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Dialogue of Cultures

Poems and Ballads by
Friedrich Schiller

page 2

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Page 1- More Poems
Essays and Poems by Schiller and others

Articles on Poetry and Music from FIDELIO Magazine:

This Page:
Melancholy to Laura
Ode to Joy
Pegasus in Yoke
The Maiden From Afar
Words of Delusion
Words of Faith
The Dance


translated by William F. Wertz

All people discuss it and dream on end
Of better days that are coming,
After a golden and prosperous end
They are seen chasing and running
The world grows old and grows young in turn,
Yet doth man for betterment hope eterne.

’Tis hope delivers him into life,
Round the frolicsome boy doth it flutter,
The youth is lured by its magic rife,
It won’t be interred with the elder;
Though he ends in the coffin his weary lope,
Yet upon that coffin he plants—his hope.

It is no empty, fawning deceit,
Begot in the brain of a jester,
Proclaimed aloud in the heart it is:
We are born for that which is better!
And what the innermost voiceconveys,
The hoping spirit ne’er that betrays.

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Melancholy ~ to Laura

translated by Daniel Platt

Laura - daybreak’s fiery blaze
Burns within thy golden gaze,
In these cheeks of thine springs crimson blood,
And thy tears, thy pearls in flood,
Rapture calls them mother, sings their praise -
Whom the lovely drops do thaw,
Who therein a deity saw,
Ah, the lad who, thus rewarded, cries -
Suns for him do paint the skies!

Like the image on the waves, thy soul,
Silver clear and sunbeam bright,
Turns to May the gloomy autumn’s dole;
Deserts, in their ghastly blight,
Are transfigured in thy fount of light,
Somber futures, dimly viewed afar,
Grow more golden in thy star.
Dost thou smile upon this harmony?
It brings only tears to me. -

Was not our citadel long undermined
Already by the Realm of Night?
The proud palatial towers of mankind,
Our cities’ stately show of might,
All repose on rotting skeletons;
Thy carnations sweetly suck perfume
Out of corruption, so thy wellspring runs,
Weeping from the vessel of - a tomb.

Glance above - the planets shimmering,
Let them, Laura, speak to thee!
Underneath their compassing
A thousand rainbowed springs did flee,
Here a thousand thrones arose,
Howled a thousand times the clash of foes,
Search the iron plains
For what trace remains!
Sooner, later, summoned to the grave,
The planetary gears run down, our brave
Celestial clockwork wanes.

Blink three times - the sun’s exalted blaze
Into the sea of night eternal sinks!
Ask me then, whence burn thy rays!
Dost thou boast of thy bright gaze?
Of the lively crimson of thy cheeks,
Borrowed from corruption though it be?
Profit for the Red it lends,
Profit, Maiden, Death demands
A fearful usury!

Speak not, Maiden, with such mockery!
Every blush’s rosy stain
Is but a finer throne where Death should reign,
And behind this flowered tapestry
The Spoiler even now doth bend his bow -
Believe it, Laura, from thy devotee:
’Tis but to Death thy yearning glances go,
Every beam that from thine eyes doth rill
Drains thy meagre lamp yet poorer still;
Though my heartbeats, thou dost boast,
Skip yet youthfully at every ray -
Ah! The Tyrant’s creatures have enclosed
Us all insidiously with decay.

In an instant’s time the Reaper blows
This smile asunder, like the wind
Doth scatter rainbow-colored foam. To find
A vestige, one forever fruitless goes:
Out of springtime, ’tis decreed,
Out of life, as from his infant seed,
None but the eternal slayer grows.

Woe! I see thy roses lorn of petals now,
Thy sweet mouth is faded, bleak,
The graceful curving of thy cheek
Shall by bitter winter storms be plowed,
The somber haze of decades misted o’er
Shall murk the silver springs of youth; hereof
Shall Laura - Laura shall no longer love,
Laura shall be lovable no more.

Maiden - mighty as an oak thy poet stands,
Blunted on my youthful granite might
Doth the javelin of death alight,
Burning are my glances, like the lamps
Of heaven - fierier my spirit, than
The lamps of His eternal heaven bright,
He that in the oceans of His teeming world
Mighty crags piles up, then down he hurls.
Boldly through the universe my thoughts do steer,
And naught - except His limits do they fear.

