A Christmas and Easter Poem by Goethe
A wondrous song is here prepared for many.Hear it with joy! Tell all from far and near!The way will lead you out o'er mount and valley;Now is the view obscured, now wide and clear,And if the path should glide into the bushes,That you have gone astray, you need not fear,For by a persevering, patient climbWe shall draw near our goal, when it is time.But no one will, despite profound reflection,Unravel all the wonders hidden here:Our Mother Earth brings forth so many flowers,And many shall find something to revere;Maybe that one will gloomily forsake us,Another stays with gestures full of cheer:For many wand'ring pilgrims flows the spring,To each a different pleasure it will bring.
And until thou truly hastThis “dying and becoming,”Thou art but a troubled guestO'er the dark Earth roaming.
Full weary by a long and tiring journey,With a sublimest motive underta'en,A pilgrim, brother Mark, came through the thicket,With staff in hand, his footsteps to sustain,And longing for a little food and drinking,One beauteous eve he reached a quiet plain.Its wooded gorges soothing hope bestowedBeneath a friendly roof to find abode.But lo! a path he scarcely can distinguish,High up a mountain steep before him wending.He follows it, as more and more it rises,In curvings in and out the boulders bending,Until again by sunlight warm enveloped,He turns and sees how fast he is ascending.At last the summit comes within his sight,Inspiring him with heart-felt, deep delight.Next it the sun, majestic in its setting,Enthroned 'mong clouds within the dark'ning sky.Now for the peak! For all his weary toilingHe hopes to be rewarded there on high.O'erlooking all the country 'fore him spreading,A human home he will perchance espy.And while he climbs, oh sound how full of cheer!The chime of bells is wafted to his ear.And as at length he has attained the summit,Below a softly sloping valley lies.His quiet look with inward pleasure brightens;Before the forest full of joy he spiesA stately building in a greening field,Which the departing sun with lustre dyes.E'er long he nears through meadows dewy dampA monastery lit with gleaming lamp.He soon arrives outside the quiet homestead,With hope and peacefulness his soul enfolding,And on the arch above the closed portalA symbol full of mystery beholding.He stands and ponders, whispers words of prayer,The deep devotion of his heart unfolding;He ponders long: What does this sign convey?The sun has set, the chiming dies away.The sign he sees erected here on highThat brings consoling hope to all mankind,Which many thousands pledged their lives to shield,To which in fervour prayed the human mind,That has destroyed the bitter powers of death,On victors' banners fluttered in the wind:A stream of comfort permeates his being,He sees the cross and bows his head in seeing.He feels anew the faith of all on earth,The power of salvation streaming thence;But as he looks, he feels his very soulPervaded by a new and unknown sense:Who added to the cross the wreath of roses?It is entwined by blooming, clusters dense,Profusely spreading just as though they couldEndow with softness e'en the rigid wood.While light and silv'ry clouds, around it soaring,Seem heavenward with cross and roses flowing,And from the midst like living waters streamingA threefold ray from out one core is glowing;But not a word surrounds the holy token,The meaning of the symbol clearly showing.And while the dusk is gath'ring grey and greyer,He stands and ponders and is lost in prayer.
