JOHANN CHRISTOPH FRIEDRICH SCHILLER ( 1759 - 1805 ).

POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM.

Translated by Sir John Bowring.


Pompeii and Vesuvius


WHAT strange wonder is this? Our prayer to thee was for water, Earth!
What is this that thou now send'st from thy womb in reply?
In the abyss is there life? Or hidden under the lava
Dwelleth some race now unknown? Does what hath fled e'er return ?
Greeks and Romans, oh come! Oh, see the ancient Pompeii
Here is discovered again, - Hercules' town is rebuilt!

Gable on gable arises, the roomy portico opens
Wide its halls, so make haste, - haste ye to fill it with life!
Open, too, stands the spacious theater, let, then, the people,
Like a resistless flood, pour through its sevenfold mouths!
Mimes, where are ye? Advance! Let Atrides finish the rites now
He had begun, -let the dread chorus Orestes pursue!
Whither leads yon triumphal arch? Perceive ye the forum?
What are those figures that sit on the Curulian chair?
Lictors! precede with your fasces, - and let the Pretor in judgment
Sit, -let the witness come forth! let the accuser appear!
Cleanly streets spread around, and with a loftier pavement
Does the contracted path wind close to the houses' long row;
While, to protect them, the roofs protrude, - and the handsome apartments
Round the now desolate court peacefully, fondly, are ranged.

Hasten to open the shops, and the gateways that long have been choked up,
And let the bright light of day fall on the desolate night!
See how around the edge extend the benches so graceful,
And how the floor rises up, glitt'ring with many-hued stone!
Freshly still shines the wall with colors burning and glowing!
Where is the artist? His brush he has but now laid aside.
Teeming with swelling fruits; and flowers disposed in fair order,
Chases the brilliant festoon ravishing images there.
Here, with a basket full-laden, a Cupid gayly is dancing,
Genie industrious there tread out the purple-dyed wine.
High there the Bacchanal dances and here she calmly is sleeping,
While the listening Faun has not yet sated his eyes;
Here she puts to flight the swift-footed Centaur, suspended
On one knee, and, the while, goads with the Thyrsus his steps.

Boys, why tarry ye? Quick! The beauteous vessels still stand there;
Hasten, ye maidens, and pour into the Etrurian jar!
Does not the tripod stand here, on sphinxes graceful and winged?
Stir up the fire, ye slaves! Haste to make ready the hearth!
Go and buy; here is money that's coined by Titus the Mighty;
Still are the scales lying here; not e'en one weight has been lost.
Place the burning lights in the branches so gracefully fashioned,
And with the bright-shining oil see that the lamp is supplied!
What does this casket contain? Oh, see what the bridegroom has sent thee!
Maiden! 'Tis buckles of gold; glittering gems for thy dress.
Lead the bride to the odorous bath, - here still are the unguents;
Paints, too, are still lying here, filling the hollow-shaped vase.

But where tarry the men? the elders? In noble museum
Still lies a heap of strange rolls, treasures of infinite worth!
Styles, too, are here, and tablets of wax, all ready for writing;
Nothing is lost, for, with faith, earth has protected the whole.
E'en the Penates are present, and all the glorious Immortals
Meet here again, and of all, none, save the priests, are not here.
Hermes, whose feet are graced with wings, his Caduceus is waving,
And from the grasp of his hand victory lightly escapes.
Still are the altars standing here, - oh come, then, and kindle --
Long hath the God been away, - kindle the incense to Him!






THE DIVER.

A BALLAD OF SICILY IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY
by J C F Schiller.


"OH, where is the knight or the squire so bold,
As to dive to the howling charybdis below? --
I cast in the whirlpool a goblet of gold,
And o'er it already the dark waters flow;
Whoever to me may the goblet bring,
Shall have for his guerdon that gift of his king."

He spoke, and the cup from the terrible steep,
That, rugged and hoary, hung over the verge
Of the endless and measureless world of the deep,
Swirled into the maelstrom that maddened the surge,
"And where is the diver so stout to go --
I ask ye again -- to the deep below?"

And the knights and the squires that gathered around,
Stood silent - and fixed on the ocean their eyes;
They looked on the dismal and savage Profound,
And the peril chilled back every thought of the prize.
And thrice spoke the monarch - "The cup to win,
Is there never a wight who will venture in?"

And all as before heard in silence the king --
Till a youth with an aspect unfearing but gentle,
'Mid the tremulous squires - stept out from the ring,
Unbuckling his girdle, and doffing his mantle;
And the murmuring crowd, as they parted asunder,
On the stately boy cast their looks of wonder.

As he strode to the marge of the summit, and gave
One glance on the gulf of that merciless main,
Lo! the wave that forever devours the wave,
Casts roaringly up the charybdis again,
And as with the swell of the far thunder boom,
Rushes foamingly forth from the heart of the gloom.

And it bubbles and seethes, and it hisses and roars,
As when fire is with water commixed and contending;
And the spray of its wrath to the welkin upsoars,
And flood upon flood hurries on, never ending;
And it never will rest, nor from travail be free,
Like a sea that is laboring the birth of a sea.

Yet, at length, comes a lull o'er the mighty commotion,
As the whirlpool sucks into black smoothness the swell
Of the white-foaming breakers-and cleaves thro' the ocean
A path that seems winding in darkness to hell.
Round and round whirled the waves - deeper and deeper still driven,
Like a gorge thro' the mountainous main thunder-riven!

The youth gave his trust to his Maker! Before
That path through the riven abyss closed again --
Tt Hark! a shriek from the crowd rang aloft from the shore,
And, behold! he is whirled in the grasp of the main!
And o'er him the breakers mysteriously rolled,
And the giant mouth closed on the swimmer so bold.

