Hermann And Dorothea - VI. Klio

THE AGE.

WHEN the pastor ask'd the foreign magistrate questions,
What the people had suffer'd, how long from their homes they had wander'd,
Then the man replied:--'By no means short are our sorrows,
For we have drunk the bitters of many a long year together,
All the more dreadful, because our fairest hopes have been blighted.
Who can deny that his heart beat wildly and high in his bosom
And that with purer pulses his breast more freely was throbbing,
When the newborn sun first rose in the whole of its glory,
When we heard of the right of man, to have all things in common,
Heard of noble Equality, and of inspiriting Freedom!
Each man then hoped to attain new life for himself, and the fetters
Which had encircled many a land appear'd to be broken,
Fetters held by the hands of sloth and selfish indulgence.
Did not all nations turn their gaze, in those days of emotion,
Tow'rds the world's capital, which so many a long year had been so,
And then more than ever deserved a name so distinguish'd?
Were not the men, who first proclaim'd so noble a message,
Names that are worthy to rank with the highest the sun ever shone on,
Did not each give to mankind his courage and genius and language?

'And we also, as neighbours, at first were warmly excited.
Presently after began the war, and the train of arm'd Frenchmen
Nearer approach'd; at first they appear'd to bring with them friendship,
And they brought it in fact; for all their souls were exalted.
And the gay trees of liberty ev'rywhere gladly they planted,
Promising unto each his own, and the government long'd for.
Greatly at this was youth, and greatly old age was delighted,
And the joyous dance began round the newly-raised standards.
In this manner the overpowering Frenchmen soon conquer'd
First the minds of the men, with their fiery lively proceedings,
Then the hearts of the women, with irresistible graces.
Even the strain of the war, with its many demands, seem'd but trifling,
For before our eyes the distance by hope was illumined,
Luring our gaze far ahead into paths now first open'd before us.
'O how joyful the time, when with his bride the glad bridegroom
Whirls in the dance, awaiting the day that will join them for ever
But more glorious far was the time when the Highest of all things
Which man's mind can conceive, close by and attainable seemed.
Then were the tongues of all loosen'd, and words of wisdom and feeling
Not by greybeards alone, but by men and by striplings were utter'd.

'But the heavens soon clouded became. For the sake of the mast'ry
Strove a contemptible crew, unfit to accomplish good actions.
Then they murder'd each other, and took to oppressing their new-found
Neighbours and brothers, and sent on missions whole herds of selfÄseekers
And the superiors took to carousing and robbing by wholesale,
And the inferiors down to the lowest caroused and robb'd also.
Nobody thought of aught else than having enough for tomorrow.
Terrible was the distress, and daily increased the oppression.
None the cry understood, that they of the day were the masters.
Then even temperate minds were attack'd by sorrow and fury;
Each one reflected, and swore to avenge all the injuries suffer'd,
And to atone for the hitter loss of hopes twice defrauded.
Presently Fortune declared herself on the side of the Germans,
And the French were compell'd to retreat by forced marches before them.
Ah! the sad fate of the war we then for the first time experienced.
For the victor is kind and humane, at least he appears so,
And he spares the man he has vanquish'd, as if he his own were,
When he employs him daily, and with his property helps him.
But the fugitive knows no law; he wards off death only,
And both quickly and recklessly all that he meets with, consumes he.
Then his mind becomes heated apace; and soon desperation
Fills his heart, and impels him to all kinds of criminal actions.
Nothing then holds he respected, he steals It. With furious longing
On the woman he rushes; his lust becomes awful to think of.
Death all around him he sees, his last minutes in cruelty spends he,
Wildly exulting in blood, and exulting in howls and in anguish.

'Then in the minds of our men arose a terrible yearning
That which was lost to avenge, and that which remain'd to defend still.
All of them seized upon arms, lured on by the fugitives' hurry,
By their pale faces, and by their shy, uncertain demeanour.
There was heard the sound of alarm-bells unceasingly ringing,
And the approach of danger restrain'd not their violent fury.
Soon into weapons were turn'd the implements peaceful of tillage,
And with dripping blood the scy
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer and politician. more…

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