How gracefully, O man, with thy palm-bough,
Upon the waning century standest thou,
In proud and noble manhood's prime,
With unlocked senses, with a spirit freed,
Of firmness mild,--though silent, rich in deed,
The ripest son of Time,
Through meekness great, through precepts strong,
Through treasures rich, that time had long
Hid in thy bosom, and through reason free,--
Master of Nature, who thy fetters loves,
And who thy strength in thousand conflicts proves,
And from the desert soared in pride with thee!
Flushed with the glow of victory,
Never forget to prize the hand
That found the weeping orphan child
Deserted on life's barren strand,
And left a prey to hazard wild,--
That, ere thy spirit-honor saw the day,
Thy youthful heart watched over silently,
And from thy tender bosom turned away
Each thought that might have stained its purity;
That kind one ne'er forget who, as in sport,
Thy youth to noble aspirations trained,
And who to thee in easy riddles taught
The secret how each virtue might be gained;
Who, to receive him back more perfect still,
E'en into strangers' arms her favorite gave--
Oh, may'st thou never with degenerate will,
Humble thyself to be her abject slave!
In industry, the bee the palm may bear;
In skill, the worm a lesson may impart;
With spirits blest thy knowledge thou dost share,
But thou, O man, alone hast art!
Only through beauty's morning gate
Didst thou the land of knowledge find.
To merit a more glorious fate,
In graces trains itself the mind.
What thrilled thee through with trembling blessed,
When erst the Muses swept the chord,
That power created in thy breast,
Which to the mighty spirit soared.
When first was seen by doting reason's ken,
When many a thousand years had passed away,
A symbol of the fair and great e'en then,
Before the childlike mind uncovered lay.
Its blessed form bade us honor virtue's cause,--
The honest sense 'gainst vice put forth its powers,
Before a Solon had devised the laws
That slowly bring to light their languid flowers.
Before Eternity's vast scheme
Was to the thinker's mind revealed,
Was't not foreshadowed in his dream,
Whose eyes explored yon starry field?
Urania,--the majestic dreaded one,
Who wears a glory of Orions twined
Around her brow, and who is seen by none
Save purest spirits, when, in splendor shrined,
She soars above the stars in pride,
Ascending to her sunny throne,--
Her fiery chaplet lays aside,
And now, as beauty, stands alone;
While, with the Graces' girdle round her cast,
She seems a child, by children understood;
For we shall recognize as truth at last,
What here as beauty only we have viewed.
When the Creator banished from his sight
Frail man to dark mortality's abode,
And granted him a late return to light,
Only by treading reason's arduous road,--
When each immortal turned his face away,
She, the compassionate, alone
Took up her dwelling in that house of clay,
With the deserted, banished one.
With drooping wing she hovers here
Around her darling, near the senses' land,
And on his prison-walls so drear
Elysium paints with fond deceptive hand.
While soft humanity still lay at rest,
Within her tender arms extended,
No flame was stirred by bigots' murderous zest,
No guiltless blood on high ascended.
The heart that she in gentle fetters binds,
Views duty's slavish escort scornfully;
Her path of light, though fairer far it winds,
Sinks in the sun-track of morality.
Those who in her chaste service still remain,
No grovelling thought can tempt, no fate affright;
The spiritual life, so free from stain,
Freedom's sweet birthright, they receive again,
Under the mystic sway of holy might.
The purest among millions, happy they
Whom to her service she has sanctified,
Whose mouths the mighty one's commands convey,
Within whose breasts she deigneth to abide;
Whom she ordained to feed her holy fire
Upon her altar's ever-flaming pyre,--
Whose eyes alone her unveiled graces meet,
And whom she gathers round in union sweet
In the much-honored place be glad
Where noble order bade ye climb,
For in the spirit-world sublime,
Man's loftiest rank ye've ever had!
Ere to the world proportion ye revealed,
That every being joyfully obeys,--
A boundless structure, in night's veil concealed,
Illumed by naught but faint and languid rays,
A band of phantoms, struggling ceaselessly,
Holding his mind in slavish fetters bound,
Unsociable and rude as be,
Assailing him on every side around,--
Thus seemed to man creation in that day!
United to surrounding forms alone
By the blind chains the passions had put on,
Whilst Nature's beauteous spirit fled away
Unfelt, untasted, and unknown.
And, as it hovered o'er with parting ray,
Ye seized the shades so neighborly,
With silent hand, with feeling mind,
And taught how they might be combined
In one firm bond of harmony.