Glowest thou, Laura? Swells thy breast with pride?
Learn it, Maid, this potion of delight,
This chalice, whence Divinity doth waft,
Laura - is a poison draught!
Calamitous! to dare it, O Calamitous!
To strike the spark of Deity from dust!
Ah, the boldest harmony
Shall smash the lyre to sad debris,
And Genius’ blazing ether-beam
Is nourished only by Life’s flickering gleam -
Cheated of a worldly throne,
Each watchman’s lamp serves him alone!

Ah! My spirits, now reduced to brazen flames,
Together swear a pact against my name!
Let fly but two more fleeting springs like this,
And, Laura, as this dwelling of decay
Totters toward the precipice,
Extinguished shall I be in mine own ray. —

Weepest thou, Laura? - teardrops, be denied,
That o’er the impunity of Age are cried,
Away! Ye tears, ye sinners, cease!
Laura wills it, that my strength should shrink,
That, trembling, I beneath this sun should slink,
This sun, that my young eagle-flight did see? -
Wills it that I should condemn,
With frozen heart, the bosom’s flame,
That my fairest sins be cursed by me?
No! Ye tears, ye sinners, cease!
Pick the flower in its fairest age,
O weep, thou youngster with the mournful mien,
And let my torch be doused!
As the curtain of the tragic stage
Comes rustling down amidst the fairest scene,
The shadows flee - yet hearkens still the house.

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E’en the beaut’ous must die! What men and the gods overpowers,
Moves not the iron-like breast of the Stygian Zeus.
Only once did love ever soften the Lord of the Shadows,
And at the threshold did he, sternly, his gift still recall.
Nor heals Aphrodite the wound o’th’ beauteous stripling,
Which in his delicate side cruelly the boar did inflict.
Nor delivers the mother immortal the hero so godlike,
When he, at Scaean gate falling, his fate did fulfill.
But she ascends from the sea with all the daughters of Nereus,
And the wailing begins over her glorified son.
See! There the gods are lamenting, the goddesses all are lamenting,
That the beauteous fades, that the perfect doth die.
E’en a woe-song to be i’th’ mouth of the loved one, is glor’ous,
For what is common goes soundless to Orcus below.

translated by William F. Wertz

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Ode To Joy

translated by William F. Wertz

PDF containing German original alongside this translation

Joy, thou beauteous godly lightning,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire drunken we are ent’ring
Heavenly, thy holy home!
Thy enchantments bind together,
What did custom stern divide,
Every man becomes a brother,
Where thy gentle wings abide.

Be embrac’d, ye millions yonder!
Take this kiss throughout the world!
Brothers—o’er the stars unfurl’d
Must reside a loving Father.

Who the noble prize achieveth,
Good friend of a friend to be;
Who a lovely wife attaineth,
Join us in his jubilee!
Yes—he too who but one being
On this earth can call his own!
He who ne’er was able, weeping
Stealeth from this league alone!

He who in the great ring dwelleth,
Homage pays to sympathy!
To the stars above leads she,
Where on high the Unknown reigneth.

Joy is drunk by every being
From kind nature’s flowing breasts,
Every evil, every good thing
For her rosy footprint quests.
Gave she us both vines and kisses,
In the face of death a friend,
To the worm were given blisses
And the Cherubs God attend.

Fall before him, all ye millions?
Know’st thou the Creator, world?
Seek above the stars unfurl’d,
Yonder dwells He in the heavens.

Joy commands the hardy mainspring
Of the universe eterne.
Joy, oh joy the wheel is driving
Which the worlds’ great clock doth turn.
Flowers from the buds she coaxes,
Suns from out the hyaline,
Spheres she rotates through expanses,
Which the seer can’t divine.

As the suns are flying, happy
Through the heaven’s glorious plane,
Travel, brothers, down your lane,
Joyful as in hero’s vict’ry.

From the truth’s own fiery mirror
On the searcher doth she smile.
Up the steep incline of honor
Guideth she the suff’rer’s mile.
High upon faith’s sunlit mountains
One can see her banner flies,
Through the breach of open’d coffins
She in angel’s choir doth rise.

Suffer on courageous millions!
Suffer for a better world!
O’er the tent of stars unfurl’d
God rewards you from the heavens.

