See you the towers, that, gray and old,
Frown through the sunlight's liquid gold,
Steep sternly fronting steep?
The Hellespont beneath them swells,
And roaring cleaves the Dardanelles,
The rock-gates of the deep!
Hear you the sea, whose stormy wave,
From Asia, Europe clove in thunder?
That sea which rent a world, cannot
Rend love from love asunder!
In Hero's, in Leander's heart,
Thrills the sweet anguish of the dart
Whose feather flies from love.
All Hebe's bloom in Hero's cheek--
And his the hunter's steps that seek
Delight, the hills above!
Between their sires the rival feud
Forbids their plighted hearts to meet;
Love's fruits hang over danger's gulf,
By danger made more sweet.
Alone on Sestos' rocky tower,
Where upward sent in stormy shower,
The whirling waters foam,--
Alone the maiden sits, and eyes
The cliffs of fair Abydos rise
Afar--her lover's home.
Oh, safely thrown from strand to strand,
No bridge can love to love convey;
No boatman shoots from yonder shore,
Yet Love has found the way.
That love, which could the labyrinth pierce--
Which nerves the weak, and curbs the fierce,
And wings with wit the dull;--
That love which o'er the furrowed land
Bowed--tame beneath young Jason's hand--
The fiery-snorting bull!
Yes, Styx itself, that ninefold flows,
Has love, the fearless, ventured o'er,
And back to daylight borne the bride,
From Pluto's dreary shore!
What marvel then that wind and wave,
Leander doth but burn to brave,
When love, that goads him, guides!
Still when the day, with fainter glimmer,
Wanes pale--he leaps, the daring swimmer,
Amid the darkening tides;
With lusty arms he cleaves the waves,
And strikes for that dear strand afar;
Where high from Hero's lonely tower
Lone streams the beacon-star.
In vain his blood the wave may chill,
These tender arms can warm it still--
And, weary if the way,
By many a sweet embrace, above
All earthly boons--can liberal love
The lover's toil repay,
Until Aurora breaks the dream,
And warns the loiterer to depart--
Back to the ocean's icy bed,
Scared from that loving heart.
So thirty suns have sped their flight--
Still in that theft of sweet delight
Exult the happy pair;
Caress will never pall caress,
And joys that gods might envy, bless
The single bride-night there.
Ah! never he has rapture known,
Who has not, where the waves are driven
Upon the fearful shores of hell,
Plucked fruits that taste of heaven!
Now changing in their season are,
The morning and the Hesper star;--
Nor see those happy eyes
The leaves that withering droop and fall,
Nor hear, when, from its northern hall,
The neighboring winter sighs;
Or, if they see, the shortening days
But seem to them to close in kindness;
For longer joys, in lengthening nights,
They thank the heaven in blindness.
It is the time, when night and day,
In equal scales contend for sway--
Lone, on her rocky steep,
Lingers the girl with wistful eyes
That watch the sun-steeds down the skies,
Careering towards the deep.
Lulled lay the smooth and silent sea,
A mirror in translucent calm,
The breeze, along that crystal realm,
Unmurmuring, died in balm.
In wanton swarms and blithe array,
The merry dolphins glide and play
Amid the silver waves.
In gray and dusky troops are seen,
The hosts that serve the ocean-queen,
Upborne from coral caves:
They--only they--have witnessed love
To rapture steal its secret way:
And Hecate  seals the only lips
That could the tale betray!
She marks in joy the lulled water,
And Sestos, thus thy tender daughter,
Soft-flattering, woos the sea!
"Fair god--and canst thou then betray?
No! falsehood dwells with them that say
That falsehood dwells with thee!
Ah! faithless is the race of man,
And harsh a father's heart can prove;
But thee, the gentle and the mild,
The grief of love can move!"
"Within these hated walls of stone,
Should I, repining, mourn alone,
And fade in ceaseless care,
But thou, though o'er thy giant tide,
Nor bridge may span, nor boat may glide,
Dost safe my lover bear.
And darksome is thy solemn deep,
And fearful is thy roaring wave;
But wave and deep are won by love--
Thou smilest on the brave!"
"Nor vainly, sovereign of the sea,
Did Eros send his shafts to thee
What time the rain of gold,
Bright Helle, with her brother bore,
How stirred the waves she wandered o'er,
How stirred thy deeps of old!
Swift, by the maiden's charms subdued,
Thou cam'st from out the gloomy waves,
And in thy mighty arms, she sank
Into thy bridal caves.
