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August Graf von Platen-Hallermund: “Would I were free…”

Excerpt, “The German Classics:  Masterpieces of German Literature.  The Patrons’ Edition.”  1913. Vol. 5. Translator:   Percy MacKaye.

Wordsworth: “I have learned…”

running horses.

..I have learned to look on Nature . . .

as a presence that disturbs me

with the joy of elevated thoughts;

a sense sublime…

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Whose dwelling is the light of Setting Suns,

and the round ocean,

and the living air,

and the blue sky,

and in the mind of Man:

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A motion and a spirit that impels

all thinking things,

all objects of all thought,

and rolls through all things.

,

Therefore am I still a lover of the meadows,

the woods and mountains;

and of all that we behold from this green earth . . .

.

Well pleased to recognize in nature

and the language of the sense

the anchor of my purest thoughts,

the nurse, the guide,

the guardian of my heart, and soul,

of all my moral being.

. William Wordsworth, 1798

Friedrich Halm: “My Heart…”

.Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.

ladyknightdog

My heart, I fain would ask thee,

What call’st thou love, expound?

“Two souls with one thought between them,

Two hearts with one pulse-bound!”

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And say, from whence love cometh:

“She comes, and lo, she’s there!”

And say, how doth love vanish?

“If so, love never were.”

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And when is love the purest?

“When she herself excludes!”

And when is love the deepest?

“When silentest she broods!”

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And when is love the richest?

“Then when with gifts she’s fraught!”

And say, what is’t love speaketh?

“She loves, but speaketh nought!”

Bismarck: Letters to Johanna 3/3

Excerpt, “German Classics of the 19th and 20th Centuries,” Vol. X, 1914; translator Charlton T. Lewis et al.

Thought goes before the deed as lightning precedes thunder.
German thunder is indeed German, and not in a hurry,
and it comes rolling slowly onward;
but come it will,
and when ye hear it crash as naught ever crashed before
in the whole history of the world,
then know that der deutsche Donner,
our German thunder,
has at last hit its mark.

At that sound the eagles will fall dead from on high,
the lions in remotest deserts in Africa will draw in their tails
and creep into their royal caves.
There will be played in Germany a drama compared to which
the French Revolution will be only an innocent idyll.

Just now all is tolerably quiet,
and if here and there someone behaves in a lively manner,
do not believe that the great actors have as yet
appeared upon the stage.
They are only the little dogs who run round in the amphitheatre,
and bark and bite one another,
before the hour begins when the great array of gladiators will enter,
and war to the death … or for life.

Heinrich Heine, 1834

Vendresse, September 3, 1870.
To MRS. VON BISMARCK:
My Dear Heart,
Day before yesterday I left my quarters here before dawn, but came back today, and have meanwhile been through the great battle of Sedan on the 1st, in which we took some thirty thousand prisoners, and shut the remainder of the French army, which we had chased ever since Bar-le-Duc, into the fortress, where they had to surrender, with the Emperor, as prisoners of war.
At five yesterday morning, after I had discussed the terms of capitulation with Moltke and the French generals till one o’clock, General Reille, whom I know, called me up to say that Napoleon wished to speak with me. Without washing or breakfast, I rode towards Sedan, found the Emperor in an open carriage with three adjutants, and three more at hand in the saddle, on the main road before Sedan.
I dismounted, saluted him as politely as in the Tuileries, and asked his commands. He desired to see the King. I told him, as was true, that his Majesty’s quarters were fourteen miles away, at the place where I am writing now. Upon his question, whither he should betake himself, I offered him, since I was unfamiliar with the region, my quarters in Donchery, a village on the Maas close to Sedan; he accepted them, and drove, escorted by his six Frenchmen, by me; and by Carl, who meanwhile had ridden after me, through the lovely morning, towards our lines.
He was distressed before reaching the place because of the possible crowds, and asked me if he might not stop at a lonely workman’s house on the road. I had it examined by Carl, who reported that it was wretched and dirty. “N’importe,” said Napoleon, and I mounted with him a narrow, rickety stairway. In a room ten feet square, with a fig-wood table and two rush-bottomed chairs, we sat an hour, the others staying below. A mighty contrast to our last interview, in ’67, at the Tuileries.
Our conversation was difficult, if I would avoid touching on things which must be painful to those whom God’s mighty hand had overthrown. Through Carl, I had officers brought from the city, and Moltke requested to come. We then sent out one of the first to reconnoitre, and discovered, a couple of miles off, at Fresnoi’s, a little château with a park. Thither I conducted him, with an escort of the Cuirassier body-guards, which was meanwhile brought up, and there we concluded the capitulation with Wimpfen, the French general-in-chief. By its terms, from forty to sixty thousand French–I do not yet know the number more exactly–became our prisoners, with everything they have.
The two receding days cost France one hundred thousand men and an emperor. He started early this morning, with all his court, horses, and wagons, for Wilhelmshöhe, at Cassel. It is an event in universal history, a triumph for which we will thank God the Lord in humility, and which is decisive of the war, even though we must continue to prosecute it against headless France.
I must close. With heartfelt joy I have learned today, from your letter and Marie’s, of Herbert’s reaching you. I met Bill yesterday, as I telegraphed you, and took him to my arms from his horse before the King’s face, while he stood with his limbs rigid. He is entirely well and in high spirits. Hans and Fritz Carl and both the Billows I saw with the Second Dragoon guards, well and cheerful.
Farewell, my heart. Kiss the children.
Your v.B.

