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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Ode to Beauty
By Willem Bilderdijk (1756–1831)
 
Translated in Westminster Review

CHILD of the Unborn! dost thou bend
  From Him we in the day-beams see,
Whose music with the breeze doth blend?—
  To feel thy presence is to be.
Thou, our soul’s brightest effluence—thou        5
Who in heaven’s light to earth dost bow,
  A Spirit ’midst unspiritual clods—
Beauty! who bear’st the stamp profound
Of Him with all perfection crowned,
  Thine image—thine alone—is God’s….        10
 
How shall I catch a single ray
  Thy glowing hand from nature wakes—
Steal from the ether-waves of day
  One of the notes thy world-harp shakes—
Escape that miserable joy,        15
Which dust and self with darkness cloy,
  Fleeting and false—and, like a bird,
Cleave the air-path, and follow thee
Through thine own vast infinity,
  Where rolls the Almighty’s thunder-word?        20
 
Perfect thy brightness in heaven’s sphere,
  Where thou dost vibrate in the bliss
Of anthems ever echoing there!
  That, that is life—not this—not this:
There in the holy, holy row—        25
And not on earth, so deep below—
  Thy music unrepressed may speak;
Stay, shrouded, in that holy place;—
Enough that we have seen thy face,
  And kissed the smiles upon thy cheek.        30
 
We stretch our eager hands to thee,
  And for thine influence pray in vain;
The burden of mortality
  Hath bent us ’neath its heavy chain;—
And there are fetters forged by art,        35
And science cold hath chilled the heart,
  And wrapped thy god-like crown in night;
On waxen wings they soar on high,
And when most distant deem, thee nigh—
  They quench thy torch, and dream of light.        40
 
Child of the Unborn! joy! for thou
  Shinest in every heavenly flame,
Breathest in all the winds that blow,
  While self-conviction speaks thy name:
Oh, let one glance of thine illume        45
The longing soul that bids thee come,
  And make me feel of heaven, like thee!
Shake from thy torch one blazing drop,
And to my soul all heaven shall ope,
  And I—dissolve in melody!        50
 
 
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