Translated by A.S. Kline
Again you show yourselves, you wavering Forms, Revealed, as you once were, to clouded vision. Shall I attempt to hold you fast once more? Heart's willing still to suffer that illusion? You crowd so near! Well then, you shall endure, And rouse me, from your mist and cloud's confusion: My spirit feels so young again: it's shaken By magic breezes that your breathings waken.
You bring with you the sight of joyful days, And many a loved shade rises to the eye: And like some other half-forgotten phrase, First Love returns, and Friendship too is nigh: Pain is renewed, and sorrow: all the ways, Life wanders in its labyrinthine flight, Naming the good, those that Fate has robbed Of lovely hours, those slipped from me and lost.
They can no longer hear this latest song, Spirits, to whom I gave my early singing: That kindly crowd itself is now long gone, Alas, it dies away, that first loud ringing! I bring my verses to the unknown throng, My heart's made anxious even by their clapping, And those besides delighted by my verse, If they still live, are scattered through the Earth.
I feel a long and unresolved desire For that serene and solemn land of ghosts, It quivers now, like an Aeolian lyre, My stuttering verse, with its uncertain notes, A shudder takes me: tear on tear, entire, The firm heart feels weakened and remote: What I possess seems far away from me, And what is gone becomes reality.
( Director, Dramatist, Comedian )
You two, who've often stood by me, In times of need, when trouble's breaking, Say what success our undertaking Will meet with, then, in Germany? I'd rather like the crowd to enjoy it, Since they live and let live, truly. The stage is set, the boards complete, And they await our festivity. They're seated already, eyebrows raised, Calmly hoping they'll be amazed. I know how to make the people happy: But I've never been so embarrassed: not That they've been used to the best, you see, Yet they've all read such a dreadful lot. How can we make it all seem fresh and new, Weighty, but entertaining too? I'd love to see a joyful crowd, that's certain, When the waves drive them to our place, And with tremendous and repeated surging, Squeeze them through the narrow gate of grace: In the light of day they're there already, Pushing, till they've reached the window, As if they're at the baker's, starving, nearly Breaking their necks: just for a ticket. Oh! Only poets can work this miracle on men So various: the day is yours, my friend!
O, don't speak to me of that varied crew, The sight of whom makes inspiration fade. Veil, from me, the surging multitude, Whose whirling will drives us everyway. No, some heavenly silence lead me to, Where for the poet alone pure joy's at play: Where Love and Friendship too grace our hearts, Created and inspired by heavenly arts.
Ah! What springs here from our deepest being, What the shy trembling lips in speaking meant, Now falling awry, and now perhaps succeeding, Is swallowed in the fierce Moment's violence. Often, when the first years are done, unseeing, It appears at last, complete, in deepest sense. What dazzles is a Momentary act: What's true is left for posterity, intact.
Don't speak about posterity to me! If I went on about posterity, Where would you get your worldly fun? Folk want it, and they'll still have some. The presence of a fine young man Is nice, I think, for everyone. Who, comfortably, shares his wit, And to their moods takes no exception: He'll make himself a greater hit, And win a more secure reception. Be brave, and show them what you've got, Have Fantasy with all her chorus, yes, Mind, Reason, Passion, Tears, the lot, But don't you leave out Foolishness.
Make sure, above all, plenty's happening there! They come to look, and then they want to stare. Spin endlessly before their faces, So the people gape amazed, You've won them by your many paces, You'll be the man most praised. The mass are only moved by things en masse , Each one, himself, will choose the bit he needs: Who brings a lot, brings something that will pass: And everyone goes home contentedly. You'll give a piece, why then give it them in pieces! With such a stew you're destined for success. Easy to serve, it's as easy to invent. What use to bring them your complete intent? The Public will soon pick at what you've dressed.
You don't see how badly such work will do! How little it suits the genuine creator! Already, I see, it's a principle with you. The finest master is a sloppy worker.