Bismarck and Napoleon

 Napoleon III. and Bismarck on the way to Wilhelm I on the morning after the battle of Sedan. Wilhelm Camphausen, 1877.

Bismarck: Letters to Johanna 2/3

Excerpt, “German Classics of the 19th and 20th Centuries,” Vol. X, 1914; translator Charlton T. Lewis et al.

If we are not unmeasured in our claims
And do not imagine we have conquered the world,
We shall achieve a peace that is worth the trouble.

Otto von Bismarck

 Hohenmauth, Monday, September 7, ’66.

Do you remember, sweetheart, how we passed through here nineteen years ago, on the way from Prague to Vienna? No mirror showed the future then, nor in 1852, when I went over this railway with good Lynar. How strangely romantic are God’s ways! We are doing well, in spite of Napoleon; if we are not unmeasured in our claims and do not imagine we have conquered the world, we shall achieve a peace that is worth the trouble. But we are as easily intoxicated as disheartened, and it is my thankless part to pour water into the foaming wine, and to insist that we do not live alone in Europe, but with three other powers which hate and envy us.
The Austrians hold position in Moravia, and we are bold enough to announce our headquarters for tomorrow at the point where they are now. Prisoners still keep passing in, and cannon, one hundred and eighty from the 3d to today. If they bring up their southern army, we shall, with God’s gracious help, defeat it too; confidence is universal. Our people are ready to embrace one another, every man so deadly in earnest, calm, obedient, orderly, with empty stomach, soaked clothes, wet camp, little sleep, shoe-soles dropping off, kindly to all, no sacking or burning, paying what they can and eating mouldy bread.
There must surely be a solid basis of fear of God in the common soldier of our army, or all this could not be. News of our friends is hard to get; we lie miles apart from one another, none knowing where the other is, and nobody to send–that is, men might be had, but no horses. For four days I have had search made for Philip, who was slightly wounded by a lance-thrust in the head, as Gerhard wrote me, but I can’t find out where he is, and we have now come thirty-seven miles farther.
The King exposed himself greatly on the 3d and it was well I was present, for all the warnings of others had no effect, and no one would have dared to talk so sharply to him as I allowed myself to do on the last occasion, which gave support to my words, when a knot of ten cuirassiers and fifteen horses of the Sixth Cuirassier Regiment rushed confusedly by us, all in blood, and the shells whizzed around most disagreeably close to the King.
He cannot yet forgive me for having blocked for him the pleasure of being hit. “At the spot where I was forced by order of the supreme authority to run away,” were his words only yesterday, pointing his finger angrily at me. But I like it better so than if he were excessively cautious. He was full of enthusiasm over his troops, and justly so rapt that he seemed to take no notice of the din and fighting close to him, calm and composed as at the Kreuzberg, and constantly meeting battalions that he must thank with “Good-evening, grenadiers,” till we were actually by this trifling brought under fire again. But he has had to hear so much of this that he will stop it for the future, and you may feel quite easy; indeed, I hardly believe there will be another real battle.
When you have of anybody no word whatever, you may assume with confidence that he is alive and well; for if acquaintances are wounded it is always known at latest in twenty-four hours. We have not come across Herwarth and Steinmetz at all, nor has the King. Schreck, too, I have not seen, but I know they are well. Gerhard keeps quietly at the head of his squadron, with his arm in a sling.
Farewell–I must to business.
Your faithfullest v.B.
~~~~~
Zwittau, Moravia, July 11, ’66.
Dear Heart,
I have no inkstand, all of them being in use; but for the rest I get on well, after a good sleep on a camp bed with air mattress; roused at eight by a letter from you. I went to bed at eleven. At Königgrätz I rode the big sandy thirteen hours in the saddle without feeding him. He bore it very well, did not shy at shots nor at corpses, cropped standing grain and plum-leaves with zest at the most trying moments, and kept up an easy gait to the last, when I was more tired than the horse. My first bivouac for the night was on the street pavement of Horic, with no straw, but helped by a carriage cushion.