The gaze, light-soaring, felt uplifted then,
When first the cedar's slender trunk it viewed;
And pleasingly the ocean's crystal flood
Reflected back the dancing form again.
Could ye mistake the look, with beauty fraught,
That Nature gave to help ye on your way?
The image floating on the billows taught
The art the fleeting shadow to portray.
From her own being torn apart,
Her phantom, beauteous as a dream,
She plunged into the silvery stream,
Surrendering to her spoiler's art.
Creative power soon in your breast unfolded;
Too noble far, not idly to conceive,
The shadow's form in sand, in clay ye moulded,
And made it in the sketch its being leave.
The longing thirst for action then awoke,--
And from your breast the first creation broke.
By contemplation captive made,
Ensnared by your discerning eye,
The friendly phantom's soon betrayed
The talisman that roused your ecstasy.
The laws of wonder-working might,
The stores by beauty brought to light,
Inventive reason in soft union planned
To blend together 'neath your forming hand.
The obelisk, the pyramid ascended,
The Hermes stood, the column sprang on high,
The reed poured forth the woodland melody,
Immortal song on victor's deeds attended.
The fairest flowers that decked the earth,
Into a nosegay, with wise choice combined,
Thus the first art from Nature had its birth;
Into a garland then were nosegays twined,
And from the works that mortal hands had made,
A second, nobler art was now displayed.
The child of beauty, self-sufficient now,
That issued from your hands to perfect day,
Loses the chaplet that adorned its brow,
Soon as reality asserts its sway.
The column, yielding to proportion's chains,
Must with its sisters join in friendly link,
The hero in the hero-band must sink,
The Muses' harp peals forth its tuneful strains.
The wondering savages soon came
To view the new creation's plan
"Behold!"--the joyous crowds exclaim,--
"Behold, all this is done by man!"
With jocund and more social aim
The minstrel's lyre their awe awoke,
Telling of Titans, and of giant's frays
And lion-slayers, turning, as he spoke,
Even into heroes those who heard his lays.
For the first time the soul feels joy,
By raptures blessed that calmer are,
That only greet it from afar,
That passions wild can ne'er destroy,
And that, when tasted, do not cloy.
And now the spirit, free and fair,
Awoke from out its sensual sleep;
By you unchained, the slave of care
Into the arms of joy could leap.
Each brutish barrier soon was set at naught,
Humanity first graced the cloudless brow,
And the majestic, noble stranger, thought,
From out the wondering brain sprang boldly now.
Man in his glory stood upright,
And showed the stars his kingly face;
His speaking glance the sun's bright light
Blessed in the realms sublime of space.
Upon the cheek now bloomed the smile,
The voice's soulful harmony
Expanded into song the while,
And feeling swam in the moist eye;
And from the mouth, with spirit teeming o'er,
Jest, sweetly linked with grace, began to pour.
Sunk in the instincts of the worm,
By naught but sensual lust possessed,
Ye recognized within his breast
Love-spiritual's noble germ;
And that this germ of love so blest
Escaped the senses' abject load,
To the first pastoral song he owed.
Raised to the dignity of thought,
Passions more calm to flow were taught
From the bard's mouth with melody.
The cheeks with dewy softness burned;
The longing that, though quenched, still yearned,
Proclaimed the spirit-harmony.
The wisest's wisdom, and the strongest's vigor,--
The meekest's meekness, and the noblest's grace,
By you were knit together in one figure,
Wreathing a radiant glory round the place.
Man at the Unknown's sight must tremble,
Yet its refulgence needs must love;
That mighty Being to resemble,
Each glorious hero madly strove;
The prototype of beauty's earliest strain
Ye made resound through Nature's wide domain.
The passions' wild and headlong course,
The ever-varying plan of fate,
Duty and instinct's twofold force,
With proving mind and guidance straight
Ye then conducted to their ends.
What Nature, as she moves along,
Far from each other ever rends,
Become upon the stage, in song,
Members of order, firmly bound.
Awed by the Furies' chorus dread,
Murder draws down upon its head
The doom of death from their wild sound.
Long e'er the wise to give a verdict dared,
An Iliad had fate's mysteries declared
To early ages from afar;
While Providence in silence fared
Into the world from Thespis' car.
Yet into that world's current so sublime
Your symmetry was borne before its time,
When the dark hand of destiny
Failed in your sight to part by force.
