"As if under a triumphal arch of collossal masses of clouds, the sun drew upwards, victorious, cheerful, secure, auguring a lovely day. But for me it was like the poor moon, that still stood fading in the sky. It had wandered along its solitary path in the barren nighttime, when happiness slumbered and only ghosts, owls and sinners walked abroad; and now, as the young day climbed forth, with jubilant beams and shimmering dawn, now must it depart -- just one wistful glance toward the great light of the world, and it disappeared like fragrant mist.
"It will be a lovely day," called my travelling companion to me from the wagon. Yes, it will be a lovely day, repeated softly my praying heart, and trembled with melancholy and joy. Yes, it will be a lovely day, the sun of freedom will warm the earth more happily than all the combined stars of the aristocracy; a new generation will blossom up, engendered in the embrace of free choice, not in the bed of compulsion and under control of spiritual customs officers; with the free birth for men will come also free thoughts and feelings into the world, of which we who are born as servants have no notion -- Oh! they will apprehend just as little how horrible was the night, in whose darkness we have had to live, and how atrociously we have had to fight, with ugly ghosts, thumping owls and sanctimonious sinners! O we poor fighters! that we have had to misspend our lifetimes in such battles and are now tired and pale, as the day of victory beams forth! The glow of the sunrise will no longer be able to redden our cheeks and warm our hearts, we'll die off like the perishing moon -- the wander-path of Man is measured all too short, and at its end is the implacable grave.
I really know not, if I deserve to have the laurel wreath one day adorn my coffin. Poesy, as much as I may have loved it, was always but a holy plaything to me, or the consecrated means to a divine end. I have never placed great value on poet's fame, and if one praises my songs or censures them, it concerns me little. But ye should lay a sword upon my coffin; for I was a good soldier in the liberation wars of mankind."
Twilights of the Gods
Fair May has come with all her golden radiance,
And silken breezes and warm, spicy fragrance,
She lures us kindly with her snow-white blossoms,
And greets us from a thousand blue-eyed violets,
And spreads a wide flowery verdant carpet,
Interwoven with sunshine and morning dew,
And thus summons the well-loved human children.
The stupid folk blindly obeys this first call.
The men in haste put on their fancy trousers,
And Sunday coats with golden glassy buttons.
The women all wear the white of innocence.
Young men take care to twirl their spring-mustachios;
The maidens all begin heaving their bosom;
The city poets stuff into their pockets
Paper and pencil and lorgnette, and gaily
The confused moving crowds make for the gate,
Camping outside upon the lush verdant turf,
Amazed to see how quickly the trees have grown,
Playing with the sweet colorful flowerets,
Hearing the songs of the merry birds above,
And shouting exaltations towards heaven.
To me came also May, and three times she knocked
Against my door, and cried: I am the May!
You pallid dreamer, come, I fain would kiss you!
I kept my door tightly locked and answered:
Your lures are all in vain, evil stranger.
I have seen through you, I also have seen through
The fabric of the world, I have seen too much,
And far too deep, and all my pleasure is gone,
And eternal torments quiver in my heart.
I see through all the hard and stony covers
Of human houses and of human hearts,
And see in both lies, deceit and misery.
I read men's thoughts by looking at their faces,
They're mostly evil! In the maiden's blushing
I see the quivering of a hidden lust;
On the inspired and haughty head of youth
I see jiggle the cap-and-bells of folly;
And caricatures and sickly shadows
Are all I see upon this earth, I now doubt
If earth is a madhouse or a hospital.
I see too plainly through the old earth's crust,
As though it were crystal, I see the horrors
Which May is vainly striving to conceal
With pleasing green turf . There I see the dead;
They lie below in their narrow coffins,
With hands folded together, eyes wide open,
White are their robes, and whiter are their faces,
And out of their yellow lips, worms are crawling.
I see the son sitting beside his loved-one,
Taking their pleasure upon his father's grave;
The nightingales are singing derisive songs;
The tender meadow flowers laugh with malice,
And, deep in his grave, the dead father stirs,
While the dear old mother-earth shudders with pain.
Oh Earth, poor Earth, your sorrows, I know so well!
I see the glow that is heaving in your breast,
And I see you bleeding from a thousand veins,
I see your gaping wound torn wide and open,
Pouring a wild stream of flame and smoke and blood.
I see your proud defiant giant-children,
A primeval brood, arising from dark gulfs
And wildly swinging red torches in their hands.
They fix their iron ladders on the sky's edge
And rush to storm the citadel of Heaven;
Black dwarfs swarm wildly after them; and, crackling,
All the golden stars above crumble to dust.
With daring hands, they tear the golden curtains
From God's own shrine; the blessed troop of angels
Fall upon their faces, shrieking at this sight.
The pallid God sits upon his dreadful throne,
Plucks his crown off his head and tears his hair,
And still nearer and nearer draws the wild horde.
The giants fiercely hurl their blazing torches
Into the realms of Heaven, the dwarfs belabor
With flaming scourges on the angel's backs;
They bend and they twist in agonizing pain,
And they are seized by the hair and whirled away;
And my own angel likewise, I do see there,
With his blond locks and ever charming features,
And with everlasting love around his mouth,
And with great beatitude in his blue eyes.
A fearful hideous black goblin comes along,
Tears my pallid trembling angel from the ground,
Grins as he ogles his fair and noble limbs,
And clasps him firmly in a tender embrace.
A horror shriek echoes through the universe,
The pillars topple, Earth and Heaven collapse,
And the ancient night resumes its long dark rule.
Death and his Brother Sleep
There’s a mirror likeness between those two
shining, youthfully-fledged figures, though
one seems paler than the other and more austere,
I might even say more perfect, more distinguished,
than he, who would take me confidingly in his arms –
how soft then and loving his smile, how blessed his glance!
Then, it might well have been that his wreath
of white poppies gently touched my forehead, at times,
and drove the pain from my mind with its strange scent.
But that is transient. I can only, now, be well,
when the other one, so serious and pale,
the older brother, lowers his dark torch. –
Sleep is so good, Death is better, yet
surely never to have been born is best.