F. Schlegel: “Metamorphoses”

Excerpt from “Lucinda” written in 1799 by Friedrich Schlegel. Translated by Paul Bernard Thomas.


The childlike spirit slumbers in sweet repose, and the kiss of the loving goddess arouses in him only light dreams. The rose of shame tinges his cheek; he smiles and seems to open his lips, but he does not awaken and he knows not what is going on within him. Not until after the charm of the external world, multiplied and reinforced by an inner echo, has completely permeated his entire being, does he open his eyes, reveling in the sun, and recall to mind the magic world which he saw in the gleam of the pale moonlight.
The wondrous voice that awakened him is still audible, but instead of answering him it echoes back from external objects. And if in childish timidity he tries to escape from the mystery of his existence, seeking the unknown with beautiful curiosity, he hears everywhere only the echo of his own longing.Thus the eye sees in the mirror of the river only the reflection of the blue sky, the green banks, the waving trees, and the form of the absorbed gazer. When a heart, full of unconscious love, finds itself where it hoped to find love in return, it is struck with amazement.
But we soon allow ourselves to be lured and deceived by the charm of the view into loving our own reflection. Then has the moment of winsomeness come, the soul fashions its envelop again, and breathes the final breath of perfection through form. The spirit loses itself in its clear depth and finds itself again, like Narcissus, as a flower.
Love is higher than winsomeness, and how soon would the flower of Beauty wither without the complementary birth of requited love. This moment the kiss of Amor and Psyche is the rose of life. The inspired Diotima revealed to Socrates only a half of love. Love is not merely a quiet longing for the infinite; it is also the holy enjoyment of a
beautiful present. It is not merely a mixture, a transition from the mortal to the immortal, but it is a complete union of both. There is a pure love, an indivisible and simple feeling, without the slightest interference of restless striving.
Every one gives the same as he takes, one just like the other, all is balanced and completed in itself, like the everlasting kiss of the divine children. By the magic of joy the grand chaos of struggling forms dissolves into a harmonious sea of oblivion. When the ray of happiness breaks in the last tear of longing, Iris is already adorning the eternal brow of heaven with the delicate tints of her many-colored rainbow. Sweet dreams come true, and the pure forms of a new generation rise up out of Lethe’s waves, beautiful as Anadyomene, and exhibit their limbs in the place of the vanished darkness. In golden youth and innocence time and man change in the divine peace of nature, and evermore Aurora comes back more beautiful than before.
Not hate, as the wise say, but love, separates people and fashions the world; and only in its light can we find this and observe it. Only in the answer of its Thou can every I completely feel its endless unity. Then the understanding tries to unfold the inner germ of godlikeness, presses closer and closer to the goal, is full of eagerness to fashion
the soul, as an artist fashions his one beloved masterpiece. In the mysteries of culture the spirit sees the play and the laws of caprice and of life. The statue of Pygmalion moves; a joyous shudder comes over the astonished artist in the consciousness of his own immortality, and, as the eagle bore Ganymede, a divine hope bears him on its mighty pinion up to Olympus.