What it had fashioned 'neath your eye,
In darkness life made haste to die,
Ere it fulfilled its beauteous course.
Then ye with bold and self-sufficient might
Led the arch further through the future's night:
Then, too, ye plunged, without a fear,
Into Avernus' ocean black,
And found the vanished life so dear
Beyond the urn, and brought it back.
A blooming Pollux-form appeared now soon,
On Castor leaning, and enshrined in light--
The shadow that is seen upon the moon,
Ere she has filled her silvery circle bright!
Yet higher,--higher still above the earth
Inventive genius never ceased to rise:
Creations from creations had their birth,
And harmonies from harmonies.
What here alone enchants the ravished sight,
A nobler beauty yonder must obey;
The graceful charms that in the nymph unite,
In the divine Athene melt away;
The strength with which the wrestler is endowed,
In the god's beauty we no longer find:
The wonder of his time--Jove's image proud--
In the Olympian temple is enshrined.
The world, transformed by industry's bold hand,
The human heart, by new-born instincts moved,
That have in burning fights been fully proved,
Your circle of creation now expand.
Advancing man bears on his soaring pinions,
In gratitude, art with him in his flight,
And out of Nature's now-enriched dominions
New worlds of beauty issue forth to light.
The barriers upon knowledge are o'erthrown;
The spirit that, with pleasure soon matured,
Has in your easy triumphs been inured
To hasten through an artist-whole of graces,
Nature's more distant columns duly places.
And overtakes her on her pathway lone.
He weighs her now with weights that human are,
Metes her with measures that she lent of old;
While in her beauty's rites more practised far,
She now must let his eye her form behold.
With youthful and self-pleasing bliss,
He lends the spheres his harmony,
And, if he praise earth's edifice,
'Tis for its wondrous symmetry.
In all that now around him breathes,
Proportion sweet is ever rife;
And beauty's golden girdle wreathes
With mildness round his path through life;
Perfection blest, triumphantly,
Before him in your works soars high;
Wherever boisterous rapture swells,
Wherever silent sorrow flees,
Where pensive contemplation dwells,
Where he the tears of anguish sees,
Where thousand terrors on him glare,
Harmonious streams are yet behind--
He sees the Graces sporting there,
With feeling silent and refined.
Gentle as beauty's lines together linking,
As the appearances that round him play,
In tender outline in each other sinking,
The soft breath of his life thus fleets away.
His spirit melts in the harmonious sea,
That, rich in rapture, round his senses flows,
And the dissolving thought all silently
To omnipresent Cytherea grows.
Joining in lofty union with the Fates,
On Graces and on Muses calm relying,
With freely-offered bosom he awaits
The shaft that soon against him will be flying
From the soft bow necessity creates.
Favorites beloved of blissful harmony,
Welcome attendants on life's dreary road,
The noblest and the dearest far that she,
Who gave us life, to bless that life bestowed!
That unyoked man his duties bears in mind,
And loves the fetters that his motions bind,
That Chance with brazen sceptre rules him not,--
For this eternity is now your lot,
Your heart has won a bright reward for this.
That round the cup where freedom flows,
Merrily sport the gods of bliss,--
The beauteous dream its fragrance throws,
For this, receive a loving kiss!
The spirit, glorious and serene,
Who round necessity the graces trains,--
Who bids his ether and his starry plains
Upon us wait with pleasing mien,--
Who, 'mid his terrors, by his majesty gives joy,
And who is beauteous e'en when seeking to destroy,--
Him imitate, the artist good!
As o'er the streamlet's crystal flood
The banks with checkered dances hover,
The flowery mead, the sunset's light,--
Thus gleams, life's barren pathway over,
Poesy's shadowy world so bright.
In bridal dress ye led us on
Before the terrible Unknown,
Before the inexorable fate,
As in your urns the bones are laid,
With beauteous magic veil ye shade
The chorus dread that cares create.
Thousands of years I hastened through
The boundless realm of vanished time
How sad it seems when left by you--
But where ye linger, how sublime!
She who, with fleeting wing, of yore
From your creating hand arose in might,
Within your arms was found once more,
When, vanquished by Time's silent flight,
Life's blossoms faded from the cheek,
And from the limbs all vigor went,
And mournfully, with footstep weak,
Upon his staff the gray-beard leant.
Then gave ye to the languishing,
Life's waters from a new-born spring;
Twice was the youth of time renewed,
Twice, from the seeds that ye had strewed.
