Category Archives: Schiller

Schiller: “The Veiled Image of SAÏS”

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."--
"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!"


Schiller: “Sehnsucht”

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.


Schiller: “The Diver”

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
still driven,
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.

Schiller: “Partition of the Earth”

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.





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

Schiller: The Fight With The Dragon

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…


Palace of the Prince, Grand Master of Rhodes


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.

knights_of_maltaBefore 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


Schiller’s Ballad: Rudolf of Hapsburg

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.
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,
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.


Madame de Staël on “The Robbers”

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

Madame de Staël

Schiller’s Die Räuber

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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