It was full of wounded; the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg found me and shared his chamber with me, Reuss, and two adjutants, and the rain made this very welcome to me. About the King and the shells I have written you already. All the generals had a superstition that they, as soldiers, must not speak to the King of danger, and always sent me off to him, though I am a major, too. They did not venture to speak to his reckless Majesty in the serious tone which at last was effectual. Now at last he is grateful to me for it, and his sharp words, “How you drove me off the first time,” etc., are an acknowledgment that I was right. Nobody knew the region, the King had no guide, but rode right on at random, till I obtruded myself to show the way.
Farewell, my heart. I must go to the King.
Your most faithful v.B.

544px-BismarckRoonMoltke

Minister-President Otto von Bismarck; Minister of War Albrecht von Roon;

Helmuth Karl von Moltke, Chief of the Prussian General Staff.

Bismarck: Letters to Johanna 1/3

Excerpt, “German Classics of the 19th and 20th Centuries,” Vol. X, 1914; translator Charlton T. Lewis et al.

For I married you in order to love you in God
And according to the need of my heart,
And in order to have in the midst of the strange world
A place for my heart,
Which all the world’s bleak winds cannot chill,
And where I might find the warmth of the home fire,
To which I eagerly betake myself when
It is stormy and cold without.
Otto von Bismarck
Berlin, April 28, 1851.
My Dear Sweetheart,
Mother’s premonition that I would remain long away has, unfortunately, proved correct this time. The King was the first to propose my nomination, and that at once, as a real delegate to the Diet; his plan has, of course, encountered much opposition, and has finally been so modified that Rochow will, it is true, remain Minister at Petersburg, whither he is to return in two months, but meanwhile, provisionally, he is commissioned to Frankfort, and I am to accompany him, with the assurance that, on his leaving for Petersburg, I shall be his successor. But this last is between ourselves.
Now I want to go, first of all, to Frankfort, and take a look at the situation, and hear how I shall stand pecuniarily pending my definite appointment, of which I know nothing at all as yet. Then I shall see whether I can leave again shortly after the start, and whether I am to count on staying any longer; for, although I have, indeed, accepted, still I am not yet sufficiently familiar with the ground to be able to say definitely whether I shall stay there or shortly get out again. As soon as that is decided, we shall probably, after all, have to consider for you, too, the prospect of exchanging your quiet Reinfeld existence for the noise of the Diet’s diplomacy.
Your folks have often complained that nothing was made of me by those above me; now this is, beyond my expectations and wishes, a sudden appointment to what is at this moment the most important post in our diplomatic service; I have not sought it; I must assume that the Lord wished it, and I cannot withdraw, although I foresee that it will be an unfruitful and a thorny office, in which, with the best intentions, I shall forfeit the good opinion of many people. But it would be cowardly to decline.
I cannot give you today further particulars as to our plans, how we shall meet, what will be done about your going to the seashore; only I shall try to make leisure, if possible, to see you before. I feel almost like crying when I think of this sudden upsetting of our innocent plans, as well as of the uncertainty when I shall see you again, my beloved heart, and the babies; and I earnestly pray God to arrange it all without detriment to our earthly welfare and without harm to my soul.
God be with you, my dear, and bring us together again soon.
With heartfelt love.
Your most faithful v.B.
~~~~~
Frankfort, May 14, 1851.
My Little Dear,
