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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 125  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) To Werther So once again, poor tear-bedabbled shadow, You venture in the light of day? And here, in blossoms of the fresher meadow, Confront me and not turn away? Alive as in the early dawn, when tender Chill of a misty field bestirred the two, When both were dazzled by the west in splendor After the drudging summer days were through. My doom: endure. And yours: depart forlorn. Is early death, we wonder, much to mourn? In theory how magnificent, man’s fate! The day agreeable, the night so great. Yet we, in such a paradise begun, Enjoy but briefly the amazing sun, And then the battle’s on: vague causes found To struggle with ourself, the world around. Neither completes the other as it should: The skies are gloomy when our humor’s good; The vista glitters and we’re glum enough. Joy near at hand, but we—at blindman’s buff. At times we think it ours: some darling girl! Borne on a fragrant whirlwind, off we whirl. The young man, breezy as in boyhood’s prime, Like spring itself goes strutting in springtime. Astounded, charmed, “Who’s doing this, all for me?” Claims like a cocky heir the land and sea. Goes footloose anywhere, without a thought; No wall, no palace holds him, even if caught. As swallows skim the treetops in a blur, 126 German He hovers round, in rings, that certain her. Scans, from the height he means to leave at last, Earth for an answering gaze, that holds him fast. First warned too soon, and then too late, he’ll swear His feet are bound, traps planted everywhere. Sweet meetings are a joy, departure’s pain. Meeting again—what hopes we entertain! Moments with her make good the years away. Yet there’s a treacherous parting, come the day. You smile, my friend, eyes welling. Still the same! Yours, what a ghastly avenue of fame. We dressed in mourning when your luck ran out And you deserted, leaving ours in doubt. For us, the road resuming God knows where, Through labyrinths of passion, heavy air, Still drew us on, bone-tired, with desperate breath Up to a final parting. Parting’s death! True: it’s affecting when the poets sing Willow or such, to sweeten suffering. Some god—though man’s half guilty, hurt past cure— Grant him a tongue to murmur: I endure. Elegy Though most men suffer dumbly, yet a god Gave me a tongue to utter all my pain. What’s to be hoped from seeing her again? Hoped from the still-shut blossoms of today? Which opens, heaven or hell, around me? When I guess, my thoughts go wandering every way. But steady—there! She’s there, at heaven’s door; Her arms enfold and raise me, as before. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 127  So then the heavens are open, take me in As if deserving life forever blest. No wish, no longing, and no might-have-been Stinted: the very goal of all my quest. Eyes dwell delighted on that loveliest thing, Their tears subsiding at the passionate spring. Didn’t the day go by on flashing feathers! Didn’t it send the minutes skimming there! Our sign, the kiss at evening—and what weathers It promised: fair tonight, tomorrow fair. Hours were like sisters, lingering as they passed, Each face alike, each different from the last. Our final kiss, so shuddering sweet, it tore The sheerest of all fiber, heart’s desire. My foot, abrupt or dragging, dodged her door As if an angel waved that sword of fire. Eyes frozen on the dusky ruts go glum. Turn, and her door’s a darkness, shut and dumb. My soul’s a darkness, shut and dumb—as though This heart had never opened, never found Hours of delight beside her, such a glow As all the stars of heaven let dance around. Now gloom, remorse, self-mockery—clouds of care Clutch at it, sluggish, in the sluggish air. What of the world—it’s done for? Cliffs of granite Crowned shadowy with the sacred grove—they’re vapor? No harvest-moon? Green delta country (can it?) Turn with its trees to ash, like burning paper? That grandeur curved above us—all undone?— Now with its thousand clouds, and now with none. 128 German A form there!—rare and airy, silken, bright, Floats forth, among the clouds in...


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