Category Archives: Schiller
THOUGHTS ON THE 1ST OCTOBER, 1781.
What mean the joyous sounds from yonder vine-clad height?
What the exulting Evoe?
Why glows the cheek? Whom is’t that I, with pinions light,
Swinging the lofty Thyrsus see?
Is it the genius whom the gladsome throng obeys?
Do I his numerous train descry?
In plenty’s teeming horn the gifts of heaven he sways,
And reels from very ecstacy!—
See how the golden grape in glorious beauty shines,
Kissed by the earliest morning-beams!
The shadow of yon bower, how lovingly it signs,
As it with countless blessings teams!
Ha! glad October, thou art welcome unto me!—
October’s first-born, welcome thou!
Thanks of a purer kind, than all who worship thee,
More heartfelt thanks I’m bringing now!
For thou to me the one whom I have loved so well,
And love with fondness to the grave,
Who merits in my heart forevermore to dwell,—
The best of friends in Rieger gave.
‘Tis true thy breath doth rock the leaves upon the trees,
And sadly make their charms decay;
Gently they fall:—and swift, as morning phantasies
With those who waken, fly away.
‘Tis true that on thy track the fleecy spoiler hastes,
Who makes all Nature’s chords resound
With discord dull, and turns the plains and groves to wastes,
So that they sadly mourn around.
See how the gloomy forms of years, as on they roll,
Each joyous banquet overthrows,
When, in uplifted hand, from out the foaming bowl,
Joy’s noble purple brightly flows!
See how they disappear, when friends sweet converse hold,
And loving wander arm-in-arm;
And, to revenge themselves on winter’s north wind cold,
Upon each other’s breasts grow warm!
And when spring’s children smile upon us once again,
When all the youthful splendor bright,
When each melodious note of each sweet rapturous strain
Awakens with it each delight:
How joyous then the stream that our whole soul pervades!
What life from out our glances pours!
Sweet Philomela’s song, resounding through the glades,
Ourselves, our youthful strength restores!
Oh, may this whisper breathe—(let Rieger bear in mind
The storm by which in age we’re bent!)—
His guardian angel, when the evening’s star so kind
Gleams softly from the firmament!
In silence be he led to yonder thundering height,
And guided be his eye, that he,
In valley and on plain, may see his friends aright.
And that, with growing ecstacy,
On yonder holy spot, when he their number tells,
He may experience friendship’s bliss,
Now first unveiled, until with pride his bosom swells,
Conscious that all their love is his.
Then will the distant voice be loudly heard to say:
“And G—, too, is a friend of thine!
When silvery locks no more around his temples play,
G— still will be a friend of thine!”
“E’en yonder”—and now in his eye the crystal tear
Will gleam—”e’en yonder he will love!
Love thee too, when his heart, in yonder spring-like sphere,
Linked on to thine, can rapture prove!”
Excerpt, “Tales from the German, Comprising Specimens from the Most Celebrated Authors.” London: 1844. Translator: John Oxenford.
The following part of the history I entirely pass over; the merely detestable has nothing instructive for the reader. An unfortunate man who had sunk to this depth, would at last necessarily allow himself all that raises the indignation of mankind. He did not, however, commit another murder, as he himself confessed upon the rack.
The fame of this man shortly spread over the entire province. The high roads became unsafe; the citizens were rendered uneasy by the burglaries committed in the night. The name of the ” Host of the Sun” became the terror of the country-people. Justice searched for him, and a reward was offered for his head. He was fortunate enough to frustrate all attempts made against his liberty, and cunning enough to turn to the account of his safety the superstition of the wonder-loving peasantry.
His comrades had to spread the report that he had made a compact with the devil, and understood witchcraft. The district in which he played his part, belonged less at that time than now to the enlightened part of Germany. The reports were believed, and his person was secure. No one showed a desire to attack the dangerous fellow who had the devil at his service.
He had already for a year followed his melancholy profession, when it began to grow insupportable. The band at whose head he stood, did not fulfil his brilliant expectations. A seductive exterior had dazzled him amid the fumes of the wine; now he saw with horror how frightfully he had been deceived. Hunger and want took the place of that superfluity by which his senses had been lulled; very often he had to risk his life on a meal, which was scarcely sufficient to keep him from starvation.
The phantom of that brotherly concord vanished; envy, suspicion, and jealousy raged among this abandoned crew. Justice had offered a reward to any one who should deliver him up alive, with a solemn pardon if he were an accomplice–a powerful temptation for the dregs of the earth! The unhappy man knew his peril. The honesty of those who betrayed God and man, was a bad security for his life. From this moment sleep was gone; a deadly and eternal anguish preyed on his repose.
The hideous spectre of suspicion rattled behind him, wherever he fled, tortured him when he was awake, lay down by him when he went to sleep, and scared him with horrible visions. His conscience, which had been for some time dumb, now recovered its speech, and the adder of remorse, which had slept, now awoke amid the general storm of his bosom. All his hatred was now diverted from mankind, and turned its frightful edge against himself.
He now forgave all nature, and found none but himself to execrate. Vice had completed its instruction of this unhappy being; his naturally good sense at last overcame the mournful delusion. Now he felt how low he had fallen, calm melancholy took the place of grinding despair. With tears he wished the past were recalled, for now he felt certain that he could go through it differently.
He began to hope that he might be allowed to become honest, because he felt that he could be so. At the highest point of his depravity, he was perhaps nearer to goodness than before his first fault. About the same time, the Seven Years’ War had broken out, and recruiting was going on with vigour. This circumstance inspired the unhappy man with hope, and he wrote a letter to his sovereign, an extract of which I insert :
“If your princely favour feels no repugnance towards descending to me, if criminals of my class are not beyond the sphere of your mercy, grant me a hearing, I beg of your most serene highness! I am a murderer and a robber; the law condemns me to death, the tribunals are in search of me, and I offer myself to serve as a volunteer.
But at the same time, I bring a singular request before your throne. I detest my life, and do not fear death, but it is terrible for me to die without having lived. I would live to make reparation for a portion of the past, I would live to make some atonement to the state, which I have offended. My execution will be an example to the world, but no compensation for my deeds. I detest vice, and have a burning desire for integrity and virtue. I have shown the talents for becoming formidable to my country. I hope I have some left to be of service to it.
I know that I am asking something which is unprecedented. My life is forfeit, and it is not for me to negotiate with justice. But I do not appear in bonds and fetters before you. I am still free and fear on my part has the smallest share in my request. It is for mercy that I ask. If I had a claim to justice, I should no longer venture to assert it. But of one thing I may remind my judge. The epoch of my crimes begins with the judgment that forever deprived me of honour.
Had fairness been less denied me on that occasion, I should not now, perhaps, have stood in need of mercy.
Show mercy, my prince, instead of justice. If it is in your princely power to move the law in my favour, then grant me my life. From henceforth it shall be devoted to your service. If you can do so, let me learn your gracious will from the public journals, and I will appear in the metropolis on your word as a prince.
If you have resolved otherwise, let justice do her part, I must do mine.”
This petition remained unanswered, and so did a second, and a third, in which the applicant asked for a trooper’s place in the prince’s service. His hopes for a pardon were utterly extinguished, so he resolved to quit the country, and to die as a brave soldier in the service of the King of Prussia.
He succeeded in escaping from his land, and began his journey. The road led him through a little provincial town, where he wished to pass the night. A short time before, mandates of exceeding strictness had been published throughout the country, requiring a severe examination of travellers, because the sovereign, a prince of the empire, had taken part in the war.
The toll-collector ( Thorschreiber) of this little town had just received a mandate, and he was sitting on a bench before the toll-bar, when the “Host of the Sun” came up. The appearance of this man had in it something comical, and at the same time wild and terrible.
The lean pony which he rode, and the grotesque choice of his attire, in which his taste had probably been less consulted than the chronology of his thefts, contrasted singularly enough with a face over which so many raging passions were spread, like mangled corpses on a field of battle.