It seems to be getting constantly more certain that I shall take Rochow’s position in the summer. In that event, if the rating remains as it was, I shall have a salary of twenty-one thousand rix-dollars, but I shall have to keep a large train and household establishment and you, my poor child, must sit stiff and sedate in the drawing-room, be called Excellency, and be clever and wise with Excellencies. The city is not so bad as you suppose; there are a great many charming villas before the gates, similar to those in the Thiergarten, only more sunny.
As Councilor of Legation, it will be difficult for us to live there, owing to distance and expense; but as Ambassador, quite as charming as is possible in a foreign land.By letters of introduction I have quickly become acquainted with the charming world hereabouts. Yesterday I dined with the English Ambassador, Lord Cowley, nephew of the Duke of Wellington; very kind, agreeable people; she is an elegant woman of about forty, very worldly, but benevolent and easy to get acquainted with; I have immediately put myself on a friendly footing with her, so that when you step into the cold bath of diplomatic society she may be a powerful support for you.
Previously I called on a Frau von Stallupin (pronounce Stolipine), a young woman without children, kindly, like all Russian women, but terribly rich, and settled in a little castle-like villa, so that one hardly dares to take a step or to sit down; a Scharteuck interior is a rude barn compared with it.Day before yesterday evening I called on Frau von Vrintz, a sister of Meyendorf’s wife; the diplomatic folks assemble every evening in her drawing-room. Countess Thun was there, a very handsome young woman, in the style of Malvinia; also the Marquis de Tallenay, French Ambassador, a polite fifty-year-old; Count Szechenyi, a gay young Magyar, full of pranks, and divers other foreign personages.
They gamble there every evening, the lady of the house, too, and not for very low stakes; I was scolded for declaring it boresome, and told them it would be my rôle to laugh at those who lost. Society probably does not appeal to you very strongly, my beloved heart, and it seems to me as though I were harming you by bringing you into it, but how shall I avoid that?
I have one favor to ask of you, but keep it to yourself, and do not let mother suspect that I have written you one word about it, otherwise she will worry needlessly over it: occupy yourself with French as much as you can in the meantime, but let it be thought that you yourself have discovered that it is useful. Read French, but, if you love me, do not do so by artificial light, or if our eyes pain you; in that case you had better ask mother to read to you, for it is almost harder to understand than to speak. If you know of any agreeable piece of baggage you can get in a hurry to chatter French to you, then engage one; I will gladly pay the bill.
You will enter here an atmosphere of French spirit and talk, anyway; so you cannot avoid familiarizing yourself with it as far as possible. If you know of no person whom you like and who is available, let it go; and, at any rate, I beg you sincerely not to consider this advice as a hardship, or otherwise than if I asked you to buy yourself a green or a blue dress; it is not a matter of life and death; you are my wife, and not the diplomats’, and they can just as well learn German as you can learn French. Only if you have leisure, or wish to read anyway, take a French novel; but if you have no desire to do so, consider this as not written.
For I married you in order to love you in God and according to the need of my heart, and in order to have in the midst of the strange world a place for my heart, which all the world’s bleak winds cannot chill, and where I may find the warmth of the home-fire, to which I eagerly betake myself when it is stormy and cold without; but not to have a society woman for others, and I shall cherish and nurse your little fireplace, put wood on it and blow, and protect it against all that is evil and strange, for, next to God’s mercy, there is nothing which is dearer and more necessary to me than your love, and the homelike hearth which stands between us everywhere, even in a strange land, when we are together.
Do not be too much depressed and sad over the change of our life; my heart is not attached, or, at least, not strongly attached, to earthly honor; I shall easily dispense with it if it should ever endanger our peace with God or our contentment.
Farewell, my dearly beloved heart. Kiss the children for me, and give your parents my love.
Your most faithful v.B.

