I shouted: Amalia!
Oh, ye youths! Oh, ye youths!—
With the dangerous lightning of genius
Learn to play with more caution!
Wildly his bit champs the charger of Phoebus;
Though, ‘neath the reins of his master,
More gently he rocks earth and heaven,
Reined by a child’s hand, he kindles
Earth and heaven in blazing destruction!
Obstinate Phaeton perished,
Buried beneath the sad wreck.
Child of the heavenly genius!
Glowing bosom all panting for action!
Art thou charmed by the tale of my robber?
Glowing like time was his bosom, and panting for action!
He, like thee, was the child of the heavenly genius.
But thou smilest and goest—
Thy gaze flies through the realms of the world’s long story,
Moor, the robber, it finds not there—
Stay, thou youth, and smile not!
Still survive all his sins and his shame—
Robber Moor liveth—in all but name.
“The Rider’s Song”
Mount, brothers, mount! To the field – to the field!
To the battle of Freedom away!
Still in the battle the Man is revealed;
And his pulses still beat in the fray:
Spirit and hand in the fight are his own;
And he stands in his manhood alone.
Earth is a dungeon, and Freedom hath fled,
Here are none but the lord and the slave;
Nations of impotent cowards are led
By the crafty and not by the brave:
He who the skeleton monarch can scan
With a warrior’s glance — is a man.
For him is no fear, for him is no care;
Life’s disquiets, he casts them away;
Rides to the battle to do and to dare –
Or tomorrow he falls, or today:
Fate may decree him tomorrow’s delay;
Let him labor for Freedom today.
Blest is the lot of the warrior bold!
He is free from the husbandman’s toil,
The earthworm that creeps and drudges for gold,
With his spade in the festering soil;
In digging and delving his moments are passed,
And he digs his own graves at the last.
Godlike the man on his courser of fire!
Of the race of the Centaurs is he!
Unbidden he comes in his grim attire
To the hall of wedding revelry:
Short is his wooing and scanty his gold;
But the loved one he bears from the fold.
Why weeps the pale maiden? Why doth she wail?
Let the rover go – the rover go;
Inconstant is he from the summer gale;
He hath no home on the earth below;
He is born by fate on the billow’s crest;
The foot of the soldier knows no rest.
Loosen your swords at the trumpeter’s peal!
For the riders who wield them – til well!
When brothers are bound by heart-strings of steel,
Earth will tremble at victory’s kneel;
No scepter is held so high or so fast,
But the rider will reach it at last.
Mount the war-horses and tighten the reins;
Bare your swords and your breasts to the foe;
Come with the life-blood of youth in your veins,
While the flood tide is yet at the flow;
But if there be aught in your courage untrue,
To freedom and life bid adieu.
PEGASUS IN HARNESS.
Once to a horse-fair,—it may perhaps have been
Where other things are bought and sold,—I mean
At the Haymarket,—there the muses' horse
A hungry poet brought—to sell, of course.
'The hippogriff neighed shrilly, loudly,
And reared upon his hind-legs proudly;
In utter wonderment each stood and cried:
"The noble regal beast!" But, woe betide!
Two hideous wings his slender form deface,
The finest team he else would not disgrace.
"The breed," said they, "is doubtless rare,
But who would travel through the air?"
Not one of them would risk his gold.
At length a farmer grew more bold:
"As for his wings, I of no use should find them,
But then how easy 'tis to clip or bind them!
The horse for drawing may be useful found,—
So, friend, I don't mind giving twenty pound!"
The other glad to sell his merchandise,
Cried, "Done!"—and Hans rode off upon his prize.
The noble creature was, ere long, put-to,
But scarcely felt the unaccustomed load,
Than, panting to soar upwards, off he flew,
And, filled with honest anger, overthrew
The cart where an abyss just met the road.
"Ho! ho!" thought Hans: "No cart to this mad beast
I'll trust. Experience makes one wise at least.
To drive the coach to-morrow now my course is,
And he as leader in the team shall go.
The lively fellow'll save me full two horses;
As years pass on, he'll doubtless tamer grow."
All went on well at first. The nimble steed
His partners roused,—like lightning was their speed.
What happened next? Toward heaven was turned his eye,—
Unused across the solid ground to fly,
He quitted soon the safe and beaten course,
And true to nature's strong resistless force,
Ran over bog and moor, o'er hedge and pasture tilled;
An equal madness soon the other horses filled—
No reins could hold them in, no help was near,
Till,—only picture the poor travellers' fear!—
The coach, well shaken, and completely wrecked,
Upon a hill's steep top at length was checked.
"If this is always sure to be the case,"
Hans cried, and cut a very sorry face,
"He'll never do to draw a coach or wagon;
Let's see if we can't tame the fiery dragon
By means of heavy work and little food."
And so the plan was tried.—But what ensued?
The handsome beast, before three days had passed,
Wasted to nothing. "Stay! I see at last!"
Cried Hans. "Be quick, you fellows! yoke him now
With my most sturdy ox before the plough."
No sooner said than done. In union queer
Together yoked were soon winged horse and steer.
The griffin pranced with rage, and his remaining might
Exerted to resume his old-accustomed flight.
'Twas all in vain—his partner stepped with circumspection,
And Phoebus' haughty steed must follow his direction;
Until at last, by long resistance spent,
When strength his limbs no longer was controlling,
The noble creature, with affliction bent,
Fell to the ground, and in the dust lay rolling.
"Accursed beast!" at length with fury mad
Hans shouted, while he soundly plied the lash,—
"Even for ploughing, then, thou art too bad!—
That fellow was a rogue to sell such trash!"
Ere yet his heavy blows had ceased to fly,
A brisk and merry youth by chance came by.
A lute was tinkling in his hand,
And through his light and flowing hair
Was twined with grace a golden band.
"Whither, my friend, with that strange pair?"
From far he to the peasant cried.
"A bird and ox to one rope tied—
Was such a team e'er heard of, pray?
Thy horse's worth I'd fain essay;
Just for one moment lend him me,—
Observe, and thou shalt wonders see!"
The hippogriff was loosened from the plough,
Upon his back the smiling youth leaped now;
No sooner did the creature understand
That he was guided by a master-hand,
Than 'ginst his bit he champed, and upward soared
While lightning from his flaming eyes outpoured.
No longer the same being, royally
A spirit, ay, a god, ascended he,
Spread in a moment to the stormy wind
His noble wings, and left the earth behind,
And, ere the eye could follow him,
Had vanished in the heavens dim.