At last he knocks. The myriad stars above himLook down with shining eyes as they appear.The portal opes, and he is bidden welcomeBy brethren wont to comfort and to cheer.So he relates how far by hill and valleyThe will of higher Beings led him here.They stand amazed, for well they see their guestWas sent to them by heavenly behest.They crowd around him, and their inmost beingThey feel by a mysterious power stirred,Their breath they hold to listen, for he rousesAn echo in their hearts with ev'ry word.Like deepest lore, yet uttered by a child,The wisdom flowing from his lips is heard:He seems so innocent, like crystal clear,As though descended from another sphere.At last an aged brother cries: Oh welcome,If with consoling hope thy path is blessed!Thou seest us, our souls are moved within usBy thee, and yet we can but stand oppressed:Our greatest bliss from us is being taken,Anxiety and dread disturb our rest.Thou comest as a stranger, yet to sharePortentous hours of mourning and of care:For he, alas! who all of us united,To whom as father and as friend we bow,Who light and fortitude within us kindled —Our leader — is prepared to leave us now.Yea, he himself his passing has predicted,Refusing though to tell us when and how:The mystery of what must needs befallBrings bitter tribulation to us all.Thou seest us grey and aged ev'ry one,By nature destined for repose and rest:Not one was here admitted who, a youth,Desired to fly from wordly joy and zest.Each one has met with life's vicissitudes,Its burdens, pleasures and its anxious quest,Until, matured, too old to longer roam,Within these walls we found a shelt'ring home.The noble man who led us to this haven,Within his heart the peace of God does dwell;Along the path of life we walked together,His ev'ry action I remember well;But now his fervent praying, his seclusion,The hour of his departing must foretell.How small is man! Oh would that he could giveHis life, so that a greater one might live!This is my heart's profound and only wish!Fulfilment is denied to my desire.How many have preceded me in death!How bitter is the thought he must expire.Had he been here, with hearty welcome's warmthHe would have given all thou didst require;But now in spirit-regions dwells his mind,Already far from those he leaves behind.Each day one hour he lingers in our midstAnd speaks to us, by strange emotion stirred:The wondrous paths that Providence has ledWithin his life he lauds with ev'ry word;We hark and heed, for after-ages hoardingWith care the merest trifle that occurred,While one writes down his words to make us sureHis memory shall live both true and pure.I hear him speak, but oh, how much there isThat I would rather far myself relate,For all is still alive within my mind,The least of circumstances I would state;Impatiently I list, can scarce concealHow sore it is thus silently to wait:One day I shall no more restrain my zeal,The splendours of this beauteous life reveal.I should disclose how first an angel's voiceHis coming to his mother prophesied,And how, when he was christened, in the skyA star with brilliant lustre was descried,How down a vulture swooped with mighty wingsTo settle by the gentle pigeons' side,But not to pounce on them in greedy wildness,A harbinger he seemed of peace and mildness.How as a child a viper he destroyed,This is a miracle he ne'er has told.He found his sister peacefully asleep,The clinging reptile round her arm was rolled.The nurse had fled and left the babe alone,He killed the pois'nous snake, resolved and bold;His mother came and saw the daring deedAnd thrilled with joy she found her daughter freed.He ne'er related that a spring aroseFrom out the barren rock before his sword,And as a brook, with rippling waves alive,Its plenteous waters down the hill-side poured;E'en now, as quick as forth it gushed at first,It bickers silver sparkling o'er the sward.But those who saw the wondrous stream appear,Dared not to drink, o'ercome by solemn fear.For when a man excels by gifts of nature,It is no wonder if his life is blessed;In him we worship the Creator's power,Through feeble human clay made manifest;But he who overcomes himself has gainedThe greatest triumph, stood the hardest test,And well may he to all the world be shown:Yea, this is he, this deed is his alone!With all our strength we strive to live and labour,Where'er by fate our twisting paths be wended;Whereas the world oppresses, e'er impeding,And seeks to tear us from the way intended;Within this inner storm and outer struggleOur spirit hears a word scarce comprehended:The power that holds constrained all humankindThe victor o'er himself no more can bind.
In him I scarce as virtue may denoteThe power of good which e'en his youth inspiredAnd taught him to respect his father's word,When harshly he his services required,With duties burdening his leisure hours;The son obeyed with ardor, never tired,Like some poor boy who, friendless and astray,Is glad to work for but a trifling pay.On foot he joined the warriors in the field,In lowering tempest and in dazzling light,The horses he did tend, the meals prepare,And armed the soldiers ready for the fight.Oft as a messenger, both keen and fleet,He hastened through the woods by day and night;To live for others both in thought and actionSeemed but to give him joy and satisfaction.And brave and cheerful always, in the strifeHe sought the arrows scattered on the ground;Then hastily he gathered curing herbs,With which the burning wounds he cooled and bound;And just as if his very touch were healing,Ere long the sufferers were strong and sound;How all regarded him with joy and pride!Alone his father seemed not satisfied.E'en as a ship, despite its heavy loadFrom port to port with speedy lightness sailing,He bore the burden