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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Hymns to the Night
By Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg) (1772–1801)
WHAT living, feeling being loves not the gorgeous hues which proclaim the dawn of day?  1
  The ever-moving stars, as they whirl in boundless ether, hail the dawn-bright herald of the day, the glistening rocks hail its rays, the tender growing plants raise their pure eyes rejoicing, and the wild animal joins in the happy chorus which welcomes another day.  2
  More than all these rejoices the glorious Being, the Monarch of the Earth. His deep, thoughtful eyes survey his creation. His melodious voice summons nature to resume her magic works. He binds or looses a million ties, and stamps all earthly life with some impress of his power. His presence reveals the marvels of the Kingdom of Earth.  3
  But sacred Night, with her unspoken mysteries, draws me to her. The world is far, far away, buried in a deep and lonely grave. My heart is full of sadness. Let me dissolve in drops of dew, and join the beloved dust. Long past memories, youthful ambitions, childhood’s dreams, a long life of brief joys and blighted hopes, pass before me—dusky forms, like evening mist.  4
  In another region merry day returns triumphant. Will it never return to us, its children, who await its coming in childlike trust?  5
  What stirs this weary heart, and banishes my sorrow? Dost thou feel pity for us, O holy Night?  6
  What soothing influence pervades my being? What hand sheds costly opiate on my throbbing heart? The wings of fancy no longer droop, fresh energy arises within me. In joyful surprise I see a calm, grave face bend lovingly over me; the face of a tender mother, beaming with eternal youth. How poor and childish in comparison are the joys of day, how blessed and consoling the return of night!  7
  The active work of day is over; the boundless ocean of space, with its lustrous spheres, proclaims Night’s eternal power and presence.  8
  The eyes of the Night are countless hosts of glittering orbs, a glory far exceeding that of Day. They see far beyond the most distant of those countless hosts; they need no light to perceive the unfathomable depth of that loving Spirit who fills boundless space with happiness.  9
  All hail, Queen of the Earth! thou herald of holier worlds, thou revealer of holy love! Much-loved sun of the night, thou art her gift.  10
  My whole being awakes. I am thine, and thou art mine. Night has aroused me to life and manhood. Consume my earthly frame, draw me into deeper and closer union, and may our bridal night endure for ever.  11
  MUST Day return again? Will earthly influences never cease? Unholy toil desecrates the heavenly calm of Night. When shall the mystic sacrifice of love burn for ever? Light has its own fixed limits, but Night has a boundless unfathomable dominion; the reign of Sleep has no end. Holy Sleep! shed thy blest balm on the hallowed Night of this earthly sphere. Only fools fail to understand thee, and know of no other sleep than the shades which the actual night casts over us in kindly pity. They see thee not in the purple blood of the grape, in the golden oil of the almond, in the dusty sap of the poppy. They guess not that it is thou who hoverest around the tender maiden, making her heart the temple of Heaven; nor dream that it is thou, heavenly messenger, who bearest the key which opens the dwellings of the Blessed.  12
  I KNOW when the last day shall come—when Light no longer shall be scared by Night and Love: then slumber shall not cease, and existence shall become an endless dream. Heavenly weariness oppresses me, long and dreamy was my pilgrimage to the Holy Grave, crushing was the cross I bore. He who has drunk of the crystal wave which wells forth from the gloomy grave on which earth’s billows break, he who has stood on earth’s border-land and perceived that new country, the dwelling of Night, returns not to the tumult of life, to the land where light reigns amid ceaseless unrest.  13
  He builds himself a refuge far from the tumult—a peaceful home, and awaits the welcome hour when he too shall be drawn into the crystal wave. All that savors of earth floats on the surface, and is driven back by tempests; but what love has hallowed flows in hidden channels, to another region where it mingles—a fragrant essence—with those loved ones who have fallen asleep.  14
  Ah! merry Light, thou still arousest the weary to their task, and strivest to inspire me too with cheerful life; but thou hast no charm to tempt me from my cherished memories. With joy I watch the busy hands, and look around to fulfill my own duty; I praise thy glorious works, admire the matchless blending of thy cunning designs, watch the varied workings of the busy hours, and seek to discover the symmetry and laws which rule the marvels of endless space and measureless ages.  15
  But my heart remains ever true to Night and her daughter, creative Love. Canst thou show me one ever-faithful heart? Has thy sun a friendly glance for me? Do thy stars hold out a welcoming hand? Do they return the gentle pressure and the caressing word? Hast thou clothed them in color and beauty? What joys or pleasure can life offer to outweigh the charm of death? Does not all that inspires us bear the colors of Night? Night bears thee gently like a mother; to her thou owest all thy glory. Thou wouldst have sunk into endless space had not Night upheld thee, and bound thee, till earth arose. Truly I existed long ere thou wert: I and my sisters were sent to dwell in thy world, and hallow it with love, to make it an enduring memorial; to plant it with unfading flowers. Not yet have these blossoms opened, few are the traces which mark our way. But the end of time is at hand; then thou wilt rejoin us, and gently fade away, full of longing and fervent desire. All thy busy restlessness will end in heavenly freedom, a blessed home-coming. With bitter grief I acknowledge thy forsaking of our home, thine unconquered hatred to the old glorious heaven.  16
  But in vain is thy wrath and fury. The Cross stands firm for ever, the banner of our race.  17
