Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock: “The Lake of Zürich”

Excerpt, “Historic Survey of German Poetry.” London: 1828. Translator: W. Taylor.


lake zurich

The Lake of Zürich


Fair is the majesty of all thy works

On the green earth, O Mother Nature, fair!

But fairer the glad face

Enraptured with their view.

Come from the vine-banks of the glittering lake,

Or, has thou climbed the smiling skies anew,

Come on the roseate tip.

Of evening’s breezy wing,

And teach my song with glee of youth to glow,

Sweet Joy, like thee, – with glee of shouting youths,

Or feeling Fanny’s laugh.


Behind us for already Uto lay,

At whose foot Zürich in the quiet vale

Feeds her free sons:  behind,

Receding vine-clad hills.

Unclouded beamed the top of silver Alps:

And warmer beat the heart of gazing youths,

And warmer to their fair

Companions spoke its flow.

And Haller’s Doris sang, the pride of song;

And Hirzel’s Daphne, dear to Kleis and Gleim;

And we youths sang, and felt

As each were – Hagedorn.


Soon the green meadow took us to the cool

And shadowy forest, which becrowns the isle.

Then cam’st thou, Joy, thou cam’st

Down to full tide to us:

Yes, Goddess Joy, thyself!  We felt, we clasped,

Best sister of Humanity, thyself;

With thy dear Innocence

Accompanied, thyself!


Sweet thy inspiring breath, O cheerful Spring,

When the meads cradle thee, and they soft airs

Into the hearts of youths

And hearts of virgins glide!

Thou makest Feeling conqueror.  Ah! Through thee,

Fuller, more tremulous heaves each blooming breast;

With lips spell-fixed by thee

Young Love unfaltering pleads.


Fair gleams the wine, when to the social change

Of thought, or heart-felt pleasure, it invites;

And the Socratic cup.

With dewy roses bound,

Sheds through the bosom bliss, and wakes resolves.

Such as the drunkard knows not, proud resolves,

Emboldening to despise

Whate’er the sage disowns.


Delightful thrills against the panting heart

Fame’s silver voice, – and immortality

Is a great thought, well worth

The toil of noble men.

By dint of song to live through after-times, –

Often to be with rapture’s thanking tone

By name invoked aloud,

From the mute grave invoked,

To form the pliant heart of sons unborn,

To plant thee, Love, thee, holy Virtue, there,

Gold-heaper, is well worth

The toil of noble men.


But sweeter, fairer, more delightful ‘tis

On a friend’s arm to know one’s self a friend!

Nor is the hour so spent

Unworthy heaven above.


Full of affection, in the airy shades

Of the dim forest, and with downcast look

Fixed on the silver wave,

I breathed this pious wish:

“O, were ye here, who love me though afar,

Whom, singly scattered in our country’s lap,

In lucky, hallowed hour,

My seeking bosom found:

Here would we build us huts of friendship, here

Together dwell forever!” – The dim wood

A shadowy Tempe seemed;

Elysium all the vale.