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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749 (Frankfurt) – 1832 (Weimar)
FARTHER and farther away, alas! at each moment the vessel
Hastens, as onward it glides, cleaving the foam-cover'd flood!
Long is the track plough'd up by the keel where dolphins are sporting,
Following fast in its rear, while it seems flying pursuit.
All forebodes a prosperous voyage; the sailor with calmness
Leans 'gainst the sail, which alone all that is needed performs.
Forward presses the heart of each seamen, like colours and streamers;
Backward one only is seen, mournfully fix'd near the mast,
While on the blue tinged mountains, which fast are receding, he gazeth,
And as they sink in the sea, joy from his bosom departs.
Vanish'd from thee, too, oh Dora, is now the vessel that robs thee
Of thine Alexis, thy friend,--ah, thy betrothed as well!
Thou, too, art after me gazing in vain. Our hearts are still throbbing,
Though, for each other, yet ah! 'gainst one another no more.
Oh, thou single moment, wherein I found life! thou outweighest
Every day which had else coldly from memory fled.
'Twas in that moment alone, the last, that upon me descended
Life, such as deities grant, though thou perceived'st it not.
Phoebus, in vain with thy rays dost thou clothe the ether in glory:
Thine all-brightening day hateful alone is to me.
Into myself I retreat for shelter, and there, in the silence,
Strive to recover the time when she appear'd with each day.
Was it possible beauty like this to see, and not feel it?
Work'd not those heavenly charms e'en on a mind dull as thine?
Blame not thyself, unhappy one! Oft doth the bard an enigma
Thus propose to the throng, skillfully hidden in words.
Each one enjoys the strange commingling of images graceful,
Yet still is wanting the word which will discover the sense.
When at length it is found, the heart of each hearer is gladden'd,
And in the poem he sees meaning of twofold delight.
Wherefore so late didst thou remove the bandage, oh Amor,
Which thou hadst placed o'er mine eyes,--wherefore remove it so late?
Long did the vessel, when laden, lie waiting for favouring breezes,
'Till in kindness the wind blew from the land o'er the sea.
Vacant times of youth! and vacant dreams of the future!
Ye all vanish, and nought, saving the moment, remains.
Yes! it remains,--my joy still remains! I hold thee; my Dora,
And thine image alone, Dora, by hope is disclos'd.
Oft have I seen thee go, with modesty clad, to the temple,
While thy mother so dear solemnly went by thy side.
Eager and nimble thou wert, in bearing thy fruit to the market,
Boldly the pail from the well didst thou sustain on thy head.
Then was reveal'd thy neck, then seen thy shoulders so beauteous,
Then, before all things, the grace filling thy motions was seen.
Oft have I fear'd that the pitcher perchance was in danger of falling,
Yet it ever remain'd firm on the circular cloth.
Thus, fair neighbour, yes, thus I oft was wont to observe thee,
As on the stars I might gaze, as I might gaze on the moon,
Glad indeed at the sight, yet feeling within my calm bosom
Not the remotest desire ever to call them mine own.
Years thus fleeted away! Although our houses were only
Twenty paces apart, yet I thy threshold ne'er cross'd.
Now by the fearful flood are we parted! Thou liest to Heaven,
Billow! thy beautiful blue seems to me dark as the night.
All were now in movement; a boy to the house of my father
Ran at full speed and exclaim'd: 'Hasten thee quick to the strand
Hoisted the sail is already, e'en now in the wind it is flutt'ring,
While the anchor they weigh, heaving it up from the sand;
Come, Alexis, oh come!'--My worthy stout-hearted father
Press'd, with a blessing, his hand down on my curly-lock'd head,
While my mother carefully reach'd me a newly-made bundle,
'Happy mayst thou return!' cried they--' both happy and rich!'
Then I sprang away, and under my arm held the bundle,
Running along by the wall. Standing I found thee hard by,
At the door of thy garden. Thou smilingly saidst then 'Alexis!
Say, are yon boisterous crew going thy comrades to be?
Foreign coasts will thou visit, and precious merchandise purchase,
Ornaments meet for the rich matrons who dwell in the town.
Bring me, also, I praythee, a light chain; gladly I'll pay thee,
Oft have I wish'd to possess some stich a trinket as that.'
There I remain'd, and ask'd, as merchants are wont, with precision
After the form and the weight which thy commission should have.
Modest, indeed, was the price thou didst nam
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