Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Adam and his Mother
By Frederik Paludan-Müller (1809–1876)
From ‘Adam Homo’: Translation of J. J., in Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine, 1865

IS it a dream? A dream—ah no, for there
  She sits, and fondles him with tender hand,
Her gaze revealing all a mother’s care,
  And all a mother’s love,—the twofold band
That, aye unbroken, every wrench can bear,        5
  Until the invalid, at length unmanned
By shame and sorrow, yet supremely blest,
Sank, as in boyhood, on that sacred breast.
“Thou here!—and wherefore?” scarcely words are needed
  To solve the secret,—for her watchful eye        10
Each step of his career had closely heeded,
  And through his letters clearly could descry,
  Veiled though they were, the dangers he should fly;
So, by affection’s wings upborne she speeded
From the last rites beside a father’s grave,        15
Her darling’s life and soul alike to save.
“But”—thus she stopped his questions with a smile—
  “Spend not thy strength in further words, for rest
Is what thou lackest—so sleep on a while.”
  She smoothed his pillow while she spoke, and pressed        20
Her lips on his in the old childish style,—
  Then left him to fulfill her sweet behest,
And take his way through Dreamland’s mazes, folden
In clouds no longer black, but rosy-golden.
O reader, if thou ever hast been near        25
  Destruction’s brink, experience must have taught thee,
  When Providence from such dread peril caught thee,
How sweet a thing existence is; how dear
  The life to which that friendly arm has brought thee
Back from the verge of death;—I need not fear        30
But thou wilt know the blessedness that lapped
Our hero’s spirit, thus in slumber wrapped.
For thine own heart has then all gladly tasted
  The fairest fruit of time, when from its grave—
  Where earthly elements their booty crave—        35
The new-born soul once more has upward hasted
To heaven, where its wings so worn and wasted
  Fresh in immortal life and beauty wave;
When, bird-like, soaring on replumaged pinions,
It suns itself again in God’s dominions.        40
After earth’s bondage, what emancipation!
  After earth’s midnight, what a glorious morn!
After the agonizing aspiration
  Breathed for deliverance, lo! the spirit borne
Above its prison-house to contemplation        45
  Of all the former life it led forlorn!
How poor each earthly pleasure in our eyes,
Contrasted with the new-found Paradise!
And from this Paradise a ray descended
  Now into Adam’s heart, as by degrees        50
  It gathered something of the ancient ease,
While from the Tree of Life that o’er him bended—
  Bough fair as those the eye of boyhood sees
Ere dimmed by manhood’s scales—the fruit extended
Within his grasp he plucked, and found it give        55
New vigor to his soul, new power to live.
Whole hours beside the window he would sit,
  And follow with his gaze along the sky
The clouds that o’er its azure chanced to flit,
  Or on the street would mark the passer-by.        60
The world lay fresh before him, and from it
  He drew enjoyment, as in infancy;
If but at night a neighbor’s lamp were gleaming,
With childlike interest he watched it beaming.
For all creation now appeared quite other        65
  Than it to him had ever been before;
  Men, as of old, were enemies no more,
But taught by love, he saw in each a brother;
  Like music from some far celestial shore
Thrilled through his soul the accents of his mother;        70
Till at their tones the spectres of the past
Fell back, and melted in thin air at last.
He saw each arrow aimed against his weal
  Glance harmless by when her embrace was round him,
And that sweet voice of hers would fondly steal        75
  Into his soul, and break the spell that bound him:
  So, step by step, the state in which she found him
Changed for the better; he began to feel,
To speak, to act anew, and from their tomb
Youth’s blasted hopes commenced again to bloom.        80
At day’s declining, often arm in arm
  They paced the floor, and then the son confessed
  Old sins and errors, while the mother pressed
Kind lessons home to him in accents warm.
She plied religion, not to strike alarm        85
  Into his heart, but rather yield him rest;
And only strove to gently heal the spirit
Too long in strange and sickly torpor buried.
But when the lamp was lit at eventide,
  Before the harpsichord she sat, and swept        90
  Its keys to songs whose spirit-echoes kept
The listener fettered to the player’s side;
Or else their voices would accordant glide
  Into sweet childlike duets, strains that wept
And smiled by turns through all their varied plan,—        95
So thus one night the twofold music ran:—
    World! for aye from me depart!
      And thy joys to others offer;
      Fairer flowers than thou canst proffer
    Blossom now within my heart.        100
    All thy roses, beauty-molded,
      When I plucked them, faded fast,
    And the thorn each leaf enfolded
      Into me in torture passed.
    Winter overwhelmed my soul;        105
      In its icy grasp I shivered;
      Aspen-like I bent and quivered
    When I heard its tempests roll.
    Then to dust in anguish smitten
      Sank the brow I bore so high,—        110
    On it branded, lightning-written,
      That dread sentence, “Thou must die.”
    Hope renews its blossoms fair,
      As the spring-blooms earth are covering,
      While the joyous birds are hovering        115
    In the odor-laden air.
    At the moment they were praising
      All that richest life of May,
    I my soul was also raising
      From the dust in which it lay.        120
    In solitude how droops the soul!
    A branch dissevered from the bole,
      And tossed aside to perish;
    It is the spirit’s vital breath,
    In sun and storm, in life and death,        125
      All-clasping love to cherish.
    The bees from flower to flower that roam,—
    I saw them, when they wandered home,
      Construct their cells in union;
    The ants beneath the hillocks, too,        130
    Are bound by harmony as true,
      And labor in communion.
    In heaven’s vault I also saw
    The stars fulfill eternal law
      Accordant with each other;        135
    Not for themselves alone they shine,
    But every orb by rule divine
      Irradiates his brother.
    Be thine that starlike brother-mind!
    To God and man thy spirit bind        140
      In earthly joy and sorrow;
    Then on His people here below
    Will burst ere long in golden glow
      His own celestial morrow!
    In grove and glen, on hill and lea,        145
    Each blade of grass, each stately tree,
      Alike for dew is calling;
    No freshness fills the summer air,
    No blessed influence is there,
      Without the dew-bath falling.        150
    But vapors gather thick and fast,
    Until the azure sky at last
      In darkness is enshrouded;
    Then breaks the tempest in its force,
    And lightnings take their lurid course        155
      Athwart the zenith clouded.
    O morning prayer, the soul’s sweet dew!
    Thou canst alone its power renew,
      And free it from its sadness;
    Upwafted by our souls on high,        160
    And homewards sent with God’s reply,
      That breathes celestial gladness.
    Then trust no more the joys of earth!
    So soon succeeded by the dearth
      Of all that cheers and blesses;        165
    Drenched with the dew that heaven bestows,
    Will bloom and blossom like a rose
      The spirit’s wildernesses.

Oft our hopes are doomed to die in sorrow,
Oft our seed-time knows no harvest-morrow,        170
  What the worm has spared the storms destroy;
Vainly looking earthward for assistance,
Man drags on the burden of existence,
  Left—how early!—by his dream of joy.
Whence, then, comfort in our time of anguish?        175
Skyward lift the eyes that droop and languish;
  God alone gives consolation birth;
Deep in him the well of life is streaming,
Well of blessedness, forever teeming,
  Vast enough for heaven and for earth.        180
Soon shall dawn the festal morn resplendent,
When the fullness of the Lord transcendent
  Pours itself in rivers all abroad;
Then shall every fount of joy be springing,
Every soul be hallelujahs singing,        185
  High and lowly, bathed alike in God!

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