Bismarck and Johanna

Müller: “The Sunken City”

Excerpt, “A Book of Ballads from the German.”

Translated by Percy Boyd, Esq.  1848..sunk3

Robert Reinick: “Message of Love”

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_richtermadchen-auf-der-wiese1823a

Adrian  Ludwig Richter – Mädchen auf der Wiese – 1823

Liebesbotschaft

 

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.

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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.

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And in the evening, in the silent calm,

spread the sinking sun’s light upon her!

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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.

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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.

Fernando De Herrera: “Ode On The Battle of Lepanto”

Excerpt, W. Herbert, “Translations from the Italian, Spanish, Portugal, etc.” London: 1806.

Fernando De Herrera was born in Seville about 1510. Little is known of the circumstances of his life. He appears to have been an ecclesiastic, but of what rank is not recorded. He is spoken of as an excellent scholar in Latin, and of having a moderate knowledge of Greek. He read the best authors in the modern languages, and studied profoundly the Castilian, of which he became a distinguished master.

Herrera was a vigorous and elegant prose writer as well as poet. Many of his works, however, are lost. His best productions are lyrical. The ode on the Battle of Lepanto, and that on the death of Sebastian of Portugal, are of remarkable excellence. He is praised by Cervantes, who says, “The ivy of his fame will cling to the walls of immortality.”

On 7 October 1571, Don John of Austria, son of the Emperor Charles V, commanding the navies of the Pope and the Emperor, together with the navies of Spain and Venice, defeated a much larger Turkish navy off the coast of Greece at a place now called Naupactos. To the men of his day this place was called by its Roman name: Lepanto!

Lepanto

Ode on the Battle of Lepanto

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The tyrants of the world from hell’s abysm

Summoned the demons of revenge and pride,

The countless hosts in whom they did confide, –

And gathering round the flag of despotism

The priest, the slave, and the liberticide, –

All who had bound men’s souls within their den, –

Tore down the loftiest cedar of the height,

The tree sublime; and, drunk with anger then,

Threatened in ghastly bands our few astonished men.

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The little ones, confounded, trembled then

At their appalling fury; and their brow

Against the Lord of Hosts these impious men

Uplifting, sought with Heaven-insulting vow,

The triumph of thy people’s overthrow, –

Their armed hands extending, and their crest

Moving omnipotent, because that thou

Wert as a tower of refuge, to invest

All whom man’s quenchless hope had prompted to resist.

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Thou said those insolent and scornful ones;

“Knows not this earth the vengeance of our wrath,

The strength of our illustrious fathers’ thrones?

Or did the Roman power avail? Or hath

Rebellious Greece, in her triumphant path,

Scattered the seeds of freedom on your land?

Italia!Austria!Who shall save you both?

Is it your God? – Ha ha!Shall he withstand

The glory of our might, our conquering right hand?

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“Our Rome, now tamed and humbled, into tears

And psalms converts her songs of freedom’s rights;

And for her sad and conquered children fears

The carnage of more Cannae’s fatal fights,

Now Asia with her discord disunites;

Spain threatens with her horrors to asail

All who still harbour Moorish proselytes;

Each nation’s throne a traitor crew doth veil;

And, though in concord joined, what could their might avail?

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“Earth’s haughtiest nations tremble and obey,

And to our yoke their necks in peace incline.

And peace, for their salvation, of us pray,

Cry, ‘Peace!’ but that means death, when monarchs sign.

Vain is their hope!Their lights obscurely shine!

Their valiant gone, their virgins in our powers,

Their glories to our sceptres they resign:

From Nile to Euphrates and Tiber’s towers.

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Whate’er the all-seeing sun looks down on, all is ours.”

“Thou, Lord! Who wilt not suffer that thy glory

They should usurp who in their might put trust,

Hearing the vauntings of these anarchs hoary,

These holy ones beheld, whose horrid lust

Of triumph did thy sacred altars crust

With blood; nor wouldst thou longer that the base

Should he permitted to oppress thy just,

Then, mocking, cry to Heaven, “Within what place

Abides the God of these? Where hideth he his face?”