Gods can never be requited,
Beauteous ’tis, their like to be.
Grief and want shall be reported,
So to cheer with gaiety.
Hate and vengeance be forgotten,
Pardon’d be our mortal foe,
Not a teardrop shall him dampen,
No repentance bring him low.

Let our book of debts be cancell’d!
Reconcile the total world!
Brothers—o’er the stars unfurl’d
God doth judge, as we have settl’d.

Joy doth bubble from this rummer,
From the golden blood of grape
Cannibals imbibe good temper,
Weak of heart their courage take—
Brothers, fly up from thy places,
When the brimming cup doth pass,
Let the foam shoot up in spaces:
To the goodly Soul this glass!

Whom the crown of stars doth honor,
Whom the hymns of Seraphs bless,
To the goodly Soul this glass
O’er the tent of stars up yonder!

Courage firm in grievous trial,
Help, where innocence doth scream,
Oaths which sworn to are eternal,
Truth to friend and foe the same,
Manly pride ’fore kingly power—
Brothers, cost it life and blood,—
Honor to whom merits honor,
Ruin to the lying brood!

Closer draw the holy circle,
Swear it by this golden wine,
Faithful to the vow divine,
Swear it by the Judge celestial!

Rescue from the tyrant’s fetters,
Mercy to the villain e’en,
Hope within the dying hours,
Pardon at the guillotine!
E’en the dead shall live in heaven!
Brothers, drink and all agree,
Every sin shall be forgiven,
Hell forever cease to be.

A serene departing hour!
Pleasant sleep beneath the pall!
Brothers—gentle words for all
Doth the Judge of mortals utter!

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Pegasus in Yoke

Translated by Marianna Wertz

Once to a horses mart—to Haymarket maybe,
Where other things to merchandise as yet be changing—
Did bring a poet most hungry
The Muses’ steed, to be exchanging.

The Hippogriff* did neigh so bright
And in parade did prance with pomp so pretty,
Astonished stood each one and cried:
“The noble, kingly animal! But pity,
That doth an ugly pair of wings its figure fair
Deform! The fairest mailtrain were it gracing.
The breed, the people say, be rare,
Yet who will through the air be racing?
And no man will his coin be losing.”
At last a daring farmer stood.
“The wings, indeed,” says he, ”not useful does one find them;
Yet man can always either clip or bind them,
Then is the horse for pulling ever good.
A twenty-pound, on this to risk I’m willing.”
The shyster, much amused, the wares now cheaply selling,
Agrees at once. “One man, one word!”
And Hans trots freshly with his booty for’d.

The noble beast is now in yoke restrained.
Yet feels it scarce the burden so unwonted,
So runs it forth with flight desires undaunted,
And flings, from noble wrath enflamed,
To chasm’s edge, all that the cart contained.
“All right,” thinks Hans. “I may be to this beast confiding
Alone no cart. Experience doth cunning make.
Come morn will passengers be riding,
I’ll hitch it to the cart the lead to take.
Two horses shall this lively crab for me be saving,
And with the years will fade its raving.”

At first it went quite well. The lightly-winged horse
Enlives the old nag’s step, and swift the cart is flying.
But now what’s this? With one look at the clouds turned course,
And ’customed not, the ground with solid hoof to plying,
Forsaking soon the safer cart-wheel trail,
And true to nature’s stronger call,
It runs clear through the swamp and moor, tilled field and hedges;
An equal frenzy doth th’ entire post-team seize,
No call doth help, no rein its haste doth ease,
At last, to wand’rer’s fearful ledges,
The wagon, smashed apart from endless jolts,
On steepest summit of the mountain halts.

“That just is not the right way ever,”
Says Hans with face contorted much by doubt.
“So will it be successful never;
Let’s see, if this mad dog be brought
Through meager food and work to tether.”
The trial will be made. Soon beast with beauty rare,
Before three days did fade around it,
To shadow was reduced. “I have, I have now found it!”
Cries Hans. “Now quick, and hitch it here,
Before the plough beside my strongest steer.”

’Tis said, ’tis done. In ludicrous procession,
One sees on plough an ox and winged stallion.
Unwilling mounts the griff and strains with final might
It sinews forth, to take as old to flying.
In vain, delib’rate doth the neighbor stride
And Phoebus’ steed so proud to steer must be complying.
’Til now, consumed by long resistant course,
The strength from all its limbs is thinning,
From grief, now breaks the noble, godly-horse
To earth it falls and in the dust is spinning.

