By Friedrich von Schiller
How gracefully, O man, with thy palm-bough,
Upon the waning century standest thou,
In proud and noble manhood’s prime,
With unlocked senses, with a spirit freed,
Of firmness mild,–though silent, rich in deed,
The ripest son of Time,
Through meekness great, through precepts strong,
Through treasures rich, that time had long
Hid in thy bosom, and through reason free,–
Master of Nature, who thy fetters loves,
And who thy strength in thousand conflicts proves,
And from the desert soared in pride with thee!
Flushed with the glow of victory,
Never forget to prize the hand
That found the weeping orphan child
Deserted on life’s barren strand,
And left a prey to hazard wild,–
That, ere thy spirit-honor saw the day,
Thy youthful heart watched over silently,
And from thy tender bosom turned away
Each thought that might have stained its purity;
That kind one ne’er forget who, as in sport,
Thy youth to noble aspirations trained,
And who to thee in easy riddles taught
The secret how each virtue might be gained;
Who, to receive him back more perfect still,
E’en into strangers’ arms her favorite gave–
Oh, may’st thou never with degenerate will,
Humble thyself to be her abject slave!
In industry, the bee the palm may bear;
In skill, the worm a lesson may impart;
With spirits blest thy knowledge thou dost share,
But thou, O man, alone hast art!
Only through beauty’s morning gate
Didst thou the land of knowledge find.
To merit a more glorious fate,
In graces trains itself the mind.
What thrilled thee through with trembling blessed,
When erst the Muses swept the chord,
That power created in thy breast,
Which to the mighty spirit soared.
When first was seen by doting reason’s ken,
When many a thousand years had passed away,
A symbol of the fair and great e’en then,
Before the childlike mind uncovered lay.
Its blessed form bade us honor virtue’s cause,–
The honest sense ‘gainst vice put forth its powers,
Before a Solon had devised the laws
That slowly bring to light their languid flowers.
Before Eternity’s vast scheme
Was to the thinker’s mind revealed,
Was’t not foreshadowed in his dream,
Whose eyes explored yon starry field?
Urania,–the majestic dreaded one,
Who wears a glory of Orions twined
Around her brow, and who is seen by none
Save purest spirits, when, in splendor shrined,
She soars above the stars in pride,
Ascending to her sunny throne,–
Her fiery chaplet lays aside,
And now, as beauty, stands alone;
While, with the Graces’ girdle round her cast,
She seems a child, by children understood;
For we shall recognize as truth at last,
What here as beauty only we have viewed.
When the Creator banished from his sight
Frail man to dark mortality’s abode,
And granted him a late return to light,
Only by treading reason’s arduous road,–
When each immortal turned his face away,
She, the compassionate, alone
Took up her dwelling in that house of clay,
With the deserted, banished one.
With drooping wing she hovers here
Around her darling, near the senses’ land,
And on his prison-walls so drear
Elysium paints with fond deceptive hand.
While soft humanity still lay at rest,
Within her tender arms extended,
No flame was stirred by bigots’ murderous zest,
No guiltless blood on high ascended.
The heart that she in gentle fetters binds,
Views duty’s slavish escort scornfully;
Her path of light, though fairer far it winds,
Sinks in the sun-track of morality.
Those who in her chaste service still remain,
No grovelling thought can tempt, no fate affright;
The spiritual life, so free from stain,
Freedom’s sweet birthright, they receive again,
Under the mystic sway of holy might.
The purest among millions, happy they
Whom to her service she has sanctified,
Whose mouths the mighty one’s commands convey,
Within whose breasts she deigneth to abide;
Whom she ordained to feed her holy fire
Upon her altar’s ever-flaming pyre,–
Whose eyes alone her unveiled graces meet,
And whom she gathers round in union sweet
In the much-honored place be glad
Where noble order bade ye climb,
For in the spirit-world sublime,
Man’s loftiest rank ye’ve ever had!
Ere to the world proportion ye revealed,
That every being joyfully obeys,–
A boundless structure, in night’s veil concealed,
Illumed by naught but faint and languid rays,
A band of phantoms, struggling ceaselessly,
Holding his mind in slavish fetters bound,
Unsociable and rude as be,
Assailing him on every side around,–
Thus seemed to man creation in that day!
United to surrounding forms alone
By the blind chains the passions had put on,
Whilst Nature’s beauteous spirit fled away