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For the due glory of thy righteous name,

For the just vengeance of thy race oppressed,

For the deep woes the wretched loud proclaim,

In pieces hast thou dashed the dragon’s crest,

And clipped the wings of the destroying pest:

Back to his cave he draws his poisonous fold,

And trembling hisses; then in torpid breast

Buries his fear:for thou, to Babel sold

Captive, no more on earth thy Zion wilt behold.

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Portentous Egypt, now with discord riven,

The avenging fire and hostile spear affright;

And the smoke, mounting to the light of heaven,

O’erclouds her cities in its pall of night:

In tears and solitude she mourns the sight,

But thou, O Graecia! The fierce tyrant’s stay,

The glory of her excellence and might,

Dost thou lament, old Ocean Queen, thy prey,

Nor fearing God, dost seek thine own regenerate day?

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Wherefore, ingrate, didst thou adorn thy daughters

In foul adultery with an impious race?

Why thus confederate in the unholy slaughters

Of those whose burning hope is thy disgrace?

With mournful heart, yet hypocritic face,

Follow the life abhorred of that vile crew?

God’s sharpened sword thy beauty shall efface,

Falling in vengeance on thy neck.O, who,

Thou lost one his right hand in mercy shall subdue?

.

But thou, O pride of ocean! Lofty Tyre!

Whoin thy ships so high and glorious stood,

O’ershadowing earth’s limits, and whose ire

With trembling filled this orb’s vast multitude;

How have ye ended, fierce and haughty brood?

What power hath marked your sins and slaveries foul,

Your neck until this cruel yoke subdued?

.

God, to avenge us, clouds thy sunlike soul,

And causes on thy wise this blinding storm to roll.

Howl, ships of Tarsus, howl! For, lo! Destroyed

Lies your high hope.Oppressors of the free!

Lost is your strength, your glory is defied.

Thou tyrant-shielder, who shall pity thee?

.

And thou, O Asia! Who didst bow the knee

To Baal, in vice immerged, who shall atone

For thy idolatries?For God doth see

Thine ancient crimes, who silent prayers have flown

For vengeance unto Heaven before his judgment throne.

Those who behold thy mighty arms when shattered,

And Ocean flowing naked of thy pines,

Over his weary waves triumphant scattered

So long, but now wreck-strewn, in awful signs,

Shall say, beholding thy deserted shrines,

“Who ‘gainst the fearful One hath daring striven?

.

The Lord of our Salvation their designs

O’erturned, and, for the glory of his heaven,

To man’s devoted race this victory hath given.”

Victors_of_LepantoThe Victors of Lepanto

Don Juan de Austria, Marcantonio Colonna, Sebastiano Venier

Jean Paul’s “Death of an Angel”

Excerpt from “The Dream of the Lilybell, Tales and Poems; with translations of “Hymns to the Night” from the German of Novalis, and Jean Paul’s “Death of an Angel,”‘ by Henry Morley. 1845.

Six-wingedSeraphAzrael

The Death of an Angel

As the Angel of the last hour, whom we so cruelly call Death, is sent to us the softest, kindest of the angels, that mildly and gently he may pluck from life the sinking heart of man, and bear it in warm hands, unhurt, from the cold breast to the high summery Eden. His brother is the Angel of the first hour, who twice kisses man, for the first time that his life here may be commenced, the second time that he may wake above without a wound; and enter smiling into the other world, as into this with tears.

When the battlefield stood full of blood and tears, and the Angel of the last hour drew from them trembling souls, his mild eye melted, and he said, “Alas! I also will die as a mortal, that I may learn what his last pangs are, and still them when I take his life away.” The unmeasured circle of the angels that love each other there above stood around the merciful Angel, and promised the beloved one that after the moment of death they would surround him with their beams, that he might know that it was Death had come; and his brother, whose kiss opens our rigid lips, as rays of morning the cold flowers, rested tenderly upon his breast and said, “When I kiss thee again, my brother, then art thou dead upon the earth, and once more ours.”

Full of emotion and love, the Angel sank down upon a battlefield where but one fair, fiery youth lay yet convulsed, and raised his shattered breast; the hero thought only of his betrothed, her hot tears that he could no longer feel, and her grief passed dimly over him as a distant battle cry. Oh, then, quickly the Angel covered him, and rested in the form of the loved one on his breast, and with a hot kiss drew the wounded soul out of his broken heart; and he gave the soul to his brother, and his brother kissed it in heaven the second time, and then it smiled already.

