Trilogy of Passion: II. ELEGY. by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When man had ceased to utter his lament,
A god then let me tell my tale of sorrow.
WHAT hope of once more meeting is there now In the still-closed blossoms of this day? Both heaven and hell thrown open seest thou; What wav'ring thoughts within the bosom play No longer doubt! Descending from the sky, She lifts thee in her arms to realms on high.
And thus thou into Paradise wert brought,
As worthy of a pure and endless life; Nothing was left, no wish, no hope, no thought,
Here was the boundary of thine inmost strife: And seeing one so fair, so glorified, The fount of yearning tears was straightway dried.
No motion stirr'd the day's revolving wheel,
In their own front the minutes seem'd to go; The evening kiss, a true and binding seal,
Ne'er changing till the morrow's sunlight glow. The hours resembled sisters as they went. Yet each one from another different.
The last hour's kiss, so sadly sweet, effac'd
A beauteous network of entwining love. Now on the threshold pause the feet, now haste.
As though a flaming cherub bade them move; The unwilling eye the dark road wanders o'er, Backward it looks, but closed it sees the door.
And now within itself is closed this breast,
As though it ne'er were open, and as though, Vying with ev'ry star, no moments blest
Had, in its presence, felt a kindling glow; Sadness, reproach, repentance, weight of care, Hang heavy on it in the sultry air.
Is not the world still left? The rocky steeps,
Are they with holy shades no longer crown'd? Grows not the harvest ripe? No longer creeps
The espalier by the stream,--the copse around? Doth not the wondrous arch of heaven still rise, Now rich in shape, now shapeless to the eyes?
As, seraph-like, from out the dark clouds' chorus,
With softness woven, graceful, light, and fair, Resembling Her, in the blue aether o'er us,
A slender figure hovers in the air,-- Thus didst thou see her joyously advance, The fairest of the fairest in the dance.
Yet but a moment dost thou boldly dare
To clasp an airy form instead of hers; Back to thine heart! thou'lt find it better there,
For there in changeful guise her image stirs What erst was one, to many turneth fast, In thousand forms, each dearer than the last.
As at the door, on meeting lingerd she,
And step by step my faithful ardour bless'd, For the last kiss herself entreated me,
And on my lips the last last kiss impress'd,-- Thus clearly traced, the lov'd one's form we view, With flames engraven on a heart so true,--
A heart that, firm as some embattled tower,
Itself for her, her in itself reveres, For her rejoices in its lasting power,
Conscious alone, when she herself appears; Feels itself freer in so sweet a thrall, And only beats to give her thanks in all.
The power of loving, and all yearning sighs
For love responsive were effaced and drown'd; While longing hope for joyous enterprise
Was form'd, and rapid action straightway found; If love can e'er a loving one inspire, Most lovingly it gave me now its fire;
And 'twas through her!--an inward sorrow lay
On soul and body, heavily oppress'd; To mournful phantoms was my sight a prey,
In the drear void of a sad tortured breast; Now on the well-known threshold Hope hath smil'd, Herself appeareth in the sunlight mild.
Unto the peace of God, which, as we read,
Blesseth us more than reason e'er bath done, Love's happy peace would I compare indeed,
When in the presence of the dearest one. There rests the heart, and there that sweetest thought, The thought of being hers, is check'd by nought.
In the pure bosom doth a yearning float,
Unto a holier, purer, unknown Being Its grateful aspiration to devote,
The Ever-Nameless then unriddled seeing; We call it: piety!--such blest delight I feel a share in, when before her sight.
Before her sight, as 'neath the sun's hot ray,
Before her breath, as 'neath the spring's soft wind, In its deep wintry cavern melts away
Self-love, so long in icy chains confin'd; No selfishness and no self-will are nigh, For at her advent they were forced to fly.
It seems as though she said: "As hours pass by
They spread before us life with kindly plan; Small knowledge did the yesterday supply,
To know the morrow is conceal'd from man; And if the thought of evening made me start, The sun at setting gladden'd straight my heart.
"Act, then, as I, and look, with joyous mind,
The moment in the face; nor linger thou! Meet it with speed, so fraught with life, so kind
In action, and in love so radiant now; Let all things be where thou art, childlike ever, Thus thoult be all, thus, thou'lt be vanquish'd never."
Thou speakest well, methought, for as thy guide
The moment's favour did a god assign, And each one feels himself when by thy side,
Fate's fav'rite in a moment so divine; I tremble at thy look that bids me go, Why should I care such wisdom vast to know?
Now am I far! And what would best befit
The present minute? I could scarcely tell; Full many a rich possession offers it,
These but offend, and I would fain repel. Yearnings unquenchable still drive me on, All counsel, save unbounded tears, is gone.
Flow on, flow on in never-ceasing course,
Yet may ye never quench my inward fire! Within my bosom heaves a mighty force,
Where death and life contend in combat dire. Medicines may serve the body's pangs to still; Nought but the spirit fails in strength of will,--
Fails in conception; wherefore fails it so?
A thousand times her image it portrays; Enchanting now, and now compell'd to go,
Now indistinct, now clothed in purest rays! How could the smallest comfort here be flowing? The ebb and flood, the coming and the going!
* * * * * *
Leave me here now, my life's companions true!
Leave me alone on rock, in moor and heath; But courage! open lies the world to you,
The glorious heavens above, the earth beneath; Observe, investigate, with searching eyes, And nature will disclose her mysteries.
To me is all, I to myself am lost,
Who the immortals' fav'rite erst was thought; They, tempting, sent Pandoras to my cost,
So rich in wealth, with danger far more fraught; They urged me to those lips, with rapture crown'd, Deserted me, and hurl'd me to the ground.