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The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/The Musagetes


Often in the winter midnight,
Prayed I to the blessed Muses—
"Here is not the red of morning.
Tardy is the day in breaking;
Light for me, ye blessed Muses,
Light the lamp of inspiration.
That its mellow ray may serve me,
'Stead of Phoebus and Aurora!"
But they left me to my slumber,
Dull, and spiritless, and torpid;
And the morning's lazy leisure
Ushered in a useless day.

Then when spring began to kindle,
Thus the nightingales I conjured —
"Sweetest nightingales, oh, warble,
Warble early at my window!
Wake me from the heavy slumber
That in magic fetters holds me!"
And the love-o'erflowing singers
Sang all night around my window
All their rarest melodies;
Kept awake the soul within me;
Gave me trances, aspirations,
Glimpses of divine emotion,
Soothing, melting, undefined.
So the night passed lightly over,
And Aurora found me sleeping,
Scarce I wakened with the sun.

Lastly, came the glorious summer;
What aroused me then from dreaming,
At the earliest dawn of morning?
'Twas the buzzing of the flies!
They are touched by no compassion;
Euthlessly they do their duty,
Though the half-awakened sleeper
Greets them with a malediction.
Unabashed their clan they summon,
And the humming swarm is vocal,
And they banish from my eyelids
All the luxury of sleep.

Straightway start I from my pillow,
Leave the close-beleaguered chamber,
Sally out to seek the Muses,
In the haunts to them are dearest.
And I find them 'neath the beeches,
Waiting for me, sometimes chiding,
For my over-long delay.
Thus I owe you, libelled insects.
Thanks for many hours of rapture.
Dullards may indeed abuse you,
Since you wake them to sensation;
But the poet ought to prize you,
And I thank you, as a poet,
Ranking you, beyond all others,
As the ushers to the Muse.