The Angel of the last hour entered as lightning into the deserted form, glowed through the corpse, and with the strengthened heart once more drove round the heated streams of life. But how was he affected by this new embodiment! His eye of light was dipped in the whirlpool of the new nervous spirit; his thoughts, once flying. waded wearily now through the misty circle of the brain. On all he saw the soft, moist halo of colors that hithereto had hung over every object with the autumn’s shades, was now dried up, and through the hot air things pierced him with their burning, paining color spots, every feeling became darker but nearer to himself, and seemed to him Instinct, as to us do those of brutes; hunger tore him, thirst burned him, pain cut him deeply. Oh, his distracted breast arose bleeding, and his first breath was his first sigh for the deserted heaven. “Is this the death of man?” he thought; but as he saw not the promised sign of death, no angel, and no glory-beaming heaven; he knew full well this was but man’s life.

At evening, the Angel’s earthly powers faded, and a crushing ball of earth seemed rolled upon his head, for Sleep had sent its messengers. The pictures in his soul left their sunshine for the light of a dull hazy fire; the shadows that the day had cast upon his brain, confused and colossal, moved through one another; and a spreading, unbounded world of fancy was cast over him; for the Dream sent its messengers. At length the shroud of sleep was wrapped in double folds around him, and, sunk into the grave of night, he lay there lonely and still, even as mortals. But then came’st thou on thy pinions, heavenly Dream, with thy thousand mirrors before his soul, and showed’st him in every mirror a circle of angels, and a heaven filled with their beams of glory; and the earthly body, with all its stings, seemed to fall from him. “Ah!” said he, in vane rapture, “my sleeping then was my departure!” But as he awoke again, his heart blocked up, and filled with heavy human blood, and he beheld the earth and the blood, he said, “That was not Death; it was Death’s picture only, although I saw the glorious heaven and the angels.”

The bride of the ascended hero observed not that in the breast of her beloved one only an angel dwelt; she still loved the erected temple of the departed soul, and still held joyfully the hand of him who was carried so far from her. But the Angel returned the love of her deluded heart with human love; jealous of her own proper form he wished not to die earlier than she, that he might love her all her lifetime, until one day in heaven she should forgive him the sin – that she had embraced upon the same breast an angel and a lover. But she died first – the early grief had bowed the flower’s head too low, and it remained on the grave. Oh, she sank before the weeping Angel, not as the sun that casts itself before admiring nature with magnificence into the sea, that its red waves may leap to heaven, but as the silent moon, that at midnight silvers a thin halo, and with that pale hero sinks unseen. Death sent before him his yet milder sister, Swoon; he touched the heart of the bride, and the warm face was frozen — the flowers on her cheeks closed up — the pale snow of winter , beneath which greens the spring of eternity, covered her brow, her hands.

Then burst the swelling eye of the Angel into a burning tear; and as he thought the heart freed itself with such a tear as with a pearl the sickly mussel; the bride moved her eyes, awakened to her last delusion, and drew him to her heart, and died as she kissed him. “Now am I with thee, my brother.” Then the Angel thought that his brother in heaven had given him the sign of the kiss of death; yet no beaming heaven was around, but the darkness of sorrow; and he sighed that that was not his death but only pangs of man for his companion.

“Oh, ye oppressed mortals,” exclaimed he, “ye weary ones, how can ye survive! Oh, how can ye grow old when the circle of youthful forms is broken, and at last is all destroyed when the graves of your friends descend as steps to your own graves, and when age is the silent empty evening hour of a cold battlefield! Oh, ye unhappy men, how can your hearts endure it!”

The body of the ascended hero exposed the mild angel to the cruelties of men; to his injustice, to the gnawings of sin and sorrow; along his form also was laid the stinging girdles of united septres, that presses land in agony, and which the great of the earth draw ever yet more closely; he saw the claws of crowned heraldic beasts fixed in the featherless prey, and heard the victims flap their powerless wings; he saw the whole globe surrounded by interlacing, and black glittering rings of the giant serpent vice, that buries and hides within man’s breast its poisoned head. Ah! then must his soft heart that an eternity long had rested only on the warm angels full of love, be pierced by the hot sting of enmity, and the holy soul of love must tremble at a deep disunion. “Ah,” said he, “the death of man gives pain.” But this it was not, for no Angel had appeared.

