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Elegy On The Death Of A Young Man

Friedrich Schiller 1759 (Marbach am Neckar) – 1805 (Weimar)



Mournful groans, as when a tempest lowers,
 Echo from the dreary house of woe;
Death-notes rise from yonder minster's towers!
 Bearing out a youth, they slowly go;
Yes! a youth--unripe yet for the bier,
 Gathered in the spring-time of his days,
Thrilling yet with pulses strong and clear,
 With the flame that in his bright eye plays--
Yes, a son--the idol of his mother,
 (Oh, her mournful sigh shows that too well!)
Yes! my bosom-friend,--alas my brother!--
 Up! each man the sad procession swell!

Do ye boast, ye pines, so gray and old,
 Storms to brave, with thunderbolts to sport?
And, ye hills, that ye the heavens uphold?
 And, ye heavens, that ye the suns support!
Boasts the graybeard, who on haughty deeds
 As on billows, seeks perfection's height?
Boasts the hero, whom his prowess leads
 Up to future glory's temple bright!
If the gnawing worms the floweret blast,
 Who can madly think he'll ne'er decay?
Who above, below, can hope to last,
 If the young man's life thus fleets away?

Joyously his days of youth so glad
Danced along, in rosy garb beclad,
 And the world, the world was then so sweet!
And how kindly, how enchantingly
Smiled the future,--with what golden eye
 Did life's paradise his moments greet!
While the tear his mother's eye escaped,
Under him the realm of shadows gaped
 And the fates his thread began to sever,--
Earth and Heaven then vanished from his sight.
From the grave-thought shrank he in affright--
 Sweet the world is to the dying ever!

Dumb and deaf 'tis in that narrow place,
 Deep the slumbers of the buried one!
Brother! Ah, in ever-slackening race
 All thy hopes their circuit cease to run!
Sunbeams oft thy native hill still lave,
 But their glow thou never more canst feel;
O'er its flowers the zephyr's pinions wave,
 O'er thine ear its murmur ne'er can steal;
Love will never tinge thine eye with gold,
 Never wilt thou embrace thy blooming bride,
Not e'en though our tears in torrents rolled--
 Death must now thine eye forever hide!

Yet 'tis well!--for precious is the rest,
 In that narrow house the sleep is calm;
There, with rapture sorrow leaves the breast,--
 Man's afflictions there no longer harm.
Slander now may wildly rave o'er thee,
 And temptation vomit poison fell,
O'er the wrangle on the Pharisee,
 Murderous bigots banish thee to hell!
Rogues beneath apostle-masks may leer,
 And the bastard child of justice play,
As it were with dice, with mankind here,
 And so on, until the judgment day!

O'er thee fortune still may juggle on,
 For her minions blindly look around,--
Man now totter on his staggering throne,
 And in dreary puddles now be found!
Blest art thou, within thy narrow cell!
 To this stir of tragi-comedy,
To these fortune-waves that madly swell,
 To this vain and childish lottery,
To this busy crowd effecting naught,
 To this rest with labor teeming o'er,
Brother!--to this heaven with devils--fraught,
 Now thine eyes have closed forevermore.

Fare thee well, oh, thou to memory dear,
 By our blessings lulled to slumbers sweet!
Sleep on calmly in thy prison drear,--
 Sleep on calmly till again we meet!
Till the loud Almighty trumpet sounds,
 Echoing through these corpse-encumbered hills,
Till God's storm-wind, bursting through the bounds
 Placed by death, with life those corpses fills--
Till, impregnate with Jehovah's blast,
 Graves bring forth, and at His menace dread,
In the smoke of planets melting fast,
 Once again the tombs give up their dead!

Not in worlds, as dreamed of by the wise,
 Not in heavens, as sung in poet's song,
Not in e'en the people's paradise--
 Yet we shall o'ertake thee, and ere long.
Is that true which cheered the pilgrim's gloom?
 Is it true that thoughts can yonder be
True, that virtue guides us o'er the tomb?
 That 'tis more than empty phantasy?
All these riddles are to thee unveiled!
 Truth thy soul ecstatic now drinks up,
Truth in radiance thousandfold exhaled
 From the mighty Father's blissful cup.

Dark and silent bearers draw, then, nigh!
 To the slayer serve the feast the while!
Cease, ye mourners, cease your wailing cry!
 Dust on dust upon the body pile!
Where's the man who God to tempt presumes?
 Where the eye that through the gulf can see?
Holy, holy, holy art thou, God of tombs!
 We, with awful trembling, worship Thee!
Dust may back to native dust be ground,
 From its crumbling house the spirit fly,
And the storm its ashes strew around,--
 But its love, its love shal
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Friedrich Schiller

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was a German poet philosopher historian and playwright During the last seventeen years of his life Schiller struck up a productive if complicated friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang Goethe with whom he frequently discussed issues concerning aesthetics and encouraged Goethe to finish works he left merely as sketches this relationship and these discussions led to a period now referred to as Weimar Classicism They also worked together on Die Xenien The Xenies a collection of short but harshly satirical poems in which both Schiller and Goethe verbally attacked those persons they perceived to be enemies of their aesthetic agenda. more…

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