  THE MANY scattered races of mankind lay bound for ages in the grasp of an iron fate. Light was hidden from their weary souls. The eternal world was the home and dwelling of the Gods. Its mysterious form had existed from eternity. Over the glowing mountains of the East abode the Sun, with its all-pervading heat and light. An aged Giant bore the Earth on his shoulders. The Titans, the first children of Mother Earth,—who had waged impious war against the new glorious race of Gods and their kinsfolk, the merry race of men,—lay fast bound under the mountains. The dark green depths of Ocean was the lap of a Goddess. A gay, luxurious race dwelt in the crystal grottoes. Beasts, trees, flowers, and animals had the gift of speech. Richer was the flavor of the grapes, for a God dwelt in the luxuriant vine; the golden sheaves took their birth from a loving motherly Goddess; and love was the sweet service rendered to the deities. Age followed age, a ceaseless spring; and the happy life of Earth’s children was ever enlivened by celestial presences. All races honored the flashing, many-hued flame, as the highest manifestation in life.  18
  Only one shadow obscured the common joy—the cruel spectre of Death. This mysterious decree—separation from all that was loved and lovely—weighed heavy on the hearts of all; even the Gods could find no remedy for this evil. Unable to overcome the menacing fate, man strove to cast a glamour of beauty over the ghastly phantom, and pictured him as a lovely youth extinguishing a torch, and sinking to rest. Still the cruel enigma remained unsolved, and spoke of the irresistible might of some unknown power.  19
  The old world waned; the flowers of the first Paradise faded away; and the race of men, casting off their early innocence, strayed into a wild, uncultivated desert. The Gods and their retinues vanished from earth. Nature stood lonely and lifeless, bound in the iron chains of custom and laws. The bloom was brushed from life. Faith took flight from the dreary scene; and with her fled her heavenly companion Fancy, who could cast over all things her magic vesture. A cruel north wind swept over the barren waste, and the devastated wonder-home was blown into space. Heaven’s blue ocean showed new dazzling spheres, and the Spirit of the World withdrew to higher regions to await the dawn of a renewed earth. Light ceased to be the abode and the symbol of the Gods; they covered themselves with the veil of Night. Night was the cradle of the coming age; in it the Gods took refuge, and sleep came upon them, until a new era should call them forth in new and more glorious forms.  20
  The new era arose at last amidst a nation scorned and despised, a people who had cast off their native innocence. In poverty was born the son of the first Virgin Mother, mysterious offspring of heavenly origin. The wise sons of the East were first to acknowledge the commencement of the strange new epoch, and humbly bent their way to worship the King in his lowly cradle; a mystic star guided their wandering steps. They did him homage, offering him the sweetness and brightness of the earth, the gold and the perfume, both miracles of nature. The Heavenly Heart unfolded slowly—a flower chalice of Almighty love, with eyes upturned to a Divine Father, while his head rested on the tender bosom of a loving earthly mother. With prophetic eye and godlike zeal, the blooming Child, despising the cruel days of earthly conflict before him, looked far ahead to the future of his beloved race, the offshoots of a divine root. Soon he gathered around him a loving band of childlike hearts. A strange new life arose, like that of the flowers of the field; unceasing words of wisdom and utterances of deepest love fell from his lips, like sparks of divine fire.  21
  From the far shores of Hellas and her sunny skies, a poet came to Palestine, and laid his heart at the feet of the Wonder-Child.
  Oh! thou art he who from unending years
  Hast looked with pity on our earthly tomb;
Thou gav’st a sign of life in deepest night,
  And thou wilt bring our higher manhood home.
Thou hast upheld us here, mid grief and tears,—
  Lead thou our nobler longings up to heaven:
In death alone eternal life is found,
  For thou art death, and thou our life hast given.
  Full of joy, his heart beating with new love and hope, the singer bent his way to Hindustan, pouring out under its cloudless sky such burning songs that myriads of hearts turned to him, and the joyful news spread far and near. Soon after the poet left, the precious Life fell a sacrifice to fallen man: he died young, torn away from the much-loved earth, his weeping mother, and his faint-hearted friends. The moment of anguish, the birth of the new world was at hand. He fought with the old dreaded form of death; struggled hard to shake off the clutch of the old world; his sweet lips drained the bitter chalice of unspeakable anguish. Once more he cast a loving glance at his mother; then came the delivering hand of Mighty Love, and he fell asleep. For many days a thick mist lay on the raging waters and the quaking earth; countless were the tears shed by those who loved him; the secret of the grave was made clear, and heavenly spirits rolled away the heavy stone from the tomb. Angels watched by the slumbering Form: rising in new godlike glory, he soared to the heights of the newly made world, buried the old earthly shape in the depths of a cavern, and laid his mighty hand on it, so that no power might ever move it.  23
  The loving ones still wept by his grave, but they wept tears of emotion and gratitude. Again they see thee and rejoice at thy resurrection; they see thee weeping on thy mother’s sacred bosom; they walk once more as friends, listening to words like leaves fluttering from the Tree of Life; they behold thee hasten with untold longing to the Father’s arms, bearing aloft the new manhood and the victorious chalice. The mother soon hastened to join thy triumph; she was the first to enter the New Home. Long years have passed since then, and thy new creation soars to higher powers; thousands and thousands drawn by thee from bitter grief and pain now roam with thee and the heavenly Virgin in the Kingdom of Love, serve in the Temple of Divine Death, and are thine eternally.  24

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