Monday, December 12, 2016

Twining Eternally

"Eons cannot erase the traces of my days on Earth."  — Goethe

"Eleusis" by Hegel

To Hölderlin

Peace, all around me and within! The tireless cares
Slumber, of busy men. They give to me
Leisure and liberty. Oh night, I thank thee, thou
That set'st me free! With shimmering haze of white
The uncertain confines of the distant hills
Are shrouded by the moon; and, from between,
With kindly twinkle glitters one bright strip
Of yonder lake.
The tedious clatter of the day recedes,
As memory had laid long years between.
Thy image, now, beloved, rises up
With joys of bygone days. Yet soon these yield
To sweeter hopes of new and speedy meeting:
I paint the scene already — the eager step,
The warm embrace: and that, more intimate,
When each probes each with questions, to espy
What new things time has wrought within his friend
Of feeling, view and utt'rance; the glad certitude
That the old covenant maintains its faith,
Even truer, firmer, riper than before;
That covenant, not sealed by any oath:
To live unto free truth alone;
And never, never to make truce
With that convention which would regulate
The feelings and opinions.
Now must the thought, that bore me once o'er streams and mountain heights
To you on wings, confer with dull reality.
Yet soon a sigh betrays their quarreling, and with it flees
Away the dream of sweet imaginings.
My eyes are lifted to the vault of the eternal heavens,
To ye, ye radiant, starry host of height;
And, every hope and every wish effacing,
Forgetfulness rains down from your eternity.
My mind doth lose itself in gazing:
Gone is what I called mine:
I yield myself to the immeasurable;
I am in him, am All, am nothing else.
Returning thought, in fearsome alienation,
Recoils before the infinite, and fails, astounded,
To fathom such a vision's depths.
But fancy to the mind draws down the eternal,
And marries it to form. All hail to you!
Exalted spirits! Lofty shadows!
From whose clear brows fulfillment radiates.
Be not afraid!
This dazzling brightness that enwraps you round;
I feel I too have here my home.
Ha! Did the gates start of thy sanctuary,
Ceres? Oh, thou who in Eleusis throned'st!
Enthused, intoxicate, I feel
Thy awesome presence near
Would comprehend thy revelations.
Would read the symbols' lofty purport, and o'erhear
The festal choirs of the gods,
The dooms they utter from their council-seats!
But silenced are thy halls today, oh Goddess!
Fled is the conclave of the gods to high Olympus,
Far from their profanated altar-places;
Spurning the grave of desecrate mankind,
Fled is that genius of innocency
Whose spell once lured them: mute the wisdom of thy priests.
No single note of all the sacred rite
Escaped to reach us; and in vain the searchers delve,
Moved more by curiosity than love
For wisdom. Her they possess indeed! Disdaining thee.
In hopes to master her, they burrow after words
To find the imprint of thy lofty mind.
Tis vain! They grasp but a handful of dust and ashes,
To which they nevermore shall conjure back thy life!
Yet in the rotting, soulless mould they take their pleasure,
Aye dead themselves, and with the dead content!
Of thy high banquets there remains no token;
Of all the pictured forms not any fleeting trace.
Too holy for the children of thy mysteries
The depths of that unutterable feeling,
The rich contents of that exalted lore,
To be entrusted to a barren symbol.
Even thought itself can compass not the soul,
Who, beyond time and space, aspectant of infinity,
Rapt, self-oblivious, back to consciousness once more
Awakes. And, would he tell to others what he knows,
Though spoke with angels' tongues, the words were all too poor.
And horror seizes him, that holiest thing,
Even in thought belittled, by his words
To make so little, that the very speech seems sin.
And shuddering, he closes up his lips.
This vow, the initiate laid upon himself, wise law
Laid upon meaner spirits: never to make known
What, on a holy night, they saw and felt and heard.
Lest even the nobler sort should find their barking folly
Trouble his devotion, and their wordy trash
Stir him to wroth even with the holiest, — lest it should be
So trampled in the mire, — so mere a thing of rote
That it became the plaything of the sophists
A ware word-mongers hawk about and chaffer,
Dispensing penny-wise;
A cloak for clever-tongued hypocrisy, — a birch, perchance,
To school the merry child, — and at the end, so void,
So utterly empty, that its sole life's root
Is in its echo upon alien tongues.
Thy sons, oh goddess, did not vainly flaunt
Thy honor in the streets and market-place, but bore it
Locked in their bosom's inmost shrine.
Therefore thou livest not within their mouths:
Thee with their lives they worshipped; in their deeds thou livest still.
This night, too, holy one! I have beheld thee, —
Thee, whom in thy sons' lives I oft times found revealed,
And felt unseen, as soul of all their deeds.
Thou art that lofty purpose, that firm faith
Of Godhead, which — though all the world should fall — nor swerves nor shakes.

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