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The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/The German Parnassus

< The Works of J. W. von Goethe‎ | Volume 9


THE GERMAN PARNASSUS.

'Neath the shadow
Of these bushes
On the meadow
Where the cooling water gushes,
Phœbus gave me, when a boy,
All life's fulness to enjoy.
So, in silence, as the God
Bade them with his sovereign nod,
Sacred Muses trained my days
To his praise,—
With the bright and silvery flood
Of Parnassus stirred my blood,
And the seal so pure and chaste
By them on my lips was placed.

With her modest pinions, see,
Philomel encircles me!
In these bushes, in yon grove,
Calls she to her sister-throng,
And their heavenly choral song
Teaches me to dream of love.

Fulness waxes in my breast
Of emotions social, blest;
Friendship's nurtured,—love awakes,—
And the silence Phœbus breaks
Of his mountains, of his vales,
Sweetly blow the balmy gales;
All for whom he shows affection,
Who are worthy his protection.
Gladly follow his direction.

This one comes with joyous bearing
And with open, radiant gaze;
That a sterner look is wearing,
This one, scarcely cured, with daring
Wakes the strength of former days;
For the sweet, destructive flame
Pierced his marrow and his frame.
That which Amor stole before
Phœbus only can restore.
Peace, and joy, and harmony.
Aspirations pure and free.

Brethren, rise ye!
Numbers prize ye!
Deeds of worth resemble they.
Who can better than the bard
Guide a friend when gone astray?
If his duty he regard,
More he'll do, than others may.

Yes! afar I hear them sing!
Yes! I hear them touch the string,
And with mighty godlike stroke
Right and duty they inspire
And evoke,
As they sing and wake the lyre.
Tendencies of noblest worth,
To each type of strength give birth.

Phantasies of sweetest power
Flower
Round about on every bough.
Bending now
Like the magic wood of old,
'Neath the fruit that gleams like gold.

What we feel and what we view
In the land of highest bliss, —
This dear soil, a sun like this,—
Lures the best of women too.
And the Muses' breathings blest
Rouse the maiden's gentle breast,
Tune the throat to minstrelsy,
And with cheeks of beauteous dye,
Bid it sing a worthy song.
Sit the sister-band among;
And their strains grow softer still,
As they vie with earnest will.

One amongst the band betimes
Goes to wander
By the beeches, 'neath the limes.
Yonder seeking, finding yonder
That which in the morning-grove
She had lost through roguish Love,
All her breast's first aspirations,
And her heart's calm meditations.
To the shady wood so fair
Gently stealing,
Takes she that which man can ne'er
Duly merit,—each soft feeling,—
Disregards the noontide ray
And the dew at close of day,—
In the plain her path she loses.
Ne'er disturb her on her way!
Seek her silently, ye Muses!

Shouts I hear, wherein the sound
Of the waterfall is drowned.
From the grove loud clamours rise,
Strange the tumult, strange the cries.
See I rightly? Can it be?
To the very sanctuary,
Lo, an impious troop in-hies!

O'er the land
Streams the band;
Hot desire,
Drunken-fire
In their gaze
Wildly plays,—
Makes the hair
Bristle there.
And the troop,
With fell swoop,
Women, men,
Coming then,
Ply their blows
And expose,
Void of shame,
All the frame.
Iron shot.
Fierce and hot,
Strike with fear
On the ear;
All they slay
On their way,
O'er the land
Pours the band;
All take flight
At their sight
Ah, o'er every plant they rush!
Ah, their cruel footsteps crush
All the flowers that fill their path!
Who will dare to stem their wrath?

Brethren, let us venture all!
Virtue in your pure cheek glows.
Phœbus will attend our call
When he sees our heavy woes;
And that we may have aright
Weapons suited to the fight,
He the mountain shaketh now—
From its brow
Rattling down
Stone on stone
Through the thicket spread appear.
Brethren, seize them! Wherefore fear?
Now the villain crew assail,
As though with a storm of hail,
And expel the strangers wild
From these regions soft and mild
Where the sun has ever smiled!

What strange wonder do I see?
Can it be?
All my limbs of power are reft,
And all strength my hand has left.
Can it be?
None are strangers that I see!
And our brethren 'tis who go
On before, the way to show!
Oh, the reckless, impious ones!
How they, with their jarring tones,
Beat the time, as on they hie!
Quick, my brethren!—let us fly!
To the rash ones, yet a word!
Ay, my voice shall now be heard,
As a peal of thunder, strong!
Words as poets' arms were made,—
When the god will be obeyed.
Follow fast his darts ere long.

Was it possible that ye
Thus your godlike dignity
Should forget? The Thyrsus rude
Must a heavy burden feel
To the hand but wont to steal
O'er the lyre in gentle mood.
From the sparkling waterfalls,
From the brook that purling calls.
Shall Silenus' loathsome beast
Be allowed at will to feast?
Aganippe's[1] wave he sips
With profane and spreading lips,—
With ungainly feet stamps madly,
Till the waters flow on sadly.

Fain I'd think myself deluded
In the saddening sounds I hear;
From the holy glades secluded
Hateful tones assail the ear.
Laughter wild (exchange how mournful!)
Takes the place of love's sweet dream;
Women-haters and the scornful
In exulting chorus scream.
Nightingale and turtle-dove
Fly their nests so warm and chaste,
And, inflamed with sensual love.
Holds the Faun the Nymph embraced.
Here a garment's torn away,
Scoffs succeed their sated bliss,
While the god, with angry ray,
Looks upon each impious kiss.

Vapour, smoke, as from a fire,
And advancing clouds I view;
Chords not only grace the lyre,
For the bow its chords hath, too.
Even the adorer's heart
Dreads the wild advancing band,
For the flames that round them dart
Show the fierce destroyer's hand.
Oh, neglect not what I say,
For I speak it lovingly!
From our boundaries haste away,
From the god's dread anger fly!
Cleanse once more the holy place,
Turn the savage train aside!
Earth contains upon its face
Many a spot unsanctified;
Here we only prize the good.
Stars unsullied round us burn.
If ye, in repentant mood,
From your wanderings would return,
If ye fail to find the bliss
That ye found with us of yore,—
Or when lawless mirth like this
Gives your hearts delight no more,—
Then return in pilgrim guise,
Gladly up the mountain go,
While your strains repentant rise.
And our brethren's advent show.

Let a new-born wreath entwine
Solemnly your temples round;
Rapture glows in hearts divine
When a long-lost sinner's found.
Swifter e'en the Lethe's flood
Round Death's silent house can play,
Every error of the good
Will love's chahce wash away.
All will haste your steps to meet,
As ye come in majesty,—
Men your blessing will entreat;—
Ours ye thus will doubly be!


  1. A spring in Bœotia, which arose out of Mount Helicon, and was sacred to Apollo and the Muses.