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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Choirs
By Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803)
 
Translation of William Taylor

DEAR dream which I must ne’er behold fulfilled,
Thou beamy form, more fair than orient day,
        Float back, and hover yet
        Before my swimming sight!
 
Do they wear crowns in vain, that they forbear        5
To realize the heavenly portraiture?
        Shall marble hearse them all,
        Ere the bright change be wrought?
 
Hail, chosen ruler of a freer world!
For thee shall bloom the never-fading song,        10
        Who bidd’st it be,—to thee
        Religion’s honors rise.
 
Yes! could the grave allow, of thee I’d sing:
For once would inspiration string the lyre,—
        The streaming tide of joy,        15
        My pledge for loftier verse.
 
Great is thy deed, my wish. He has not known
What ’tis to melt in bliss, who never felt
        Devotion’s raptures rise
        On sacred Music’s wing;        20
 
Ne’er sweetly trembled, when adoring choirs
Mingle their hallowed songs of solemn praise,
        And at each awful pause
        The unseen choirs above.
 
Long float around my forehead, blissful dream!        25
I hear a Christian people hymn their God,
        And thousands kneel at once,
        Jehovah, Lord, to thee!
 
The people sing their Savior, sing the Son;
Their simple song according with the heart,        30
        Yet lofty, such as lifts
        The aspiring soul from earth.
 
On the raised eyelash, on the burning cheek,
The young tear quivers; for they view the goal,
        Where shines the golden crown,        35
        Where angels wave the palm.
 
Hush! the clear song wells forth. Now flows along
Music, as if poured artless from the breast;
        For so the Master willed
        To lead its channeled course.        40
 
Deep, strong, it seizes on the swelling heart,
Scorning what knows not to call down the tear,
        Or shroud the soul in gloom
        Or steep in holy awe.
 
Borne on the deep, slow sounds, a holy awe        45
Descends. Alternate voices sweep the dome,
        Then blend their choral force,—
        The theme, Impending Doom;
 
Or the triumphal Hail to Him who rose,
While all the host of heaven o’er Sion’s hill        50
        Hovered, and praising saw
        Ascend the Lord of Life.
 
One voice alone, one harp alone, begins;
But soon joins in the ever fuller choir.
        The people quake. They feel        55
        A glow of heavenly fire.
 
Joy, joy! they scarce support it. Rolls aloud
The organ’s thunder,—now more loud and more,—
        And to the shout of all
        The temple trembles too.        60
 
Enough! I sink! The wave of people bows
Before the altar,—bows the front to earth;
        They taste the hallowed cup,
        Devoutly, deeply, still.
 
One day, when rest my bones beside a fane,        65
Where thus assembled worshipers adore,
        The conscious grave shall heave,
        Its flowerets sweeter bloom;
 
And on the morn that from the rock He sprang,
When panting Praise pursues his way,        70
        I’ll hear—He rose again
        Vibrating through the tomb.
 
 
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