Friedrich Schiller

10 November 1759 – 9 May 1805 / Marbach, Württemberg

Melancholy -- To Laura

Laura! a sunrise seems to break
Where'er thy happy looks may glow.
Joy sheds its roses o'er thy cheek,
Thy tears themselves do but bespeak
The rapture whence they flow;
Blest youth to whom those tears are given--
The tears that change his earth to heaven;
His best reward those melting eyes--
For him new suns are in the skies!

Thy soul--a crystal river passing,
Silver-clear, and sunbeam-glassing,
Mays into bloom sad Autumn by thee;
Night and desert, if they spy thee,
To gardens laugh--with daylight shine,
Lit by those happy smiles of thine!
Dark with cloud the future far
Goldens itself beneath thy star.
Smilest thou to see the harmony
Of charm the laws of Nature keep?
Alas! to me the harmony
Brings only cause to weep!

Holds not Hades its domain
Underneath this earth of ours?
Under palace, under fame,
Underneath the cloud-capped towers?
Stately cities soar and spread
O'er your mouldering bones, ye dead!
From corruption, from decay,
Springs yon clove-pink's fragrant bloom;
Yon gay waters wind their way
From the hollows of a tomb.

From the planets thou mayest know
All the change that shifts below,
Fled--beneath that zone of rays,
Fled to night a thousand Mays;
Thrones a thousand--rising--sinking,
Earth from thousand slaughters drinking
Blood profusely poured as water;--
Of the sceptre--of the slaughter--
Wouldst thou know what trace remaineth?
Seek them where the dark king reigneth!

Scarce thine eye can ope and close
Ere life's dying sunset glows;
Sinking sudden from its pride
Into death--the Lethe tide.
Ask'st thou whence thy beauties rise?
Boastest thou those radiant eyes?--
Or that cheek in roses dyed?
All their beauty (thought of sorrow!)
From the brittle mould they borrow.
Heavy interest in the tomb
For the brief loan of the bloom,
For the beauty of the day,
Death the usurer, thou must pay,
In the long to-morrow!

Maiden!--Death's too strong for scorn;
In the cheek the fairest, He
But the fairest throne doth see
Though the roses of the morn
Weave the veil by beauty worn--
Aye, beneath that broidered curtain,
Stands the Archer stern and certain!
Maid--thy Visionary hear--
Trust the wild one as the sear,
When he tells thee that thine eye,
While it beckons to the wooer,
Only lureth yet more nigh
Death, the dark undoer!

Every ray shed from thy beauty
Wastes the life-lamp while it beams,
And the pulse's playful duty,
And the blue veins' merry streams,
Sport and run into the pall--
Creatures of the Tyrant, all!
As the wind the rainbow shatters,
Death thy bright smiles rends and scatters,
Smile and rainbow leave no traces;--
From the spring-time's laughing graces,
From all life, as from its germ,
Grows the revel of the worm!

Woe, I see the wild wind wreak
Its wrath upon thy rosy bloom,
Winter plough thy rounded cheek,
Cloud and darkness close in gloom;
Blackening over, and forever,
Youth's serene and silver river!
Love alike and beauty o'er,
Lovely and beloved no more!

Maiden, an oak that soars on high,
And scorns the whirlwind's breath
Behold thy Poet's youth defy
The blunted dart of Death!
His gaze as ardent as the light
That shoots athwart the heaven,
His soul yet fiercer than the light
In the eternal heaven,
Of Him, in whom as in an ocean-surge
Creation ebbs and flows--and worlds arise and merge!
Through Nature steers the poet's thought to find
No fear but this--one barrier to the mind?

And dost thou glory so to think?
And heaves thy bosom?--Woe!
This cup, which lures him to the brink,
As if divinity to drink--
Has poison in its flow!
Wretched, oh, wretched, they who trust
To strike the God-spark from the dust!
The mightiest tone the music knows,
But breaks the harp-string with the sound;
And genius, still the more it glows,
But wastes the lamp whose life bestows
The light it sheds around.
Soon from existence dragged away,
The watchful jailer grasps his prey:
Vowed on the altar of the abused fire,
The spirits I raised against myself conspire!
Let--yes, I feel it two short springs away
Pass on their rapid flight;
And life's faint spark shall, fleeting from the clay,
Merge in the Fount of Light!

And weep'st thou, Laura?--be thy tears forbid;
Would'st thou my lot, life's dreariest years amid,
Protract and doom?--No: sinner, dry thy tears:
Would'st thou, whose eyes beheld the eagle wing
Of my bold youth through air's dominion spring,
Mark my sad age (life's tale of glory done)--
Crawl on the sod and tremble in the sun?
Hear the dull frozen heart condemn the flame
That as from heaven to youth's blithe bosom came;
And see the blind eyes loathing turn from all
The lovely sins age curses to recall?
Let me die young!--sweet sinner, dry thy tears!
Yes, let the flower be gathered in its bloom!
And thou, young genius, with the brows of gloom,
Quench thou life's torch, while yet the flame is strong!
Even as the curtain falls; while still the scene
Most thrills the hearts which have its audience been;
As fleet the shadows from the stage--and long
When all is o'er, lingers the breathless throng!
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