Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/Nach zehn Jahren (After ten years)

Translation of an 1840 poem by Emanuel Geibel. Illustrated by Frederick Walker


Nach zehn Jahren (Walker).png

I wandered long abroad, and thence returned,
Came to my sister’s house; I heard therein
Clear-ringing jubilee of children’s voices—
But all unknown. I looked, and in the chamber,
Where fell through shades of leaves the gold of even,
Right glad of heart I saw—in number seven—
The little ones at play. Their fair heads tumbled
In the rich stream of light, with buxom health
Bloomed the round cheeks like rose. When I went forth
To roam through the wide world, not one was born:
I scarce was master of their several names.
So, silent and in wonder, with great eyes
They stared at me; the play fell sudden mute;
And then the eldest, drawing near me shy,
Asked with the mother’s very tone, “Who are you?”
And then came in my sister. In her arms
I threw myself, and with a mother’s pleasure
She showed me all that sevenfold household treasure
Which had increased so sweetly; to the children
She showed the uncle dear come home again.
Now all was joy and shouting; quick resolved,
The bolder boys came climbing up to kiss me,
The girls bent round their heads, and even the smallest,
Which shrunk at first in awe of my great beard,
Put out its little hands to feel for me.
Oh! that was rare delight, so interlaced
And so festoon’d to be with fresh young life,
Which clustered on me like a swarm of bees
On a new hive, expecting tales of wonder
With questions thousand-fold. Yet on my heart
Smote cold one breath of sadness, for these kisses,
These questionings, which took me by close storm,
Spoke with an inward echo. “Steps so many
Hast thou gone forward on the way of death.
In these each day more quickly ripeneth
The novel generation which shall walk
Over thy grave, and happy be and weep.”
And so I laid my hands as though in blessing
Upon those heads, and spake in thought the words:
“Welcome, most gentle monitors of death;
Welcome indeed, and thanks, that ye convey
So tenderly disguised your earnest warning.
But ye in joy grow up to prime of life,
That when I am no more, ye and your brothers
May perfect where fell short my age and I.”