Now he became in few days weary of a life that we endure for half a century, and longed for his return. The evening sun attracted his kindred soul. The splinters in his shattered breast wearied him with pain. He went, with the glow of evening on his pale cheeks, into the churchyard, the green garden of life, where the coverings of the fair souls he had unclothed were gathered together. With painful longing he stood upon the bare grave of the inexpressibly beloved departed bride, and looked upon the fading sun. Upon this loved hillock he looked down upon his aching body, and thought here also would’st thou rest, thou failing breast, here thou would’st smart no more, held I thee not erect. Then softly he thought over the heavy life of man, and the pain of his wound pointed out to him the pangs with which men buy their honor and their death, and which gladly he had spared the noble hero’s soul. Deeply was he moved by the excellence of man, and he wept for endless love towards men who, amid the crying of their own necessities, amid descended clouds and long mists upon the cutting path of life, turn not their eyes from the high star of duty, but spread out in the darkness their loving arms for each tortured bosom that may meet them, around whom glimmers naught but hope, to set in the old world, as the sun to rise upon the new.

Emotion opened then his wound, and the blood, the soul’s tears, flowed from his heart upon the beloved mound; the perishing body sank sweetly bleeding to death after the loved one; tears of joy broke up the falling sun into a rosy waving sea; distant echoes played through the liquid splendour as though earth fled away at a distance through the sounding ether. Then shot a dark cloud, or a little night, before the Angel, and was full of sleep, and now a heaven of glories was opened and shone over him, and a thousand angels flamed. “Art thou here once more, thou sportive Dream!” he said. But the Angel of the first hour came to him through the glory, and gave him the sign of the kiss, and said “That was Death, thou eternal brother, and heavenly friend.” And the youth and his beloved whispered it gently after him.

Jean_Paul_Buntstift_280px

Jean Paul Friedrich Richter

Goethe: “The Fisherman”

the fisherman

Fisherman and the Siren by Lord Frederic Leighton

THE FISHERMAN
1778

The waters rush'd, the waters rose,
A fisherman sat by,
While on his line in calm repose
He cast his patient eye.
And as he sat, and hearken'd there,
The flood was cleft in twain,
And, lo! a dripping mermaid fair
Sprang from the troubled main.

She sang to him, and spake the while
"Why lurest thou my brood,
With human wit and human guile
From out their native flood?
Oh, couldst thou know how gladly dart
The fish across the sea,
Thou wouldst descend, e'en as thou art,
And truly happy be!

Do not the sun and moon with grace
Their forms in ocean lave?
Shines not with twofold charms their face,
When rising from the wave?
The deep, deep heavens, then lure thee not,--
The moist yet radiant blue,--
Not thine own form,--to tempt thy lot
'Midst this eternal dew?"

The waters rush'd, the waters rose,
Wetting his naked feet;
As if his true love's words were those,
His heart with longing beat.
She sang to him, to him spake she,
His doom was fix'd, I ween;
Half drew she him, and half sank he,
And ne'er again was seen.

.

Goethe: “Mephisto’s Song of the Flea”

By Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), “Aus Goethe’s Faust“, op. 75 no. 3 (1809). Translator: Anna Swanwick, 1850.,,

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“Aus Goethes Faust: Mephistos Floh Lied”

 

A king there was once reigning,

Who had a goodly flea,

Him loved he without feigning,

As his own son were he!

 

His tailor then he summon’d,

The tailor to him goes;

Now measure me the youngster

For jerkin and for hose!

 

In satin and in velvet

Behold the younker dressed;

Bedizen’d o’er with ribbons,

A cross upon his breast.

 

Prime minister they made him,

He wore a star of state;

And all his poor relations

Were courtiers, rich and great.

 

The gentlemen and ladies

At court were sore distressed;

The queen and all her maidens

Were bitten by the pest,

 

And yet they dared not scratch them,

Or chase the fleas away.

If we are bit, we catch them

And crack them without delay..’

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