The collector was struck by the sight of this strange wanderer. He had grown grey at the toll-bar, and by attending to his office for forty years had become an infallible physiognomist of all the vagabonds about. The falcon-glance of this investigator did not miss its man on this occasion. He at once fastened the town-gate, and asked the rider for his passport while he secured his bridle.
Wolf was prepared for chances of this kind, and actually had with him a passport, which he had taken shortly before while plundering a merchant. This single voucher, however, did not suffice to counteract the observation of forty years, and to move the oracle of the toll-bar to a recantation. He trusted his eyes more than the paper, and Wolf was obliged to follow him to the office of the bailiff.
The superior of the office examined the passport and declared it correct. He was an ardent lover of news, and it was his delight to chatter over the newspaper by his bottle. The passport told him that the bearer had come straight from those foreign countries, where the theatre of the war was situated. He hoped to get private intelligence from the stranger, and sent back a secretary with the passport to invite him to partake of a bottle of wine.
In the meanwhile the “Host of the Sun” was standing in front of the office, and the whimsical spectacle had assembled the rabble of the town in throngs. The people whispered into one another’s ears, pointed at the horse and rider, till at last the insolence of the mob increased to a loud tumult. The horse, at which every one pointed, was unluckily a stolen one, and Wolf fancied that it had been described in placards and was recognised. The unexpected hospitality of the superior confirmed his suspicion.
He now considered it certain that the falsity of his passport was discovered, and that the invitation was only a snare to catch him alive and without resistance. His bad conscience besotted him, so he clapped spurs to his horse and rode off without giving a reply. This sudden flight was the signal for an uproar.
“A thief!” cried all; and off they flew after him. To the rider it was a matter of life and death; he had already the start, his followers panted breathlessly, and he seemed to be on the point of escape. But a heavy hand pressed invisibly towards him, the watch of his destiny had run down, the inexorable Nemesis detained her debtor. The street to which he trusted had no outlet, and he was forced to turn back towards his persecutors.
The noise of this event had in the meanwhile set the whole town in an uproar; throng pressed on throng, all the streets were lined, and a host of enemies were marching towards him. He showed a pistol, the mob receded, and he would have made a way through the crowd by force. “A shot from this,” said he, “for the mad fool who detains me!”
A general pause was dictated by fear, when at last, a bold journeyman blacksmith darted on his arm from behind, caught the finger with which the insane man was about to fire, and forced it out of joint. The pistol fell, the disarmed man was pulled from his horse, and dragged to the office in triumph.
“Who are you?” asked the judge in a somewhat brutal tone.
“A man who is resolved to answer no question until it is put more courteously.”
“Who are you?”
“That which I represented myself to be. I have travelled all through Germany, and never found impudence at home, anywhere but here.”
“Your speedy flight renders you very suspicious. Why did you run?”
“Because I was tired of being the laughing-stock of your rabble.”
“You threatened to fire.”
“My pistol was not loaded.”
The weapon was examined, and, true enough, it contained no bullet.
“Why did you secretly carry arms?”
“Because I have with me articles of value, and because I have been warned against a certain ‘Host of the Sun,’ who is said to be roving about these parts.”
“Your replies argue much for your audacity, but little for the goodness of your cause. I will give you till to-morrow to discover the truth to me.”
“I shall abide by what I have already said.”
“Let him be conducted to the tower.”
“To the tower? I hope, Herr Superior, that there is still justice in this country. I shall require satisfaction.”
“I will give it you as soon as you are acquitted.”
The next morning the superior reflected that the stranger might be innocent after all ; a dictatorial address could effect nothing with his obstinacy, and it might, perhaps, be better to treat him with respect and moderation. He collected the jury of the place, and had the prisoner brought forward.
“Forgive me for the first outbreak, sir, if I accosted you somewhat hardly yesterday.”
“Very readily, if you treat me thus.”
“Our laws are severe, and your affair made a noise. I cannot release you without committing a breach of duty. Appearance is against you, and I wish you would say something, by which it might be refuted.”
“What, if I know nothing?”
“Then I must lay the case before the government, and you will, in the meanwhile, remain closely confined.”
“Then you run the risk of being flogged over the border as a vagrant, or, if mercy is shown, of being placed among the recruits.”
He was silent for some minutes, and appeared to be undergoing a severe contest, then he suddenly turned to the judge.
“Can I be alone with you for a quarter of an hour?”
The jury cast ambiguous glances at one another, but withdrew at a commanding sign from their head.
“Now, what do you want?”
“Your demeanour of yesterday, Herr Superior, would never have brought me to a confession, for I set force at defiance. The moderation with which you have treated me to-day has given me confidence and respect for you. I think that you are an honourable man.”
“What have you to say to me?”
“I see that you are an honourable man; I have long wished for a man like you. Give me, I pray, your right hand.”
“To what end?”
“That head is gray and reverend. You have been long in the world, have felt many sorrows is it not so? And have become more humane.”
“Sir, to what does this tend?”
“You are now distant by only one step from eternity soon, soon will you need mercy from God. You will not deny it to man. Do you suspect nothing? With whom do you suppose you are speaking?”
“What do you mean? You terrify me.”
“If you do not already suspect write to your prince how you found me, and that I myself of my free choice was my own betrayer –that God will be merciful unto him as he now shows mercy unto me. Entreat for me, old man, and then let a tear fall on your report.
I am Host of the Sun.”
The tyrant Dionys to seek,
Stern Moerus with his poniard crept;
The watchful guard upon him swept;
The grim king marked his changeless cheek:
“What wouldst thou with thy poniard? Speak!”
“The city from the tyrant free!”
“The death-cross shall thy guerdon be.”
“I am prepared for death, nor pray,”
Replied that haughty man, “I to live;
Enough, if thou one grace wilt give
For three brief suns the death delay
To wed my sister—leagues away;
I boast one friend whose life for mine,
If I should fail the cross, is thine.”
The tyrant mused,—and smiled,—and said
With gloomy craft, “So let it be;
Three days I will vouchsafe to thee.
But mark—if, when the time be sped,
Thou fail’st—thy surety dies instead.
His life shall buy thine own release;
Thy guilt atoned, my wrath shall cease.”
He sought his friend—”The king’s decree
Ordains my life the cross upon
Shall pay the deed I would have done;
Yet grants three days’ delay to me,
My sister’s marriage-rites to see;
If thou, the hostage, wilt remain
Till I—set free—return again!”
His friend embraced—No word he said,
But silent to the tyrant strode—
The other went upon his road.
Ere the third sun in heaven was red,
The rite was o’er, the sister wed;
And back, with anxious heart unquailing,
He hastes to hold the pledge unfailing.
Down the great rains unending bore,
Down from the hills the torrents rushed,
In one broad stream the brooklets gushed.
The wanderer halts beside the shore,
The bridge was swept the tides before—
The shattered arches o’er and under
Went the tumultuous waves in thunder.
Dismayed he takes his idle stand—
Dismayed, he strays and shouts around;
His voice awakes no answering sound.
No boat will leave the sheltering strand,
To bear him to the wished-for land;
No boatman will Death’s pilot be;
The wild stream gathers to a sea!
Sunk by the banks, awhile he weeps,
Then raised his arms to Jove, and cried,
“Stay thou, oh stay the maddening tide;
Midway behold the swift sun sweeps,
And, ere he sinks adown the deeps,
If I should fail, his beams will see
My friend’s last anguish—slain for me!”
More fierce it runs, more broad it flows,
And wave on wave succeeds and dies
And hour on hour remorseless flies;
Despair at last to daring grows—
Amidst the flood his form he throws;
With vigorous arms the roaring waves
Cleaves—and a God that pities, saves.
