Trilogy of Passion: I. TO WERTHER. by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
[This poem, written at the age of seventy-five, was appended to an edition of 'Werther,' published at that time.]
ONCE more, then, much-wept shadow, thou dost dare
Boldly to face the day's clear light, To meet me on fresh blooming meadows fair,
And dost not tremble at my sight. Those happy times appear return'd once more.
When on one field we quaff'd refreshing dew, And, when the day's unwelcome toils were o'er,
The farewell sunbeams bless'd our ravish'd view; Fate bade thee go,--to linger here was mine,-- Going the first, the smaller loss was thine.
The life of man appears a glorious fate: The day how lovely, and the night how great! And we 'mid Paradise-like raptures plac'd, The sun's bright glory scarce have learn'd to taste.
When strange contending feelings dimly cover, Now us, and now the forms that round us hover; One's feelings by no other are supplied, 'Tis dark without, if all is bright inside; An outward brightness veils my sadden'd mood, When Fortune smiles,--how seldom understood! Now think we that we know her, and with might A woman's beauteous form instils delight; The youth, as glad as in his infancy, The spring-time treads, as though the spring were he Ravish'd, amazed, he asks, how this is done? He looks around, the world appears his own. With careless speed he wanders on through space, Nor walls, nor palaces can check his race; As some gay flight of birds round tree-tops plays, So 'tis with him who round his mistress strays; He seeks from AEther, which he'd leave behind him, The faithful look that fondly serves to bind him.
Yet first too early warn'd, and then too late, He feels his flight restrain'd, is captur'd straight To meet again is sweet, to part is sad, Again to meet again is still more glad, And years in one short moment are enshrin'd; But, oh, the harsh farewell is hid behind!
Thou smilest, friend, with fitting thoughts inspired; By a dread parting was thy fame acquired, Thy mournful destiny we sorrow'd o'er, For weal and woe thou left'st us evermore, And then again the passions' wavering force Drew us along in labyrinthine course; And we, consumed by constant misery, At length must part--and parting is to die! How moving is it, when the minstrel sings, To 'scape the death that separation brings! Oh grant, some god, to one who suffers so, To tell, half-guilty, his sad tale of woe