THREE ODES TO MY FRIEND. by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
THESE are the most singular of all the Poems of Goethe, and to many will appear so wild and fantastic, as to leave anything but a pleasing impression. Those at the beginning, addressed to his friend Behrisch, were written at the age of eighteen, and most of the remainder were composed while he was still quite young. Despite, however, the extravagance of some of them, such as the Winter Journey over the Hartz Mountains, and the Wanderer's Storm-Song, nothing can be finer than the noble one entitled Mahomet's Song, and others, such as the Spirit Song' over the Waters, The God-like, and, above all, the magnificent sketch of Prometheus, which forms part of an unfinished piece bearing the same name, and called by Goethe a 'Dramatic Fragment.'
TO MY FRIEND.
[These three Odes are addressed to a certain Behrisch, who was tutor to Count Lindenau, and of whom Goethe gives an odd account at the end of the Seventh Book of his Autobiography.]
TRANSPLANT the beauteous tree! Gardener, it gives me pain; A happier resting-place Its trunk deserved.
Yet the strength of its nature To Earth's exhausting avarice, To Air's destructive inroads, An antidote opposed.
See how it in springtime Coins its pale green leaves! Their orange-fragrance Poisons each flyblow straight.
The caterpillar's tooth Is blunted by them; With silv'ry hues they gleam In the bright sunshine,
Its twigs the maiden Fain would twine in Her bridal-garland; Youths its fruit are seeking.
See, the autumn cometh! The caterpillar Sighs to the crafty spider,-- Sighs that the tree will not fade.
Hov'ring thither From out her yew-tree dwelling, The gaudy foe advances Against the kindly tree,
And cannot hurt it, But the more artful one Defiles with nauseous venom Its silver leaves;
And sees with triumph How the maiden shudders, The youth, how mourns he, On passing by.
Transplant the beauteous tree! Gardener, it gives me pain; Tree, thank the gardener Who moves thee hence!
THOU go'st! I murmur-- Go! let me murmur. Oh, worthy man, Fly from this land!
Deadly marshes, Steaming mists of October Here interweave their currents, Blending for ever.
Noisome insects Here are engender'd; Fatal darkness Veils their malice.
The fiery-tongued serpent, Hard by the sedgy bank, Stretches his pamper'd body, Caress'd by the sun's bright beams.
Tempt no gentle night-rambles Under the moon's cold twilight! Loathsome toads hold their meetings Yonder at every crossway.
Injuring not, Fear will they cause thee. Oh, worthy man, Fly from this land!
BE void of feeling! A heart that soon is stirr'd, Is a possession sad Upon this changing earth.
Behrisch, let spring's sweet smile Never gladden thy brow! Then winter's gloomy tempests Never will shadow it o'er.
Lean thyself ne'er on a maiden's Sorrow-engendering breast. Ne'er on the arm, Misery-fraught, of a friend.
Already envy From out his rocky ambush Upon thee turns The force of his lynx-like eyes,
Stretches his talons, On thee falls, In thy shoulders Cunningly plants them.
Strong are his skinny arms, As panther-claws; He shaketh thee, And rends thy frame.
Death 'tis to part, 'Tis threefold death To part, not hoping Ever to meet again.
Thou wouldst rejoice to leave This hated land behind, Wert thou not chain'd to me With friendships flowery chains.
Burst them! I'll not repine. No noble friend Would stay his fellow-captive, If means of flight appear.
The remembrance Of his dear friend's freedom Gives him freedom In his dungeon.
Thou go'st,--I'm left. But e'en already The last year's winged spokes Whirl round the smoking axle.
I number the turns Of the thundering wheel; The last one I bless.-- Each bar then is broken, I'm free then as thou!