He wins the bank—he scours the strand,
He thanks the God in breathless prayer;
When from the forest’s gloomy lair,
With ragged club in ruthless hand,
And breathing murder—rushed the band
That find, in woods, their savage den,
And savage prey in wandering men.
“What,” cried he, pale with generous fear;
“What think to gain ye by the strife?
All I bear with me is my life—
I take it to the king!”—and here
He snatched the club from him most near:
And thrice he smote, and thrice his blows
Dealt death—before him fly the foes!
The sun is glowing as a brand;
And faint before the parching heat,
The strength forsakes the feeble feet:
“Thou hast saved me from the robbers’ hand,
Through wild floods given the blessed land;
And shall the weak limbs fail me now?
And he!—Divine one, nerve me, thou!”
Hark! like some gracious murmur by,
Babbles low music, silver-clear—
The wanderer holds his breath to hear;
And from the rock, before his eye,
Laughs forth the spring delightedly;
Now the sweet waves he bends him o’er,
And the sweet waves his strength restore.
Through the green boughs the sun gleams dying,
O’er fields that drink the rosy beam,
The trees’ huge shadows giant seem.
Two strangers on the road are hieing;
And as they fleet beside him flying,
These muttered words his ear dismay:
“Now—now the cross has claimed its prey!”
Despair his winged path pursues,
The anxious terrors hound him on—
There, reddening in the evening sun,
From far, the domes of Syracuse!—
When towards him comes Philostratus
(His leal and trusty herdsman he),
And to the master bends his knee.
“Back—thou canst aid thy friend no more,
The niggard time already flown—
His life is forfeit—save thine own!
Hour after hour in hope he bore,
Nor might his soul its faith give o’er;
Nor could the tyrant’s scorn deriding,
Steal from that faith one thought confiding!”
“Too late! what horror hast thou spoken!
Vain life, since it cannot requite him!
But death with me can yet unite him;
No boast the tyrant’s scorn shall make—
How friend to friend can faith forsake.
But from the double death shall know,
That truth and love yet live below!”
The sun sinks down—the gate’s in view,
The cross looms dismal on the ground—
The eager crowd gape murmuring round.
His friend is bound the cross unto. . . .
Crowd—guards—all bursts he breathless through:
“Me! Doomsman, me!” he shouts, “alone!
His life is rescued—lo, mine own!”
Amazement seized the circling ring!
Linked in each other’s arms the pair—
Weeping for joy—yet anguish there!
Moist every eye that gazed;—they bring
The wondrous tidings to the king—
His breast man’s heart at last hath known,
And the friends stand before his throne.
Long silent, he, and wondering long,
Gazed on the pair—”In peace depart,
Victors, ye have subdued my heart!
Truth is no dream!—its power is strong.
Give grace to him who owns his wrong!
‘Tis mine your suppliant now to be,
Ah, let the band of love—be three!”
Ober-Rossla, April 6, 1801.
I wish you all happiness upon your return to Weimar, and hope soon to see you again, either by your coming to pay me a visit or by my again repairing to town.
My stay here suits me very well, partly because I move about in the open air all day, partly because I am drawn down to the common objects of life, and thus there comes over me a certain feeling of nonchalance and indifference such as I have not known for a long time.With regard to the questions contained in your last letter, I not only agree with your opinion, but go even further. I think that everything that is done by genius as genius, is done unconsciously.
A person of genius can also act rationally, with reflection, from conviction, but this is all done, as it were, indirectly.No work of genius can be improved or be freed from its faults by reflection and its immediate results, but genius can, by means of reflection and action, be gradually raised to a degree that in the end shall produce exemplary works. The more genius a century possesses, the more are individual things advanced.
With regard to the great demands now made of the poet, I too am of the opinion that these will not readily call forth a poet. The art of poetry requires of the person who is to exercise it a certain good-natured kind of narrowness enamored of what is Real, behind which lies concealed what is Absolute.
Demands made by criticism destroy the innocent, productive state, and give us as genuine poetry–in place of poetry–something that is in fact no poetry at all, as unfortunately we have seen in our own day; and the same is the case with the kindred arts–nay, with Art in its widest sense.
This is my confession of faith, which otherwise does not make any further claims.
I expect much good from your latest work. It is well conceived, and, if you devote sufficient time to it, will round itself off of its own accord. “Faust” also has meanwhile had something done to it. I hope that soon the only thing wanting in the great gap will be the disputation; this, it is true, will have to be looked upon as a distinct piece of work, and one which will not be accomplished at a moment’s notice.
The famous prize-question also has not been lost sight of during these days. In order to obtain an empiric foundation for my observations, I have commenced examining the character of the different European nations. In Link’s “Travels” I have read a good deal more about Portugal, and shall now pass on to Spain. I am daily becoming more convinced how much more limited everything appears when such observations are made from within.
Ritter came to see me for a minute, and has, among other things,directed my attention again to the theory of colors. Herschel’s new discoveries, which have been carried further and extended by our young naturalist, are very beautifully connected with that observation which I have frequently told you of–that Bolognian phosphorus does not receive any light on the yellow-red side of the spectrum, but certainly does so on the blue-red side. The physical colors are thereby identified with the chemical colors.
The time and care which I have devoted to this subject give me the greatest advantage in judging of new observations, inasmuch as, in fact, I have thought out some new experiments which will carry the matter further still. I foresee that I shall this year write at least two or three chapters more in my theory of colors. I am anxious, some day soon, to show you the latest.
Would you care to come to me on Thursday with Professor Meyer? Please talk this over with him, and I will then write to him more fully on the subject.
Written 1795 by Friedrich von Schiller. Translated 1866 by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.
The Royal City of SAÏS
Sais or Sa el-Hagar, an ancient Egyptian city in the Western Nile Delta, became the seat of power during the 24th and 26th dynasties. Its Ancient Egyptian name was Zau. Sais’ patron goddess was Neith, whose cult is attested as early as the 1st Dynasty.
Herodotus wrote that the grave of Osiris was at Sais where the sufferings of the god were displayed as a mystery by night on a nearby lake. According to Plutarch, the shrine of Isis in Sais carried the inscription“I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal has hitherto raised.”
The Veiled Image at SAÏS
A youth, whom wisdom’s warm desire had lured
To learn the secret lore of Egypt's priests,
To Saïs came. And soon, from step to step
Of upward mystery, swept his rapid soul!
Still ever sped the glorious Hope along,
Nor could the parch'd Impatience halt, appeased
By the calm answer of the Hierophant--
"What have I, if I have not all," he sigh'd;
"And giv'st thou but the little and the more?
Does thy truth dwindle to the gauge of gold,
A sum that man may smaller or less small
Possess and count--subtract or add to--still?
Is not TRUTH _one_ and indivisible?
Take from the Harmony a single tone
A single tint take from the Iris bow--
And lo! what once was all, is nothing--while
Fails to the lovely whole one tint or tone!"
They stood within the temple's silent dome,
And, as the young man paused abrupt, his gaze
Upon a veil'd and giant IMAGE fell:
Amazed he turn'd unto his guide--"And what
Towers, yonder, vast beneath the veil?"
Answered the Priest.
"And have I for the truth
Panted and struggled with a lonely soul,
And yon the thin and ceremonial robe
That wraps her from mine eyes?"
Replied the Priest,
"There shrouds herself the still Divinity.
Hear, and revere her best: 'Till I this veil
Lift--may no mortal-born presume to raise;
And who with guilty and unhallow'd hand
Too soon profanes the Holy and Forbidden--
He,' says the goddess."--
"'SHALL SEE THE TRUTH!'"
"And wond'rous oracle; and hast _thou_ never
Lifted the veil?"
"No! nor desired to raise!"
"What! nor desired? O strange, incurious heart,
Here the thin barrier--there reveal'd the truth!"
Mildly return'd the priestly master: "Son,
More mighty than thou dream'st of, Holy Law
Spreads interwoven in yon slender web,
Air-light to touch--lead-heavy to the soul!"