“Accursed beast!” at last breaks Hans’ abuse
Loud scolding out, whilst from him flies a beating.
So you then e’en for ploughing are no use
The rogue sold you to me was cheating.

While yet in him doth rage of anger last,
The whip doth swing, comes cheerful now and fast
A merry fellow on the street with footsteps fleeting.
The zither sounds so nimbly in his hand,
His hair an ornament of yellow
Is plaited through with golden band.
“Whereto, that pair astonishing, my fellow?”
He calls the peasant from afar
“The bird and ox a single rope is binding,
I ask of you, what is that pair!
If for a while you’d be confiding
The horse, to make a test, to me,
Look out, you shall a marvel see!’’

The Hippogriff unyoked doth stand,
And smiling doth the young man swing upon its haunches.
Then barely feels the beast the master’s certain hand,
So gnashes it, the bridle’s band
And climbs, and light’ning flashes from inspired glances.
No more the former creature, kingly-wise,
A god, a spirit, doth arise,
Unfurls with sudden stormy splendor
Its grandeur winged, shoots roaring to the sky—
And ’fore a glance can follow nigh,
It glides into the high blue yonder.

*A legendary animal, half horse and half griffin. The Griffin is a legendary creature with the head, beak and wings of an eagle, the body of a lion and occasionally the tail of a serpent or scorpion.


Words of Faith

I’ll name you three content-laden words;
From mouth to mouth they are chasing,
But not from outside of us do they emerge—
’Tis words from the heart we are facing.
Mankind is of all his value bereft
If in these three words no faith is left.

Man was created free—is free
E’en though he were born in shackles.
Do not be deceived by the rabble’s bray
Or idiots’ abusive cackles.
Before the slave, when his chains he doth break,
Before the man who’s free, O do not quake!

And virtue—this is no meaningless sound—
Can be practiced each day if we trouble;
And much as we tend to go stumbling around,
Toward paradise, too, can we struggle.
And what no logician’s logic can see
The child-like mind sees obviously.

And one God there is, a Will divine,
However man’s own will may waver;
Supremely above all space and all time
The living Idea moves forever.
And though all’s e’er-changing in form and in scene,
Within that change rests a spirit serene.

Keep these three content-laden words;
From mouth to mouth implant them.
And if from without they do not emerge,
Then your innermost soul must grant them.
Mankind is never of value bereft
As long as his faith in these three words is left.

translated by John Sigerson

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Words of Delusion

Three words doth man hear, with meaning full
In good and in best mouths extolling,
They sound off but idly, their ring is null,
They can not give any consoling.
And mankind doth forfeit this life’s own fruit,
As long as mere shadows are his pursuit.

As long as he trusts in the Golden Age,
Where the righteous, the good conquer evil—
The righteous, the good in battle e’er rage,
Ne’er will he vanquish the Devil,
And thou strangle him not in the air that’s blue,
E’er grows in him strength from the earth anew.

As long as he trusts, that a coquettish chance
Is with nobleness bound up in spiri—
The evil she trails with loving glance,
Not the earth, will the good man inherit.
He is a stranger, he goes to roam
And seeks an everlasting home.

As long as he trusts, that mere logic can grasp
The truth that is ever shining,
Then her veil lifts not any mere mortal clasp,
We’re left but supposing, divining.
Thou’d ’prison the soul in an empty sound,
But it wanders off in the storm unbound.

So, noble soul, from delusion tear thee,
And to heavenly trust be most faithful!
What no ear doth hear, what the eyes do not see,
It is this that’s the beaut’ous, the truthful!
It is not outside, there fools do implore,
It is in you, you bring it forth evermore.

translated by Marianna Wertz

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The Maiden from Afar

Nearby a peasant’s humble dwelling
Appeared with every fresh new year,
Just as the first lark’s song was swelling,
A maiden, wonderful and fair.

She wasn’t born within these places,
From where she came, no one knew,
And quickly vanished all her traces,
As swiftly as maid withdrew.

T’was blissful to be in her presence,
All hearts grew large where’er she’d stay,
Yet dignity, a lofty essence,
Turned familiarity away.

She brought with her both fruits and flowers,
Grown ripe upon another plain,
Upon another sunlight’s bowers,
In nature’s happier domain.