"A goddess with a god, to keep
In endless youth, beneath the deep,
Her solemn ocean-court!
And still she smooths thine angry tides,
Tames thy wild heart, and favoring guides
The sailor to the port!
Beautiful Helle, bright one, hear
Thy lone adoring suppliant pray!
And guide, O goddess--guide my love
Along the wonted way!"
Now twilight dims the waters' flow,
And from the tower, the beacon's glow
Waves flickering o'er the main.
Ah, where athwart the dismal stream,
Shall shine the beacon's faithful beam
The lover's eyes shall strain!
Hark! sounds moan threatening from afar--
From heaven the blessed stars are gone--
More darkly swells the rising sea
The tempest labors on!
Along the ocean's boundless plains
Lies night--in torrents rush the rains
From the dark-bosomed cloud--
Red lightning skirs the panting air,
And, loosed from out their rocky lair,
Sweep all the storms abroad.
Huge wave on huge wave tumbling o'er,
The yawning gulf is rent asunder,
And shows, as through an opening pall,
Grim earth--the ocean under!
Poor maiden! bootless wail or vow--
"Have mercy, Jove--be gracious, thou!
Dread prayer was mine before!"
What if the gods have heard--and he,
Lone victim of the stormy sea,
Now struggles to the shore!
There's not a sea-bird on the wave--
Their hurrying wings the shelter seek;
The stoutest ship the storms have proved,
Takes refuge in the creek.
"Ah, still that heart, which oft has braved
The danger where the daring saved,
Love lureth o'er the sea;--
For many a vow at parting morn,
That naught but death should bar return,
Breathed those dear lips to me;
And whirled around, the while I weep,
Amid the storm that rides the wave,
The giant gulf is grasping down
The rash one to the grave!
"False Pontus! and the calm I hailed,
The awaiting murder darkly veiled--
The lulled pellucid flow,
The smiles in which thou wert arrayed,
Were but the snares that love betrayed
To thy false realm below!
Now in the midway of the main,
Return relentlessly forbidden,
Thou loosenest on the path beyond
The horrors thou hadst hidden.
Loud and more loud the tempest raves
In thunder break the mountain waves,
White-foaming on the rock--
No ship that ever swept the deep
Its ribs of gnarled oak could keep
Unshattered by the shock.
Dies in the blast the guiding torch
To light the struggler to the strand;
'Tis death to battle with the wave,
And death no less to land!
On Venus, daughter of the seas,
She calls the tempest to appease--
To each wild-shrieking wind
Along the ocean-desert borne,
She vows a steer with golden horn--
Vain vow--relentless wind!
On every goddess of the deep,
On all the gods in heaven that be,
She calls--to soothe in calm, awhile
The tempest-laden sea!
"Hearken the anguish of my cries!
From thy green halls, arise--arise,
Leucothoe the divine!
Who, in the barren main afar,
Oft on the storm-beat mariner
Dost gently-saving shine.
Oh,--reach to him thy mystic veil,
To which the drowning clasp may cling,
And safely from that roaring grave,
To shore my lover bring!"
And now the savage winds are hushing.
And o'er the arched horizon, blushing,
Day's chariot gleams on high!
Back to their wonted channels rolled,
In crystal calm the waves behold
One smile on sea and sky!
All softly breaks the rippling tide,
Low-murmuring on the rocky land,
And playful wavelets gently float
A corpse upon the strand!
'Tis he!--who even in death would still
Not fail the sweet vow to fulfil;
She looks--sees--knows him there!
From her pale lips no sorrow speaks,
No tears glide down her hueless cheeks;
Cold-numbed in her despair--
She looked along the silent deep,
She looked upon the brightening heaven,
Till to the marble face the soul
Its light sublime had given!
"Ye solemn powers men shrink to name,
Your might is here, your rights ye claim--
Yet think not I repine
Soon closed my course; yet I can bless
The life that brought me happiness--
The fairest lot was mine!
Living have I thy temple served,
Thy consecrated priestess been--
My last glad offering now receive
Venus, thou mightiest queen!"
Flashed the white robe along the air,
And from the tower that beetled there
She sprang into the wave;
Roused from his throne beneath the waste,
Those holy forms the god embraced--
A god himself their grave!
Pleased with his prey, he glides along--
More blithe the murmured music seems,
A gush from unexhausted urns
His everlasting streams!
Top Friedrich von Schiller Poems