The young man, thoughtful, turn'd him to his home,
And the sharp fever of the Wish to Know
Robb'd night of sleep. Around his couch he roll'd,
Till midnight hatch'd resolve--
"Unto the shrine!"
Stealthily on, the involuntary tread
Bears him--he gains the boundary, scales the wall,
And midway in the inmost, holiest dome,
Strides with adventurous step the daring man.
Now halts he where the lifeless Silence sleeps
In the embrace of mournful Solitude;--
Silence unstirr'd--save where the guilty tread
Call'd the dull echo from mysterious vaults!
High from the opening of the dome above,
Came with wan smile the silver-shining moon.
And, awful as some pale presiding god,
Dim-gleaming through the hush of that large gloom,
In its wan veil the Giant Image stood.
With an unsteady step he onward past,
Already touch'd the violating hand
The Holy--and recoil'd! a shudder thrill'd
His limbs, fire-hot and icy-cold in turns,
As if invisible arms would pluck the soul
Back from the deed.
"O miserable man!
What would'st thou?" (Thus within the inmost heart
Murmur'd the warning whisper.) "Wilt thou dare
The All-hallow'd to profane? 'No mortal-born'
(So spake the oracular word)--'may lift the veil
Till I myself shall raise!' Yet said it not--
The same oracular word--'who lifts the veil
Shall see the truth?' Behind, be what there may,
I dare the hazard--I will lift the veil--"
Loud rang his shouting voice--"and I will see!"
A lengthen'd echo, mocking, shrill'd again!
He spoke and rais'd the veil! And ask'st thou what
Unto the sacrilegious gaze lay bare?
I know not--pale and senseless, stretch'd before
The statue of the great Egyptian queen,
The priests beheld him at the dawn of day;
But what he saw, or what did there befall,
His lips reveal'd not. Ever from his heart
Was fled the sweet serenity of life,
And the deep anguish dug the early grave
"Woe--woe to him"--such were his warning words,
Answering some curious and impetuous brain,
"Woe--for her face shall charm him never more!
Woe--woe to him who treads through Guilt to TRUTH!"
By Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)
Set by Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) , “Sehnsucht”, D. 52 (1813), published 1868; and op. 39, D. 636 (1821), published 1826. Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust, from The Lied & Art Song Texts Page
Ah, from this valley's grounds
that cold mists are pressing,
if I could only find a way out,
ah, how lucky I would feel!
Over there I glimpse pretty hills,
ever young and ever green!
If I had flight, if I had wings,
I would float over to those hills.
Harmonies I hear tinkling,
tones of sweet, heavenly peace;
and light winds bring
to me the scent of balsam.
Golden fruit I see glowing,
beckoning between dark leaves;
and the flowers that bloom there,
will never become Winter's prey.
Ah, how fine it must be to wander
there in eternal sunshine,
and the air on those heights -
O how refreshing it must be!
Yet I am stymied by the charging river,
that roars between us in rage;
its waves are so high
that my soul is horrified.
I see a small boat rocking there,
but ah! the ferryman is missing.
Go briskly to it and without hesitation:
his sails are ready.
You must believe, you must dare it,
for the Gods make no pledges.
Only a miracle can carry you
into that fair land of wonder.
Translated by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.
The original of the story on which Schiller has founded this ballad, matchless perhaps for the power and grandeur of its descriptions, is to be found in Kircher. According to the true principles of imitative art, Schiller has preserved all that is striking in the legend, and ennobled all that is common-place. The name of the Diver was Nicholas, surnamed the Fish. The King appears, according to Hoffmeister’s probable conjectures, to have been either Frederic I. or Frederic II., of Sicily. Date from 1295 to 1377.
“Oh, where is the knight or the squire so bold,
As to dive to the howling charybdis below?–
I cast in the whirlpool a goblet of gold,
And o’er it already the dark waters flow;
Whoever to me may the goblet bring,
Shall have for his guerdon that gift of his king.”
He spoke, and the cup from the terrible steep,
That, rugged and hoary, hung over the verge
Of the endless and measureless world of the deep,
Swirl’d into the maëlstrom that madden’d the surge.
“And where is the diver so stout to go–
I ask ye again–to the deep below?”
And the knights and the squires that gather’d around,
Stood silent–and fix’d on the ocean their eyes;
They look’d on the dismal and savage Profound,
And the peril chill’d back every thought of the prize.
And thrice spoke the monarch–“The cup to win,
Is there never a wight who will venture in?”
And all as before heard in silence the king–
Till a youth with an aspect unfearing but gentle,
‘Mid the tremulous squires–stept out from the ring,
Unbuckling his girdle, and doffing his mantle;
And the murmuring crowd as they parted asunder,
On the stately boy cast their looks of wonder.
As he strode to the marge of the summit, and gave
One glance on the gulf of that merciless main;
Lo! the wave that forever devours the wave
Casts roaringly up the charybdis again;
And, as with the swell of the far thunder-boom,
Rushes foamingly forth from the heart of the gloom.
And it bubbles and seethes, and it hisses and roars, As when fire is with water commix’d and contending,
And the spray of its wrath to the welkin up-soars,
And flood upon flood hurries on, never-ending.
And it never _will_ rest, nor from travail be free,
Like a sea that is laboring the birth of a sea.
Yet, at length, comes a lull O’er the mighty commotion,
As the whirlpool sucks into black smoothness the swell
Of the white-foaming breakers–and cleaves thro’ the ocean
A path that seems winding in darkness to hell.
Round and round whirl’d the waves-deeper and deeper
Like a gorge thro’ the mountainous main thunder-riven!
The youth gave his trust to his Maker! Before
That path through the riven abyss closed again–
Hark! a shriek from the crowd rang aloft from the shore,
And, behold! he is whirl’d in the grasp of the main!
And o’er him the breakers mysteriously roll’d,
And the giant-mouth closed on the swimmer so bold.
O’er the surface grim silence lay dark; but the crowd
Heard the wail from the deep murmur hollow and fell;
They hearken and shudder, lamenting aloud–
“Gallant youth-noble heart-fare-thee-well, fare-thee-well!”
More hollow and more wails the deep on the ear–
More dread and more dread grows suspense in its fear.
If thou should’st in those waters thy diadem fling,
And cry, “Who may find it shall win it and wear;”
God wot, though the prize were the crown of a king–
A crown at such hazard were valued too dear.
For never shall lips of the living reveal
What the deeps that howl yonder in terror conceal.
Oh, many a bark, to that breast grappled fast,
Has gone down to the fearful and fathomless grave;
Again, crash’d together the keel and the mast,
To be seen, toss’d aloft in the glee of the wave.
Like the growth of a storm, ever louder and clearer,
Grows the roar of the gulf rising nearer and nearer.
And it bubbles and seethes, and it hisses and roars,
As when fire is with water commix’d and contending;
And the spray of its wrath to the welkin up-soars,
And flood upon flood hurries on, never ending;
And as with the swell of the far thunder-boom
Rushes roaringly forth from the heart of the gloom.
And, lo! from the heart of that far-floating gloom, What gleams on the darkness so swanlike and white?
Lo! an arm and a neck, glancing up from the tomb!–
They battle–the Man’s with the Element’s might.
It is he–it is he! In his left hand, behold!
As a sign!–as a joy!–shines the goblet of gold!
And he breathed deep, and he breathed long,
And he greeted the heavenly delight of the day.
They gaze on each other–they shout, as they throng–
“He lives–lo the ocean has render’d its prey!
And safe from the whirlpool and free from the grave,
Comes back to the daylight the soul of the brave!”
And he comes, with the crowd in their clamor and glee,
And the goblet his daring has won from the water,
He lifts to the king as he sinks on his knee;–
And the king from her maidens has beckon’d his daughter–
She pours to the boy the bright wine which they bring,
And thus spake the Diver–“Long life to the king!