And with each one a gift was saring,
A fruit to one, to one a bloom,
The young man and the old left bearing
A gift from her unto his home.

A welcome to all guests was rendered,
Yet when there came a loving pair,
To them the finest gift she tendered,
The loveliest of flowers there.

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Ah! from out this gloomy hollow,
By the chilling mists oppressd,
Could I find a path to follow,
Ah! I’d feel myself so bless’d!
Yonder glimpse I hilled dominions,
Young and green eternally!
Had I wings, oh had I pinions,
Thither to the hills I’d fly.

Dulcet concords hear I ringing,
Strains of sweet celestial calm,
And the tranquil breeze is bringing
Me its sweetly fragrant balm,
Golden fruits I see there glowing,
Bobbing ’midst the leaf and root,
And the flowers yonder growing
Will not be the winter’s loot.

Ah, it must be fine to wander
An eternal sunshine free,
And the air in highlands yonder,
How refreshing must it be!
Yet the current’s raging daunts me,
Which between doth madly roll,
And the torrent rises sharply,
To the horror of my soul.

I perceive a small boat swaying,
Ah! but look! no helmsman’s there.
Quickly in and no delaying,
For her sails are live with air.
Now you must have faith and daring,
For the gods accord no bond,
Only a wonder can you carry
To the lovely wonderland.


Ach, aus dieses Tales Gründen,
Die der kalte Nebel drückt,
Könnt ich doch den Ausgang finden,
Ach wie fühlt’ ich mich beglückt!
Dort erblick’ ich schöne Hügel,
Ewig jung und ewig grün!
Hätt ich Schwingen, hätt ich Flügel,
Nach den Hügeln zög’ ich hin.

Harmonieen hör’ ich klingen,
Töne süßer Himmelsruh’,
Und die leichten Winde bringen
Mir der Düfte Balsam zu,
Goldne Früchte seh’ ich glühen
Winkend zwischen dunkelm Laub,
Und die Blumen, die dort blühen,
Werden keines Winters Raub.

Ach wie schön muß sich’s ergehen
Dort im ew’gen Sonnenschein,
Und die Luft auf jenen Höhen
O wie labend muß sie sein!
Doch mir wehrt des Stromes Toben,
Der ergrimmt dazwischen braust,
Seine Wellen sind gehoben,
Daß die Seele mir ergraust.

Einen Nachen seh’ ich schwanken,
Aber ach! der Fährmann fehlt.
Frisch hinein und ohne Wanken,
Seine Segel sind beseelt.
Du mußt glauben, du mußt wagen,
Denn die Götter leih’n kein Pfand,
Nur ein Wunder kann dich tragen
In das schöne Wunderland.

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The Dance

See how with hovering steps the couple in wavelike motion
Rotates, the foot as with wings hardly is touching the floor.
See I shadows in flight, set free from the weight of the body?
Elves in the moonlight there weaving their vapor-like dance?
As by zephyr ’twere rocked, the nimble smoke in the air flows,
As so gently the skiff pitches on silvery tide,
Hops the intelligent foot to melodic wave of the measure,
Sweet sighing tone of the strings lifts the ethereal limbs.
Now, as would they with might traverse through the chain of the dances,
Swings there a valorous pair right through the thickest of ranks.
Quickly before them rises the path, which vanishes after,
As if a magical hand opens and closes the way.
See! Now vanished from view, in turbulent whirl of confusion
Plunge the elegant form of this permutable world.
No, it hovers rejoicing above, the knot disentangles,
Only with e’er-changing charm rule does establish itself.
Ever destroyed, creation rotating begets itself ever,
And an unspoken law guides the transformative play.
Say, how’s it done, that restless renews the swaying formations
And that calmness endures even in moveable form?
Is each a ruler, free, to his inner heart only responding
And in hastening course finds his own singular path?
Wish you to know it? It is the mighty Godhead euphonic
Who into sociable dance settles the frolicking leap,
Who, like Nemesis fair, on the golden rein of the rhythm
Guides the raging desire and the uncivilized tames.
And do the cosmos’ harmonies rustle you to no purpose,
Are you not touched by the stream of this exalted refrain,
Not by the spirited pulse, that beats to you from all existence,
Not by the whirl of the dance, which through eternal expanse
Swings illustrious suns in boldly spiraling pathways?
That which you honor in play—measure—in business you flee.

Translation by Marianna Wertz

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