Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
Song of the Parcæ
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
Translated by N. L. Frothingham

WITHIN my ears resounds that ancient song,—
Forgotten was it, and forgotten gladly,—
Song of the Parcæ, which they shuddering sang,
When Tantalus fell from his golden seat.
They suffered with their noble friend; indignant        5
Their bosom was, and terrible their song.
To me and to my sisters, in our youth,
The nurse would sing it; and I marked it well.
“The Gods be your terror,
Ye children of men!        10
They hold the dominion
In hands everlasting,
All free to exert it
As listeth their will.
“Let him fear them doubly        15
Whome’er they’ve exalted!
On crags and on cloud-piles
The couches are planted
Around the gold tables.
“Dissension arises;        20
Then tumble the feasters,
Reviled and dishonored,
In gulfs of deep midnight;
And look ever vainly
In fetters of darkness        25
For judgment that’s just.
“But they remain seated
At feasts never failing
Around the gold tables.
They stride at a footstep        30
From mountain to mountain;
Through jaws of abysses
Steams towards them the breathing
Of suffocate Titans,
Like offerings of incense,        35
A light-rising vapor.
“They turn—the proud masters—
From whole generations
The eye of their blessing;
Nor will in the children,        40
The once well-beloved,
Still eloquent features
Of ancestor see.”
So sang the dark sisters;
The old exile heareth        45
That terrible music
In caverns of darkness,—
Remembereth his children,
And shaketh his head.

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