“Happy they whom the rose-hues of daylight rejoice,
The air and the sky that to mortals are given!
May the horror below never more find a voice–
Nor Man stretch too far the wide mercy of Heaven!
Never more–never more may he lift from the sight
The veil which is woven with Terror and Night!
“Quick-brightening like lightning–it tore me along,
Down, down, till the gush of a torrent, at play
In the rocks of its wilderness, caught me–and strong
As the wings of an eagle, it whirl’d me away.
Vain, vain was my struggle–the circle had won me,
Round and round in its dance, the wild element spun me.
“And I call’d on my God, and my God heard my prayer
In the strength of my need, in the gasp of my breath–
And show’d me a crag that rose up from the lair,
And I clung to it, nimbly–and baffled the death!
And, safe in the perils around me, behold
On the spikes of the coral the goblet of gold!
“Below, at the foot of the precipice drear,
Spread the gloomy, and purple, and pathless Obscure!
A silence of Horror that slept on the ear,
That the eye more appall’d might the Horror endure!
Salamander–snake–dragon–vast reptiles that dwell
In the deep-coil’d about the grim jaws of their hell.
“Dark-crawl’d–glided dark the unspeakable swarms,
Clump’d together in masses, misshapen and vast–
Here clung and here bristled the fashionless forms–
Here the dark-moving bulk of the Hammer-fish pass’d–
And with teeth grinning white, and a menacing motion,
Went the terrible Shark–the Hyena of Ocean.
“There I hung, and the awe gather’d icily o’er me,
So far from the earth, where man’s help there was none!
The One Human Thing, with the Goblins before me–
Alone–in a loneness so ghastly–ALONE!
Fathom-deep from man’s eye in the speechless profound,
With the death of the Main and the Monsters around.
“Methought, as I gazed through the darkness, that now
IT saw–the dread hundred-limbed creature-its prey!
And darted–O God! from the far flaming-bough
Of the coral, I swept on the horrible way;
And it seized me, the wave with its wrath and its roar,
It seized me to save–King, the danger is o’er!”
On the youth gazed the monarch, and marvel’d; quoth he,
“Bold Diver, the goblet I promised is thine,
And this ring will I give, a fresh guerdon to thee,
Never jewels more precious shone up from the mine,
If thou’lt bring me fresh tidings, and venture again
To tell what lies hid in the _innermost_ main?”
Then outspake the daughter in tender emotion
“Ah! father, my father, what more can there rest?
Enough of this sport with the pitiless ocean–
He has served thee as none would, thyself has confest.
If nothing can slake thy wild thirst of desire,
Let thy knights put to shame the exploit of the squire!”
The king seized the goblet–he swung it on high,
And whirling, it fell in the roar of the tide:
“But bring back that goblet again to my eye,
And I’ll hold thee the dearest that rides by my side;
And thine arms shall embrace, as thy bride, I decree,
The maiden whose pity now pleadeth for thee.”
In his heart, as he listen’d, there leapt the wild joy–
And the hope and the love through his eyes spoke in fire,
On that bloom, on that blush, gazed delighted the boy;
The maiden-she faints at the feet of her sire!
Here the guerdon divine, there the danger beneath;
He resolves! To the strife with the life and the death!
They hear the loud surges sweep back in their swell,
Their coming the thunder-sound heralds along!
Fond eyes yet are tracking the spot where he fell:
They come, the wild waters, in tumult and throng,
Roaring up to the cliff–roaring back, as before,
But no wave ever brings the lost youth to the shore.
From “Faust: A Drama, by Goethe, and Schiller’s Song of the Bell.” Translated by Lord Francis Leveson Gower. London: John Murray, Albemarle-Street. 1823.
PARTITION OF THE EARTH
When Jove had encircled our planet with light,
And had roll’d the proud orb on its way,
And had given the moon to illume it by night,
And the bright sun to rule it by day;
The reign of its surface he form’d to agree
With the wisdom that govern’d its plan;
He divided the earth, and apportion’d the sun,
And he gave the dominion to man.
The hunter he sped to the forest and wood,
And the husbandman seized on the plain;
The fisherman launch’d his canoe on the flood,
And the merchant embark’d on the main.
The mighty partition was finish’d at last,
When a figure came listlessly on;
But fearful and wild were the looks that he cast
When he found that the labour was done.
The mien of disorder, the wreath which he wore,
And the frenzy that flash’d from his eye,
And the lyre of ivory and gold which he bore,
Proclaim’d that the poet was nigh;
And he rush’d all in tears, at the fatal decree,
To the foot of the Thunderer’s throne,
And complain’d that no spot of the earth or the sea
Had been given the bard as his own.
And the Thunderer smiled at his prayer and his mien,
Though he mourn’d the request was too late;
And he ask’d in what regions the poet had been
When his lot was decided by fate.
Oh! Pardon the error, he humbly replied,
Which sprung from a vision too bright;
My soul at the moment was close at thy side,
Entranced in these regions of light.
It hung on thy visage, it bask’d in thy smile,
And it rode on thy glances of fire;
And forgive, if, bewilder’d and dazzled the while,
It forgot every earthly desire.
The earth, said the Godhead, is portion’d away,
And I cannot reverse the decree;
But the heavens are mine, and the regions of day,
And their portal is open to thee.
Lord Leveson Gower, Francis Egerton
First Earl of Ellesmere
From “The Poems and Ballads of Schiller” translated from the German of Friedrich Schiller by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, the last London edition, 1866.
Translator’s Note: In this poem presented to the reader, Schiller designed, as he wrote to Goethe, to depict the old Christian chivalry — half knightly, half monastic. The attempt is strikingly successful. Indeed, “The Fight of the Dragon” appears to me the most spirited and nervous of all Schiller’s narrative poems, with the single exception of “The Diver” … yet its philosophical conception is at once more profound…
THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON
Why run so fast the hurtling crowd
Down the long streets, roaring loud?
Is Rhodes on fire? — more fast the strong,
Wedg’d close and closer, storms along.
High o’er the train, he seems to lead,
Behold a knight on warlike Steed!
Behind is dragged a wondrous load;
Beneath what monster groans the road?
With wide jaws like the Crocodile,
In shape a Dragon to the sight,
All eyes in wonder gaze the while —
Now on the Monster, now on the Knight.
A thousand voices shout in glee,
“This is the Dragon, come and see
That did on herd and herdsman feast,
And this the Knight who slew the beast.
Before him, in that dreadful strife,
Has many a champion ventured life,
But ne’er returned to mortal sight —
All honor to the victor Knight!”
So to the Convent Cloister all
The gathering crowd swept clamorous on;
In haste convened within the hall,
Sate the vowed Knighthood of St. John.
Before the noble Master there,
The young Knight came with modest air;
The roaring crowd filled all the space
Beyond the rails that fenced the dais;
The Victor took the word, and spake,
“The duty knights with knighthood take
Is done; and, slain beneath my hand,
Lies the Devourer of the land.
Safe is the traveler from today,
And safe the grazing herds repose,
Safe to the shrine of grace, his way
Along the rocks the pilgrims goes!”
Stern look’d the Master. “Thou hast done,”
He said, “a hero’s deed, my son.
By valor knights are famous made;
A valiant soul thou hast display’d.
But to the knight, whose holier sword
Is vow’d to fight for Christ our Lord,
Who wears His cross — say, what is still
The first great law he must fulfill?”
All round grew pale; – with downcast head
Replied the vicar of the day.
“To him who wears the cross,” he said,
“The first great law is ,,, to obey!”
“And yet that duty, son,” replied
The chief, “methinks thou hast denied;
And in the encounter which our law
Forbade, hast dared thou sword to draw.”
“Master, when all is told, decide,”
With steadfast tone, the knight replied:
“For I that law’s true sense and will
But sought devoutly to fulfill.