Such a reproach leaves me unmoved: The man who seeks to be approved, Must stick to the best tools for it, Think, soft wood's the best to split, and have a look for whom you write! See, this is one that boredom drives, Another's from some overloaded table, Or, worst of all, he's one arrives, Like most, fresh from the daily paper. They rush here mindlessly, as to a Masque, And curiosity inspires their hurry: The ladies bring themselves, and in their best, Come and play their parts and ask no fee. What dream of yours is this, exalted verse? Doesn't a full house make you happy? Have a good look at your patrons first! One half are coarse, the rest are chilly. After the show he hopes for card-play: He hopes for a wild night, and a woman's kiss. Why then do so many poor fools plague, The sweet Muse, for such a goal as this? I tell you, just give them more and more, So you'll never stray far from the mark, Just seek to confuse them, in the dark: To keep them happy, that's hard - for sure. And now what's wrong? Delight or Pain?
Go, look for another scribbler by night! Shall the poet throw away the highest right, The right of humanity, that Nature gave, Carelessly, so that you might gain! How will he move all hearts again? How will each element be his slave? Is that harmony nothing, from his breast unfurled, That draws back into his own heart, the world? When Nature winds the lengthened filaments, Indifferently, on her eternal spindle, When all the tuneless mass of elements, In their sullen discord, jar and jangle – Who parts the ever-flowing ranks of creation, Stirs them, so rhythmic measure is assured? Who calls the One to general ordination, Where it may ring in marvellous accord? Who lets the storm wind rage with passion, The sunset glow the senses move? Who scatters every lovely springtime blossom Beneath the footsteps of the one we love? Who weaves the slight green wreath of leaves, To honour work well done in every art? What makes Olympus sure, joins deities? The power of Man, revealed by the bard.
So use it then, all this fine energy, And drive along the work of poetry, To show how we are driven in Love's play. By chance we meet, we feel, we stay, And bit by bit we're tightly bound: Happiness grows, and then it's fenced around: We're all inflamed then comes the sorrowing: Before you know it, there's a novel brewing! Why don't we give such a piece! Grasp the life of man complete! Everyone lives, though it's seldom confessed, And wherever you grasp, there's interest. In varied pictures there's little light, A lot of error, and a gleam of right, So the best of drinks is brewed, So the world's cheered and renewed. Then see the flower of lovely youth collect, To hear your words, and view the offering, And every tender nature will extract A melancholy food from what you bring, They'll gain now this and that from your art, So each sees what is present in their heart. They're readily moved to weeping or to laughter, They'll admire your verve, and enjoy the show: What's finished you can never alter after: Minds still in growth will be grateful though.
So give me back that time again, When I was still 'becoming', When words gushed like a fountain In new, and endless flowing, Then for me mists veiled the world, In every bud the wonder glowed, A thousand flowers I unfurled, That every valley, richly, showed. I had nothing, yet enough: Joy in illusion, thirst for truth. Give every passion, free to move, The deepest bliss, filled with pain, The force of hate, the power of love, Oh, give me back my youth again!
Youth is what you need, dear friend, When enemies jostle you, of course, And girls, filled with desire, bend Their arms around your neck, with force, When the swift-run race's garland Beckons from the hard-won goal, When from the swirling dance, a man Drinks until the night is old. But to play that well-known lyre With courage and with grace, Moved by self-imposed desire, At a sweet wandering pace, That is your function, Age, And our respect won't lessen. Age doesn't make us childish, as they say, It finds that we're still children.
That's enough words for the moment, Now let me see some action! While you're handing out the compliments, You should also make things happen. Why talk so much of inspiration? Delay won't make it flow, you see. Since Poetry gave the gift of creation, Take your orders then from Poetry. You know what's wanted here, We need strong ale to appear: So brew me a barrel right away! Tomorrow won't do what's undone today, We shouldn't waste a minute, so Decide what's possible, and just Grasp it firmly like a hoe, Make sure that you let nothing go, And work it about, because you must. On the German stage, you see, Everyone tries out what he can: Don't fail to show me, I'm your man, Your trap-doors, and your scenery. Use heavenly lights, the big and small, Squander stars in any number, Rocky cliffs, and fire, and water, Birds and creatures, use them all. So in our narrow playhouse waken The whole wide circle of creation, And stride, deliberately, as well, From Heaven, through the world, to Hell.