Gottfried Conrad Pfeffel: “Music of the Spheres”

Excerpt, “German Lyric Poetry:  A Collection of Songs and Ballads.”  Translated from the Best German Lyric Poets, with Notes by Charles Timothy Brooks.  1863.


A youth, by chance, one day, o’er Plato pouring,

About a music of the spheres had read.

“Ha! I must hear it,” to himself he said,

And straightaway fell upon his knees, imploring

Great Jupiter, his wishes to fulfill.

“Rash boy,” said Jove, “thou canst not have thy will;

The heavenly concert of the spheres

Is not for mortal ears.” –

He ceased not still to tease the god,

Till Zeus at last no more could bear it.

And so resolved to let him hear it.


Accordingly he gives the nod:

The youth hears suddenly through all the skies –

And what? – A frightful din and discord rise.

A thousand voiced song

Sweeping on Desolation’s wings along,

With all the thunders ever hurled

By hand of vengeance on the world,

Were but the buzzing of a bee

To this tempestuous round of melody.


“O Zeus, what is it rends my ears?”

The youth exclaims, all stiff and pale;

“Is this the music of the spheres?
So bellowed never hungry hell!

Ha, wouldst thou only strike me deaf,

Thou frightful god, ’twere some relief.”

Jove from a cloud calls down in turn,

“Men are not gods, thou here canst learn;

’Tis dreadful discord to thy ears,

To mine – the music of the spheres.”