Not blindly, with presumptuous heart.
Against the monster I did go;
But hoped, by stratagem and art,
To wrest the victory from the foe.
“Five of our order, whose renown
Flashed gem-like, in Religion’s crown,
Fell, rashly prodigal of life;
‘Twas then thy law forbade the strife.
Yet gloom was in my heart — desire
To share the conflict gnawed like fire:
In the still visions of the night,
Panting, I fought the fancied flight;
And when the morrow glimmering came,
With tales of ravage fleshly done,
Indignant grief and fiery shame,
Seized on me … and Resolve begun.
“And thus my inward musing ran —
What graces youth and honors man?
How lived the great in days of old,
Whose fame to time by bards is told.
Up to the gods’ renown and bliss
Raised by the blinded Heatheness?
By deeds that prove the Hero’s worth,
They cleared from monster broods the earth,
They sought the lion in his den,
They battled with the Minotaur,
Nor grudged to shed their blood for men,
And save from death one victim more.
“‘Is but the Saracen to feel
(Has he such worth?) — the Christian steel?
Are we to idols only brave?
Or is our mission earth to save —
From every ill, and every harm,
Freed by the Christian’s stalwart arm?
Yet wisdom must his valor lead,
And sage device should force precede.’
Thus oft I mused, and went alone
The fell Devourer’s tracks to spy;
I saw — and light upon me shone,
And ‘Found, O Victory!” was my cry!
“Then, Prince, I sought thee with the prayer
To breathe once more my native air;
The license given — the ocean past —
I reached the shores of home at last,
Scarce hail’d the old belov’d land,
Than huge, beneath the artist’s hand,
To each well-mark’d dread feature true,
The Dragon’s monster-model grew,
The dwarf’d, deformed limbs upbore,
The lengthened body’s ponderous load;
The scales the impervious surface wore,
Like links of burnish’d harness, glow’d.
“Far stretch’d the grisly neck; and fell
As are the gaping gates of hell,
You might the horrent jaws survey,
Wide oped, as if to snatch their prey.
The black mouth’s gloomy deeps disclose
Grim fangs that threat in bristling rows,
The tongue a sword-pointed seeming —
The deep small eyes in sparkles gleaming.
Where the vast body ends, succeed
The serpent spires around it roll’d —
As if the rider and the steed
Alike in dreadful coils to fold.
“All to the hideous life was true,
Ev’n to the gray and ghastly hue;
It stood half dragon and half snake,
As if spawn’d forth from a poisonous lake.
And now began the mimic chase:
Two dogs I chose of noblest race,
That, fleet and fierce, ne’er turn’d before
The headlong rush of forest bore;
I train’d them on the shape to spring,
As if on a living foe to fly
With fastening teeth to rend, and spring;
And rous’d their rage with cheering cry.
“And where their gripe the best assails
The belly, left unsheath’d in scales,
I taught the dexterous hounds to hang,
And find the spot to fix the fang;
While I, with lance and mail’d garb,
Launch’d on the beast mine Arab barb.
From purest race that Arab came;
His fire my hand and voice inflame:
Beneath the sharp spur bounding fierce,
He fronts the beast in full career —
And there, as if the hide to pierce,
By turns I couch and hurl the spear.
“Though when the monster first it eyed,
It chomp’d the bit and swerved aside,
Snorted and rear’d … and even they,
The fierce hounds, shrank with startled bay;
I ceased not, till, by custom bold,
After three tedious moons were told,
Both barb and hounds were train’d — nay, more,
Fierce for the fight, then left the shore!
Three days have fleeted since I press’d
(Return’d at length) this welcome soil,
Nor once would lay my limbs to rest,
Till wrought the glorious crowning toil.
“It burn’d my heart within to know,
New ravage done by that great foe.
The bones of herdsmen, bleach’d and bare,
Lay round the hell-worm’s swampy lair;
Stung, on the sudden I depart,
Nor counsel take but from my heart;
And so my squires I call’d in speed,
Spring lightly on my proven steed,
Take my two gallant hounds, and by
Lone secret pathways gayly go,
To see, unmark’d by human eye,
In its own deathful hold, the foe.
“Thou know’st the chapel glimmering o’er,
The mountain rock, from ridges hoar,
Aloft, it overlooks the isle,
Bold was the soul that built the pile.
Humble and mean, the sacred house,
Contains a shrine miraculous —
Mother and Child, to whom of old
Came the Three Kings, we there behold.
By three times thirty steps must climb,
The pilgrim to that steep abode,
To feel, in sudden strength sublime
Renewed, the Saviour’s neighborhood.
“Yawns wide within that holy steep,
A mighty cavern dark and deep,
Damp with the marsh dews, dim and dun,
And never lit by heavenly sun;
And there by night and there by day,
The worm unguest and greeding lay,
Ever at watch, in darkness screen’d
Under God’s house, like Hell’s own fiend.
And when along that path of woe
The pilgrim came, upon the way,
Forth from the ambush rushed the foe
And down, devouring, dragg’d the prey.
“I stood upon that rocky hight,
Ere yet I dar’d the dreadful fight,
Before the Infant Christ within,
I knelt and purg’d my heart from sin,
The mantle white on holy ground,
Above my coat of mail I bound.
In my right hand I grasp’d my spear,
Then downward strode with conscious clear,
There to my squires I gave the heed,
To wait in refuge safe behind;
Nimbly I vaulted on my steed,
And unto God my soul consign’d.
“The level plain before me lay,
Started the hounds with sudden bay,
Aghast the frightened charger slanting,
Refused the rein and, trembled, panting.
For curling there, in coiled fold,
The Unutterable Beast behold,
Lazily basting in the sun!
Forth sprang the dogs. The fight’s begun!
But back the hounds, recoiling fast
Before the jaws expanded fly.
Scared by the reeking poison-blast
And the howl’d dismal jackal cry.
“But quickly cheered, again they go,
And fasten fiercely on the foe. —
While full against the monster’s hide,
I launch the speer — it slants aside
As harmless on the woven scale
As slender reed on coat of mail.
And ere I could renew the stroke,
From rein and rule the charger broke —
That basilisk eye had spell’d the steed
It felt the poisonous charnel breath,
Forsaken in my dreadest need,
Hope vanish’d, and I looked on Death.
“But light and quick to earth I leapt;
Swift from the sheath my falchion swept;
Swift on that rock-like mail it plied,
The rock-like mail the sword defied:
The monster lash’d its mighty coil;
Down hurl’d, behold me on the soil.
O’er me the jaw’s dark cavern hangs —
I feel the snap of those dark fangs,
When lo! the dogs — the flesh is found;
The scaleless parts their fury gain!
And the fell monster, writhing round,
Howls its immeasurable pain.
“No time to foil its fastening foes —
Light, as it writhed, I sprang, and rose;
The bare unguarded place explor’d,
And to the hilt I plunged the sword —
Up from the vitals sprang the blood,
Black-bubbling spouted forth the flood.
Then down it bore me in its fall;
Buried beneath that giant ball,
In dizzy swoon upon the ground
I lay; — till sense returns once more —
I see my squires that stand around,
And the dead dragon in its gore.”
Then burst forward from every eager breast
The loud applause, so long suppressed.
Scarcely the knight those words had spoken,
Then, on the vaulted rafters broken,
Times ten re-echoing and ascending,
Came the vast shout of thousands blending;
As loud, the knights their voices raise,
“His brows be crowned with wreaths of bays!”
The crowd, in pomp, would lead him round,
From street to street his deed proclaim —
When the Grand Master sternly frown’d.
And calling silence, silence came.
And thus he spoke: “With valiant hand
Thou from the pest hast purged the land.
Let crowds their idol hail; in thee
A foe our Order can but see!
Thy breast has cherish’d to its bane
A worm more fell than Dragon slain —
The snake that poisons hearts within,
And breeds dissension, strife and sin.
