WINTER JOURNEY OVER THE HARTZ MOUNTAINS. by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
[The following explanation is necessary, in order to make this ode in any way intelligible. The Poet is supposed to leave his companions, who are proceeding on a hunting expedition in winter, in order himself to pay a visit to a hypochondriacal friend, and also to see the mining in the Hartz mountains. The ode alternately describes, in a very fragmentary and peculiar manner, the naturally happy disposition of the Poet himself and the unhappiness of his friend; it pictures the wildness of the road and the dreariness of the prospect, which is relieved at one spot by the distant sight of a town, a very vague allusion to which is made in the third strophe; it recalls the hunting party on which his companions have gone; and after an address to Love, concludes by a contrast between the unexplored recesses of the highest peak of the Hartz and the metalliferous veins of its smaller brethren.]
LIKE the vulture Who on heavy morning clouds With gentle wing reposing Looks for his prey,-- Hover, my song!
For a God hath Unto each prescribed His destined path, Which the happy one Runs o'er swiftly To his glad goal: He whose heart cruel Fate hath contracted, Struggles but vainly Against all the barriers The brazen thread raises, But which the harsh shears Must one day sever.
Through gloomy thickets Presseth the wild deer on, And with the sparrows Long have the wealthy Settled themselves in the marsh.
Easy 'tis following the chariot That by Fortune is driven, Like the baggage that moves Over well-mended highways After the train of a prince.
But who stands there apart? In the thicket, lost is his path; Behind him the bushes Are closing together, The grass springs up again, The desert engulphs him.
Ah, who'll heal his afflictions, To whom balsam was poison, Who, from love's fullness, Drank in misanthropy only? First despised, and now a despiser, He, in secret, wasteth All that he is worth, In a selfishness vain. If there be, on thy psaltery, Father of Love, but one tone That to his ear may be pleasing, Oh, then, quicken his heart! Clear his cloud-enveloped eyes Over the thousand fountains Close by the thirsty one In the desert.
Thou who createst much joy, For each a measure o'erflowing, Bless the sons of the chase When on the track of the prey, With a wild thirsting for blood, Youthful and joyous Avenging late the injustice Which the peasant resisted Vainly for years with his staff.
But the lonely one veil Within thy gold clouds! Surround with winter-green, Until the roses bloom again, The humid locks, Oh Love, of thy minstrel!
With thy glimmering torch Lightest thou him Through the fords when 'tis night, Over bottomless places On desert-like plains; With the thousand colours of morning Gladd'nest his bosom; With the fierce-biting storm Bearest him proudly on high; Winter torrents rush from the cliffs,-- Blend with his psalms; An altar of grateful delight He finds in the much-dreaded mountain's Snow-begirded summit, Which foreboding nations Crown'd with spirit-dances.
Thou stand'st with breast inscrutable, Mysteriously disclosed, High o'er the wondering world, And look'st from clouds Upon its realms and its majesty, Which thou from the veins of thy brethren Near thee dost water.