O'er the surface grim silence lay dark; but the crowd
Heard the wail from the deep murmur hollow and fell;
They hearken and shudder, lamenting aloud --
" Gallant youth, - noble heart - fare thee well, fare thee well! "
More hollow and more wails the deep on the ear --
More dread and more dread grows suspense in its fear.

If thou shouldst in those waters thy diadem fling,
And cry, "Who may find it shall win it and wear;"
God wot, though the prize were the crown of a king --
A crown at such hazard were valued too dear,
For never shall lips of the living reveal
What the deeps that howl yonder in terror conceal.

Oh, many a bark, to that breast grappled fast,
Has gone down to the fearful and fathomless grave;
Again, crashed together the keel and the mast,
To be seen, tossed aloft in the glee of the wave. --
Like the growth of a storm ever louder and clearer,
Grows the roar of the gulf rising nearer and nearer.

And it bubbles and seethes, and it hisses and roars,
As when fire is with water commixed and contending;
And the spray of its wrath to the welkin upsoars,
And flood upon flood hurries on, never ending;
And as with the swell of the far thunder boom,
Rushes roaringly forth from the heart of the gloom.

And, lo! from the heart of that far-floating gloom,
'What gleams on the darkness so swanlike and white?
Lo! an arm and a neck, glancing up from the tomb! --
They battle -the Man's with the Element's might.
It is he - it is he! in his left hand behold,
As a sign - as a joy! - shines the goblet of gold!

And he breathed deep, and he breathed long,
And he greeted the heavenly delight of the day.
They gaze on each other-they shout, as they throng --
" He lives -10 the ocean has rendered its prey!
And safe from the whirlpool and free from the grave,
Comes back to the daylight the soul of the brave!"

And he comes, with the crowd in their clamor and glee,
And the goblet his daring has won from the water,
He lifts to the king as he sinks on his knee; --
And the king from her maidens has beckoned his daughter.
She pours to the boy the bright wine which they bring,
And thus spake the Diver - "Long life to the king!

"Happy they whom the rose hues of daylight rejoice,
The air and the sky that to mortals are given!
May the horror below nevermore find a voice --
Nor Man stretch too far the wide mercy of Heaven!
Nevermore - nevermore may he lift from the sight
The veil which is woven with Terror and Night!

"Quick-brightening like lightning - it tore me along,
Down, down, till the gush of a torrent, at play
In the rocks of its wilderness, caught me - and strong
As the wings of an eagle, it whirled me away.
Vain, vain was my struggle-the circle had won me,
Round and round in its dance, the wild element spun me.

And I called on my God, and my God heard my prayer
In the strength of my need, in the gasp of my breath --
And showed me a crag that rose up from the lair,
And I clung to it, nimbly - and baffled the death!
And, safe in the perils around me, behold!
On the spikes of the coral the goblet of gold.

"Below, at the foot of that precipice drear,
Spread the gloomy, and purple, and pathless Obscure!
A silence of Horror that slept on the ear,
That the eye more appalled might the Horror endure!
Salamander - snake - dragon - vast reptiles that dwell
In the deep - coiled about the grim jaws of their hell.

"Dark-crawled, - glided dark the unspeakable swarms,
Clumped together in masses, misshapen and vast; --
Here clung and here bristled the fashionless forms; --
Here the dark-moving bulk of the Hammer Fish passed;
And with teeth grinning white, and a menacing motion,
Went the terrible Shark - the Hyena of Ocean.

"There I hung, and the awe gathered icily o'er me,
So far from the earth, where man's help there was none!
The One Human Thing, with the Goblins before me
Alone -- in a loneness so ghastly -- ALONE!
Fathom deep from man's eye in the speechless profound,
With the death of the Main and the Monsters around.

"Methought, as I gazed through the darkness, that now
IT saw - the dread hundred-limbed creature - its prey!
And darted -- 0 God! from the far flaming bough
Of the coral, I swept on the horrible way;
And it seized me, the wave with its wrath and its roar,
It seized me to save -- King, the danger is o'er!"

On the youth gazed the monarch, and marveled; quoth he,
"Bold Diver, the goblet I promised is thine;
And this ring will I give, a fresh guerdon to thee, --
Never jewels more precious shone up from the mine, --
If thou'lt bring me fresh tidings, and venture again,
To say what lies hid in the innermost main."

Then outspake the daughter in tender emotion:
" Ah! father, my father, what more can there rest?
Enough of this sport with the pitiless ocean --
He has served thee as none would, thyself hast confest.
If nothing can slake thy wild thirst of desire,
Let thy knights put to shame the exploit of the squire! "

The king seized the goblet, - he swung it on high,
And whirling, it fell in the roar of the tide:
"But bring back that goblet again to my eye,
And I'll hold thee the dearest that rides by my side;
And thine arms shall embrace, as thy bride, I decree,
The maiden whose pity now pleadeth for thee."

In his heart, as he listened, there leapt the wild joy --
And the hope and the love through his eyes spoke in fire,
On that bloom, on that blush, gazed delighted the boy;
The maiden -- she faints at the feet of her sire!
Here the guerdon divine, there the danger beneath;
He resolves! To the strife with the life and the death!

They hear the loud surges sweep back in their swell,
Their coming the thunder sound heralds along!
Fond eyes yet are tracking the spot where he fell:
They come, the wild waters, in tumult and throng,
Roaring up to the cliff - roaring back, as before,
But no wave ever brings the lost youth to the shore!





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