of his parents' wordThat in obedience ne'er he should be failing;As pleasure is for boys, for youths distinction,For him his father's will was all-prevailing,So that he might demand whate'er he would,Each task was soon fulfilled, each test was stood.At last the father yielded and acknowledgedThe merit of his son in word and deed;While of a sudden all his sternness vanished,He gave the youth a swift and precious steed;Henceforth a sword replaced the shorter reed,And from his lesser duties he was freed:Thus, destined by his birth and well acquitted,Into an Order he was now admitted.Ah, well could I report for many daysAmazing things to every one who hears;And higher than the most delightful talesHis life will be esteemed in coming years;For what in poetry and fiction charms,Yet to our mind incredible appears,Will here with greater pleasure still be heard,Because it has in real event occurred.The name of him whom Providence has chosenThat wondrous things on Earth he should achieve,Whom I may often praise, though ne'er sufficing,Whose destiny we scarcely can believe,His name — it is Humanus, Saint and wise one,The best of men whom I did e'er perceive:By origin another name he bears,Which with illustrious ancestors he shares.The aged brother would have spoken on.Filled with the miracles that he did know,And he shall gladden us for many weeksWith all the stirring facts he still can show;But he was interrupted, just as nowHis heart was pouring forth in fervent flow.The others softly in and out had passedAnd deemed it time to intervene at last.When Mark had bowed before his hosts and prayedIn gratitude for the sustaining meal,A bowl of crystal water he requested.They brought what he had craved with friendly zeal.Hereafter led him to their festive hall,Therein a sight unwonted to reveal.Of what he saw you soon will be aware,For everything shall be described with care.No ornament was here, the eye deluding,A cross-arched vault rose sternly from the ground,And thirteen chairs against the walls, he noticed.Were like a pious chorus ranged around,By clever hands full delicately carven;In front of each a little desk he found.Devotion seemed to fill the very air,Fraternity and restfulness and prayer.Above each chair was hung a special shield,Thirteen in all the number he espied.They seemed to be important, purposeful,No boast of ancestors in shallow pride.And brother Mark, with longing all aglow,Desired to learn what secret they did hide:Lo, in the middle one the mystic sign,The cross which clustring roses do entwine.Each object will arouse to life and actionThe soul which to its inspiration yields;Some places are adorned by swords and lances,While helmets hang above these other shields;Here battered weapons are to be discovered,Such as one may collect on battle-fields:There spears and banners, come from distant lands,And even fetters here and iron bands!Each brother sinking down before his chair,In silent prayer profoundly wrapt they rested;Then softly chanted fervent hymns of thanks,By cheerfulness and piety suggested;With mutual blessing they retired to sleep,A short repose, by fancies unmolested:But Mark remains, surrounded by a few,Still wishing more attentively to view.Though tired in body, full awake his mind,Preoccupied by many hidden things:For here, his thirst in raging flames appeasing,A dragon is enthroned with fiery wings;And here between his jaws a bear is holdingAn arm from which the blood it loses springs,Both shields, in distance corresponding quite,Hung next the Rosy-Cross to left and right.The paths were wonderful that led thee here,The aged brother speaks unto his guest:Oh let these symbols bid thee stay untilThe many heroes' deeds we manifest;Our mysteries we will confide to thee,For what is here concealed, can ne'er be guessed;Although thou wilt divine what here was done,Endured and lost, and last what triumph won.Do not believe that but of times gone byThe brother spake. Here wonders never fail;And more and ever more thou shalt behold,Until withdrawn is the enshrouding veil.One portal only 'tis that thou hast passed:And if thou feelst the call, O friend, prevail!The foremost court as yet thou didst attain,But worthy art the very core to gain.
“The sun-orb sings, in emulation
'Mid brother-spheres, his ancient round:”
And until thou truly hastThis “dying and becoming,”Thou art but a troubled guestO'er the dark earth roaming.
When after short repose within his cellA deep resounding bell awakes our guest,His soul is filled with longing for devotion,He rises quickly with unwearied zestAnd hastens to the church, with all his heartResponding to the gladly heard behest,Obedient, peaceful and by prayer bestirred;Alas! The door is locked, he stands deterred.But hark! a blow on dull resounding oreThree times in equal intervals renewed,No chime it seems to be of clock or bells,From time to time with tones of flute imbued;The floating music fills the heart with joy,Mysterious 'tis and scarce to be construed,It sounds like singing, solemn and entrancing,To which the couples interlace in dancing.Bewildered and by strange emotion moved,He hastens to the window there to gaze;The day is dawning in the distant east,The sky o'erflown by lucent streaks of haze.And may he trust his eyes? A mystic lightIs fleeting through the garden's winding ways;Three youths with torches in their hands he seesWho haste along the paths between the trees.He clearly sees their wonderful apparel,The white resplendent garments which they wear,Their girdles made of intertwining roses,The wreaths of flowers in their curly hair;They seem to come from some nocturnal dances,With joy of movement thrilled, enlived and fair.But as the stars will fade, when day is near,Extinguishing their torch, they disappear.