That worm is WILL, superb and vain.
Which spurns at all restraints that bind —
Which sacred order rends in twain —
‘Tis that which doth destroy mankind.
“The Turk from valor gains renown;
Obedience is the Christian’s crown —
There, where from heaven descending, trod
In humblest guise the Savior God,
Our fathers on that holy ground,
Did first this knightly Order found,
That heaviest duty to fulfill,
By which we conquer strong self-will.
Our law thy thirst of glory broke —
Vain-glorious — from my sight depart.
Not he who scorns the Savior’s yoke
Should wear His cross upon the breast.”
Then burst the angry roar of all,
As with a tempest shook the hall;
The noble Brethren pled for grace —
Mute stood the youth, with downward face;
Laid by the robe and sacred band,
And meekly kissed the Master’s hand,
And went — the Master mark’d him part —
“Return,” he cried, “and to my heart;
The harder part of Christ is won:
Hero, take this cross — meet prize for thee —
Thou hast battled with thyself, my son,
And conquered — through Humility.
In “The Fight of the Dragon” is expressed the moral of that humility which consists in self-conquest — even merit may lead to vain-glory — and after vanquishing the fiercest enemies without, man has still to contend with his worst foe — the pride or disobedience of the heart. “Every one,” as a recent critic remarked, “has more or less his own ‘fight with the Dragon’ — his own double victory (with and without) to achieve.” The origin of this poem is to be found in the annals of the Knights of Malta, and the details may be seen in Vertot’s History. The date assigned to the conquest of the Dragon is 1342. Helion de Villeneuve was the name of the Grand Master — that of the Knight, Dieu-Donne de Gozon. Thevenot still declares that the head of the monster (to whatever species it truly belonged), or its effigies was still placed over one of the gates of the city in his time. Dieu-Donne succeeded De Villeneuve as Grand Master, and on his gravestone were inscribed the words, “Draconis Exstinctor.” EBL, 1866
Der Graf von Habsburg
From “The Poems and Ballads of Schiller” translated from the German of Friedrich Schiller by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, the last London edition, 1866.
Translator’s note: Hinrichs properly classes this striking ballad (together with the yet grander “Fight with the Dragon”) amongst those designed to depict and exalt the virtue of Humility. The source of the story is in Aegidius Tschudi, a Swiss chronicler; and Schiller appears to have adhered, with much fidelity, to the original narrative. The metre in the translation is slightly altered, when strictly rendered into English, a certain jerk in its rhythm, not pleasing to the ear.
RUDOLF OF HAPSBURG,
Aix-la-Chapelle, in imperial array,
In that time-hallowed hall renown’d,
At solemn feast King Rudolph sate,
The day that saw the hero crown’d!
Bohemia and thy Palgrave, Rhine,
Give this the feast, and that the wine;
The Arch Electoral Seven,
Like choral stars around the sun,
Gird him whose hand a world has won,
That anointed choice of heaven.
In galleries raised above the pomp,
Pressed crowd on crowd their panting way;
And with the joy-resounding joyful tromp,
Rang out the million’s loud hurra!
For after rapine, strife and crime,
Has closed the fearful Kingless time,
Earth knows a JUDGE again:
No longer rules the iron spear,
No longer need the feeble fear
That might alone shall reign.
In Rudolf’s hand the goblet shines,
And gayly round the board looks he:
“And proud the feast, and bright the wines,
My kingly heart feels glad to me!
Yet where the Gladness-Bringer – blest,
In the sweet art which moves the breast,
With lyre and verse divine?
Dear from my youth the craft of song,
And what as knight I loved so long,
As Kaiser, still be mine.”
Lo, ‘mid the princely circle there.
With sweeping robe, the Bard appears,
As silver white his gleaming hair,
Bleach’d by the winds of many years:
“Sweet music sleeps in golden strings,
Love’s rich reward the minstrel sings,
The highest and the best-
The heart can wish, or sense desire;
He praises; – Dictate to my lyre
Theme for thy stateliest feast.”
The Great One smil’d — “Not mine the sway,
The minstrel owns a loftier power;
A mightier king inspires the lay,
Its hest — THE IMPULSE OF THE HOUR!
As spring the storm winds to the skies,
And none can guess from which they rise,
As streams from founts unseen,
Song gushes from within – – revealing,
The while it wakes, the realm of Feeling,
Hushed in the souls of men!”
Swift with the Fire the minstrel glow’d,
And loud the music swept the ear:
“Forth to the chase a Hero rode,
To hunt the bounding chamois-deer;
With shaft and horn the squire behind; –
Through greenwards meads the riders wind —
A tinkling bell they hear.
Lo, with the Host, a holy man,
Before him strides the sacristan,
And the bell sounds near and near.
“The noble hunter bared his head,
And humbly to the earth inclin’d,
Revering, as becomes our creed,
The meek Redeemer of Mankind!
Loud through the plain a brooklet raves,
And checks the path with swollen waves,
Down rushing from the hill.
His sandle shoon the priest unbound,
And laid the Host upon the ground,
To ford the angry rill!
“‘What wouldst thou, priest?’ the Count began,
His gazing, wondering, halted there:
‘Sir Count, I seek a dying man,
Who hungers for the heavenly fare.
The bridge o’er which my journey lay,
By the strong current swept away,
Drifts down the tide below.
That the sick soul of health may taste
Now barefoot through the stream I haste,
God’s healing to bestow.’
“The Count has placed him on the steed,
And given the priest the lordly reins,
That he might serve the sick man’s need,
And speed the task that heaven ordains.
He took the horse the squire bestrode,
On to the chase the hunter rode,
While the priest on his journey was speeding
And the following morning, with thankful look,
And back the steed, when morn was red,
All meekly by the bridle led,
With thankful looks he brought.
“Now Heaven forefend!” the Hero cried,
“That o’er to chase or battle more,
These limbs the sacred steed bestride
That once my Maker’s image bore!
If not a boon allowed to thee,
Thy Lord and mine its master be.
To him in tribute given,
From whom I hold, as fiefs since birth,
Have received in fee, and my body and blood,
Honor and life, the goods of earth,
Soul – and the hopes of Heaven!’
“‘Then may the Lord of Hosts, who bears,
His lowliest servant’s supplication,
Accord the man whom him reveres –
Honor on earth, in Heaven salvation.
Far-famed even now through Swisserland,
Thy kingly rule and knightly hand;
Six daughters thine; and they,’
Inspired he cries, ‘Shall crown thy stem,
Each with a royal diadem,
Bright till the Judgment day.”
The mighty Kaiser heard amazed!
His heart was in the days of old;
Into the minstrel’s eyes he gazed,
That tale the Kaiser’s own had told.
Yes, in the Bard the priest he knew,
And in the purple veiled from view,
The gush of holy tears!
All on the Kaiser fix their sight,
Each in the Kaiser sees the Knight;
And God’s elect reveres!
The office, at the coronation feast, of the Count Palatine of the Rhine (Grand Sewer of the Empire, and one of the Seven Electors) was to bear the Imperial Globe and set the dishes on the board; that of the King of Bohemia was cup-bearer. The latter was not, however, present. as Schiller himself observed in a note (omitted in the editions of his works), at the coronation of Rudolf. At the coronation of Rudolf was celebrated the marriage-feast of three of his daughters: to Ludwig of Bavaria, Otto of Brandenburg, and Albrecht of Saxony.
His other three daughters married afterward Otto, nephew of Ludwig of Bavaria, Charles Martel, son of Charles of Anjou, and Wenceslaus, son of Ottocar of Bohemia. The royal house of England numbers Rudolf of Hapsburg among its ancestors.
See here! See here!
The laws of the world have become mere dice-play;
The bonds of Nature are torn asunder.
The Demon of Discord has broken loose
And stalks about triumphant!
