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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 Dying Flower
By Friedrich Rückert (1788–1866)
 
Dialogue between a Passenger and a Fading Violet

Translation of James Clarence Mangan

PASSENGER
DROOP not, poor flower!—there’s hope for thee:
  The spring again will breathe and burn,
And glory robe the kingly tree,
  Whose life is in the sun’s return;
And once again its buds will chime        5
  Their peal of joy from viewless bells,
Though all the long dark winter-time
  They mourned within their dreary cells.
 
FLOWER
Alas! no kingly tree am I,
  No marvel of a thousand years:        10
I cannot dream a winter by,
  And wake with song when spring appears.
At best my life is kin to death;
  My little all of being flows
From summer’s kiss, from summer’s breath,        15
  And sleeps in summer’s grave of snows.
 
PASSENGER
Yet grieve not! Summer may depart,
  And beauty seek a brighter home;
But thou, thou bearest in thy heart
  The germ of many a life to come.        20
Mayest lightly reck of autumn storms:
  Whate’er thine individual doom,
Thine essence, blent with other forms,
  Will still shine out in radiant bloom!
 
FLOWER
Yes! moons will wane, and bluer skies
        25
  Breathe blessing forth for flower and tree;
I know that while the unit dies,
  The myriad live immortally:
But shall my soul survive in them?
  Shall I be all I was before?        30
Vain dream! I wither, soul and stem;
  I die, and know my place no more!
 
The sun may lavish life on them;
  His light, in summer morns and eves,
May color every dewy gem        35
  That sparkles on their tender leaves:
But this will not avail the dead;
  The glory of his wondrous face
Who now rains lustre on my head,
  Can only mock my burial-place!        40
 
And woe to me, fond foolish one,
  To tempt an all-consuming ray!
To think a flower could love the sun,
  Nor feel her soul dissolve away!
Oh, could I be what once I was,        45
  How should I shun his fatal beam!
Wrapt in myself, my life should pass
  But as a still, dark, painless dream!
 
But vainly in my bitterness
  I speak the language of despair:        50
In life, in death, I still must bless
  The sun, the light, the cradling air!
Mine early love to them I gave;
  And now that yon bright orb on high
Illumines but a wider grave,        55
  For them I breathe my final sigh!
 
How often soared my soul aloft
  In balmy bliss too deep to speak,
When Zephyr came and kissed with soft,
  Sweet incense breath my blushing cheek!        60
When beauteous bees and butterflies
  Flew round me in the summer beam,
Or when some virgin’s glorious eyes
  Bent o’er me like a dazzling dream!
 
Ah, yes! I know myself a birth        65
  Of that All-wise, All-mighty Love,
Which made the flower to bloom on earth,
  And sun and stars to burn above;
And if like them I fade and fail,
  If I but share the common doom,        70
Let no lament of mine bewail
  My dark descent to Hades’s gloom!
 
Farewell, thou Lamp of this green globe!
  Thy light is on my dying face;
Thy glory tints my faded robe,        75
  And clasps me in a death embrace!
Farewell, thou balsam-dropping spring!
  Farewell, ye skies that beam and weep!
Unhoping and unmurmuring,
  I bow my head and sink to sleep!        80
 
 
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