When chased by fierce barbarian hordes away,
The last remaining votive brand ye tore
From Orient's altars, now pollution's prey,
And to these western lands in safety bore.
The fugitive from yonder eastern shore,
The youthful day, the West her dwelling made;
And on Hesperia's plains sprang up once more
Ionia's flowers, in pristine bloom arrayed.
Over the spirit fairer Nature shed,
With soft refulgence, a reflection bright,
And through the graceful soul with stately tread
Advanced the mighty Deity of light.
Millions of chains were burst asunder then,
And to the slave then human laws applied,
And mildly rose the younger race of men,
As brethren, gently wandering side by side,
With noble inward ecstasy,
The bliss imparted ye receive,
And in the veil of modesty,
With silent merit take your leave.
If on the paths of thought, so freely given,
The searcher now with daring fortune stands,
And, by triumphant Paeans onward driven,
Would seize upon the crown with dauntless hands--
If he with grovelling hireling's pay
Thinks to dismiss his glorious guide--
Or, with the first slave's-place array
Art near the throne his dream supplied--
Forgive him!--O'er your head to-day
Hovers perfection's crown in pride,
With you the earliest plant Spring had,
Soul-forming Nature first began;
With you, the harvest-chaplet glad,
Perfected Nature ends her plan.
The art creative, that all-modestly arose
From clay and stone, with silent triumph throws
Its arms around the spirit's vast domain.
What in the land of knowledge the discoverer knows,
He knows, discovers, only for your gain
The treasures that the thinker has amassed,
He will enjoy within your arms alone,
Soon as his knowledge, beauty-ripe at last.
To art ennobled shall have grown,--
Soon as with you he scales a mountain-height,
And there, illumined by the setting sun,
The smiling valley bursts upon his sight.
The richer ye reward the eager gaze
The higher, fairer orders that the mind
May traverse with its magic rays,
Or compass with enjoyment unconfined--
The wider thoughts and feelings open lie
To more luxuriant floods of harmony.
To beauty's richer, more majestic stream,--
The fair members of the world's vast scheme,
That, maimed, disgrace on his creation bring,
He sees the lofty forms then perfecting--
The fairer riddles come from out the night--
The richer is the world his arms enclose,
The broader stream the sea with which he flows--
The weaker, too, is destiny's blind might--
The nobler instincts does he prove--
The smaller he himself, the greater grows his love.
Thus is he led, in still and hidden race,
By poetry, who strews his path with flowers,
Through ever-purer forms, and purer powers,
Through ever higher heights, and fairer grace.
At length, arrived at the ripe goal of time,--
Yet one more inspiration all-sublime,
Poetic outburst of man's latest youth,
And--he will glide into the arms of truth!
Herself, the gentle Cypria,
Illumined by her fiery crown,
Then stands before her full-grown son
Unveiled--as great Urania;
The sooner only by him caught,
The fairer he had fled away!
Thus stood, in wonder rapture-fraught,
Ulysses' noble son that day,
When the sage mentor who his youth beguiled;
Herself transfigured as Jove's glorious child!
Man's honor is confided to your hand,--
There let it well protected be!
It sinks with you! with you it will expand!
Poesy's sacred sorcery
Obeys a world-plan wise and good;
In silence let it swell the flood
Of mighty-rolling harmony.
By her own time viewed with disdain,
Let solemn truth in song remain,
And let the Muses' band defend her!
In all the fullness of her splendor,
Let her survive in numbers glorious,
More dread, when veiled her charms appear,
And vengeance take, with strains victorious,
On her tormentor's ear!
The freest mother's children free,
With steadfast countenance then rise
To highest beauty's radiancy,
And every other crown despise!
The sisters who escaped you here,
Within your mother's arms ye'll meet;
What noble spirits may revere,
Must be deserving and complete.
High over your own course of time
Exalt yourselves with pinion bold,
And dimly let your glass sublime
The coming century unfold!
On thousand roads advancing fast
Of ever-rich variety,
With fond embraces meet at last
Before the throne of harmony!
As into seven mild rays we view
With softness break the glimmer white,
As rainbow-beams of sevenfold hue
Dissolve again in that soft light,
In clearness thousandfold thus throw
Your magic round the ravished gaze,--
Into one stream of light thus flow,--
One bond of truth that ne'er decays!
Top Friedrich von Schiller Poems