My newest book has arrived and I am pleased! The 1799 Render translation of Schiller’s first drama, “Die Räuber” ( published in 1781; first translated as The Robbers in 1792). At two hundred and nine years of age, the volume is a beauty! Bound in contemporary green calf, its spine is richly decorated and lettered in gilt (title and author vibrant!), its boards distinctively bordered in gilt and blind, with green marbled edges and end-papers, pages clean and bright, and a handsome frontispiece by Nagle!
Just hold an old book in your hand. Listen! It will whisper to you of ages past, if only you have the heart to hear!
But now, Comments from another antique source … DE L’ALLEMAGNE – “Germany” by Madame Germaine de Staél-Holstein (published 1810, the 1813 John Murray translation).
Schiller, in his earliest youth, possessed a fervour of genius, a kind of intoxication of sentiment, which misguided him. The “Conspiracy of Fiesco,” “Intrigue and Love,” and , lastly, “The Robbers,” all which have been performed in the French theatre, are works which the principle of art, as well as those of morality, may condemn; but from the age of five and twenty, his writings were pure and severe. The education of life depraves the frivolous, but perfects the reflecting mind.
“The Robbers” has been translated into French, but greatly altered; at first they omitted to take advantage of the date, which affixes an historical interest to the piece. The scene is placed in the 15th century, at the moment when the perpetual peace, by which all private challenges were forbidden, was published in the empire. This edict was no doubt productive of great advantage to the repose of Germany; but the young men of birth , accustomed to live in the midst of dangers, and rely upon their personal strength, fancied that they fell into a sort of shameful inertness when they subjected themselves to the authority of the laws. Nothing was more absurd that this conception; yet, as men are generally governed by custom, it is natural to be repugnant even to the best of changes, only because it is a change. Schiller’s Captain of the Robbers is less odious than if he were placed in the present times, for there was little difference between the feudal anarchy in which he lived, and the bandit life which he adopted; but it is precisely the kind of excuse which the author affords him, that renders his piece the more dangerous. It has produced, it must be allowed, a bad effect in Germany. Young men, enthusiastic admirers of the character and mode of living of the Captain of the Robbers, have tried to imitate him.
Their taste for a licentious life they honoured with the name of the love of liberty, and fancied themselves to be indignant against the abuses of social order, when they were only tired of their own private condition. Their essays in rebellion were merely ridiculous, yet have tragedies and romances more importance in Germany than in any other country. Every thing there is done seriously; and the lot of life is influenced by reading such a work, or seeing such a performance. What is admired in art, must be imitated into existence. Werther has occasioned more suicides than the finest woman in the world; and poetry, philosophy, in short all the ideal, have often more command over the Germans, than nature and the passions themselves.
The subject of “The Robbers” is the same with that of so many other fictions, all founded originally on the parable of the Prodigal. There is a hypocritical son, who conducts himself well in outward appearances, and a culpable son, who possesses good feelings among his faults. This contrast is very fine in a religious point of view, because it bears witness to us that God reads our hearts; but is nevertheless objectionable in inspiring too much interest in favor of a son who deserted his father’s house. It teaches young people with bad heads universally to boast of the goodness of their hearts, although nothing is more absurd than for men to attribute to themselves virtues, only because they have defects; this negative pledge is very uncertain, since it never can follow from their wanting reason that they are possessed of sensibility: Madness is often only an impetuous excess of self-love.
The character of the hypocritical son, such as Schiller has represented him, is much too odious. It is one of the faults of very young writers to sketch with too hasty a pencil; the gradual shades in painting are taken for timidity of character, when, in fact, they constitute a proof of the maturity of talent. If the personages of the second rank are not painted with sufficient exactness, the passions of the chief of the robbers are admirably expressed. The energy of this character manifests itself in turns in incredulity, religion, love and cruelty. Having been unable to find a place where to fix himself in his proper rank, he makes to himself an opening through the commission of a crime; existence is for him sort of a delirium, heightened sometimes by rage, and sometimes by remorse. The love scenes between the young girl and the chief of the robbers, who was to have been her husband, are admirable in point of enthusiasm and sensibility; there are few situations more pathetic than that of this perfectly virtuous woman, always attached from the bottom of her soul to him whom she loved before he became criminal. The respect which a woman is accustomed to feel for the man she loves is changed into a sort of terror and of pity; and one would say that the unfortunate female flatters herself with the thought of becoming the guardian angel of her guilty lover, in heaven, now when she can never more hope to be the happy companion of his pilgrimage on earth.
Schiller’s play cannot be fairly appreciated by the French translation. In this they have preserved only what may be called the pantomime of action; the originality of the characters has vanished, and it is that alone which can give life to fiction; the finest tragedies would degenerate into melo-drames, when stripped of the animated colouring of sentiments and passions. The force of events is not enough to unite the spectator with the persona represented; let them love, or let them kill one another, it is all the same to us, if the author has failed of exciting our sympathies in their favour.
Madame de Staël
I am better than my reputation … Schiller
I honor Friedrich Schiller … and possess most of his work in 19th Century translation. His words live in my heart still … and are part of who I am as a person today. And on its way to me now, I’m delighted to say … is a fine new addition to my beloved antique book collection: An earlier copy of “The Robbers.” The 1799 Render translation.
A universal genius generally regarded as the greatest German dramatist, Friedrich Schiller dominates a period of German literary history as no one else before or since. Schiller revealed more vividly than any of his predecessors the power of drama and poetry to convey a philosophy; his works contain the strongest assertions of human freedom and dignity and the worth of the individual in all German literature.
To modern English-speaking people the mystique surrounding Schiller may seem hard to fathom. Yet to study how Germans perceive Schiller is to study how they perceive themselves. He appeared at a time when German literature was dominated by the monumental achievements of England, France, and Italy; there was even serious debate about whether the German language was a fit vehicle for literary expression. Schiller furnished proof of Germany’s high cultural achievement.
Schiller’s first drama was “Die Räuber” (1781; translated as The Robbers, 1792). Little is known about the genesis of the play other than that he had begun work on it when still a teenager. A vital, energetic, and troubling work, it soon caught the eye of Wolfgang Heribert von Dalberg, director of the Mannheim National Theater in the neighboring duchy of Hesse, who decided to bring it to the stage. The play was a sensation. Much of its appeal resides in Schiller’s choice of the archetypal theme of hostile brothers. The jealous and greedy Franz von Moor tricks his father, the ruling count, into disinheriting his elder brother, Karl, who is away at the university. He then imprisons his father and seizes the land and title for himself and tries to terrorize Karl’s beloved, Amalia, into concubinage. Learning of his disinheritance, Karl drops out of school and becomes the leader of a band of robbers. No ordinary hoodlum, he is consumed by a demonic craving for justice; he has the noble but misguided notion that he can right the wrongs of the world by taking the law into his own hands. But the frightening violence that attends each raid begins to plague his conscience. His final catastrophic effort to bring his brother to justice ends in Franz’ suicide and the deaths of the count, Amalia, and Karl’s closest friend. In the end Karl realizes that he has done more harm than good. His last act, turning himself in to the police, amounts to a cry from the heart for lost ideals.
The drama introduces two themes that were to occupy Schiller for the rest of his life. The first is that of the criminal hero, the man inspired by lofty goals who employs immoral methods to achieve them. The second is that of the idealistic reformer betrayed by institutionalized hypocrisy and greed; in his hero’s fall Schiller consistently underscores the futility inherent in the pursuit of ideals. The play also reveals Schiller’s innate grasp of what constitutes drama. As a piece of stagecraft Die Räuber has it all: sibling rivalry, armed robberies, an evil tyrant, a captive maiden, raging battles, tender love, and the conflict between good and evil. The language and the characterization are shamelessly overblown, but they matched the epic proportions of the action and struck a responsive chord in the viewers. The play was one of the most astonishing hits in the annals of the German stage, and the critics were no less enthralled than the public.
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