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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 Gods of Greece
By Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)
 
Translation of Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton

      YE in the age gone by,
Who ruled the world—a world how lovely then!
  And guided still the steps of happy men
In the light leading-strings of careless joy!
Ah, flourished then your service of delight!        5
  How different, oh how different, in the day
When thy sweet fanes with many a wreath were bright,
        O Venus Amathusia!
 
      Then, through a veil of dreams
Woven by song, truth’s youthful beauty glowed,        10
  And life’s redundant and rejoicing streams
Gave to the soulless, soul—where’er they flowed.
Man gifted Nature with divinity
  To lift and link her to the breast of love;
All things betrayed to the initiate eye        15
        The track of gods above!
 
      Where lifeless—fixed afar—
A flaming ball to our dull sense is given,
  Phœbus Apollo in his golden car
In silent glory swept the fields of heaven!        20
On yonder hill the Oread was adored;
  In yonder tree the Dryad held her home;
And from her urn the gentle Naiad poured
        The wavelet’s silver foam.
 
      Yon bay chaste Daphne wreathed;        25
Yon stone was mournful Niobe’s mute cell;
  Low through yon sedges pastoral Syrinx breathed,
And through those groves wailed the sweet Philomel,
The tears of Ceres swelled in yonder rill—
  Shed for Proserpina to Hades borne;        30
And for her lost Adonis, yonder hill
        Heard Cytherea mourn!
 
      Heaven’s shapes were charmed unto
The mortal race of old Deucalion:
  Pyrrha’s fair daughter humanly to woo,        35
Came down, in shepherd’s guise, Latona’s son;
Between men, heroes, gods, harmonious then,
  Love wove sweet links and sympathies divine,
Blest Amathusia,—heroes, gods, and men,
        Equals before thy shrine!        40
 
      Not to that culture gay,
Stern self-denial or sharp penance wan!
  Well might each heart be happy in that day,
For gods, the happy ones, were kin to man!
The beautiful alone the holy there!        45
  No pleasure shamed the gods of that young race;
So that the chaste Camenæ favoring were,
        And the subduing Grace!
 
      A palace every shrine;
Your very sports heroic;—yours the crown        50
  Of contests hallowed to a power divine,
As rushed the chariots thundering to renown.
Fair round the altar where the incense breathed,
  Moved your melodious dance inspired; and fair
Above victorious brows, the garland wreathed        55
        Sweet leaves round odorous hair!
 
      The lively Thyrsus-swinger,
And the wild car the exulting panthers bore,
  Announced the presence of the rapture-bringer;
Bounded the satyr and blithe faun before;        60
And Mænads, as the frenzy stung the soul,
  Hymned in their madding dance the glorious wine,
As ever beckoned to the lusty bowl
        The ruddy host divine!
 
      Before the bed of death        65
No ghastly spectre stood; but from the porch
  Of life—the lip—one kiss inhaled the breath,
And the mute graceful genius lowered a torch.
The judgment balance of the realms below,
  A judge himself of mortal lineage held;        70
The very Furies, at the Thracian’s woe,
        Were moved and music-spelled.
 
      In the Elysian grove
The shades renewed the pleasures life held dear:
  The faithful spouse rejoined remembered love,        75
And rushed along the meads the charioteer;
There Linus poured the old accustomed strain;
  Admetus there Alcestis still could greet; won
Orestes hath his faithful friend again,
        His arrows Pœas’s son.        80
 
      More glorious then the meeds
That in their strife with labor nerved the brave,
  To the great doer of renownèd deeds,
The Hebe and the heaven the Thunderer gave.
Before the rescued rescuer of the dead,        85
  Bowed down the silent and immortal host;
And the twin stars their guiding lustre shed
        On the bark tempest-tost!
 
      Art thou, fair world, no more?
Return, thou virgin bloom on nature’s face;—        90
  Ah, only on the minstrel’s magic shore,
Can we the footstep of sweet fable trace!
The meadows mourn for the old hallowing life;
  Vainly we search the earth, of gods bereft;
Where once the warm and living shapes were rife,        95
        Shadows alone are left!
 
      Cold from the north has gone
Over the flowers the blast that killed their May;
  And to enrich the worship of the One,
A universe of gods must pass away!        100
Mourning, I search on yonder starry steeps,
  But thee no more, Selene, there I see!
And through the woods I call, and o’er the deeps,
        And—Echo answers me!
 
      Deaf to the joys she gives,        105
Blind to the pomp of which she is possessed,
  Unconscious of the spiritual power that lives
Around and rules her, by our bliss unblessed,
Dull to the art that colors or creates,—
  Like the dead timepiece, godless nature creeps        110
Her plodding round, and by the leaden weights
        The slavish motion keeps.
 
      To-morrow to receive
New life, she digs her proper grave to-day;
  And icy moons with weary sameness weave        115
From their own light their fullness and decay.
Home to the poets’ land the gods are flown;
  Light use in them that later world discerns,
Which, the diviner leading-strings outgrown,
        On its own axle turns.        120
 
      Home! and with them are gone
The hues they gazed on and the tones they heard;
  Life’s beauty and life’s melody;—alone
Broods o’er the desolate void the lifeless word:
Yet rescued from Time’s deluge, still they throng        125
  Unseen the Pindus they were wont to cherish:
Ah, that which gains immortal life in song,
        To mortal life must perish!
 
 
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