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.
From ‘The Artists’
By Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)
Translation of Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  [Only the concluding lines of this long and beautiful poem are given, in which Schiller embodies his conceptions of the mission of art (in its broadest sense, including poetry and all creations of the imagination), and of its relations to philosophy and science.]

IF on the course of Thought, now barrier-free,
Sweeps the glad search of bold Philosophy;
And with self-pæans and a vain renown
Would claim the praise and arrogate the crown,
Holding but as a soldier in her band        5
The nobler Art that did in truth command;
And grants, beneath her visionary throne,
To Art, her queen, the slave’s first rank alone,—
Pardon the vaunt! For you Perfection all
Her star-gems weaves in one bright coronal!        10
With you, the first blooms of the spring, began
Awakening Nature in the soul of man!
With you fulfilled, when Nature seeks repose,
Autumn’s exulting harvests ripely close.
If Art rose plastic from the stone and clay,        15
To mind from matter ever sweeps its sway;
Silent, but conquering in its silence, lo,
How o’er the spiritual world its triumphs go!
What in the land of knowledge, wide and far,
Keen science teaches, for you discovered are:        20
First in your arms the wise their wisdom learn,—
They dig the mine you teach them to discern;
And when that wisdom ripens to the flower
And crowning time of Beauty,—to the power
From whence it rose new stores it must impart,        25
The toils of science swell the wealth of art.
When to one height the sage ascends with you,
And spreads the vale of matter round his view
In the mild twilight of serene repose,—
The more the artist charms, the more the thinker knows.        30
The more the shapes in intellectual joy
Linked by the genii which your spells employ,
The more the thought with the emotion blends,—
The more upbuoyed by both the soul ascends
To loftier harmonies and heavenlier things,        35
And tracks the stream of beauty to its springs.
The lovely members of the mighty whole,
Till then confused and shapeless to his soul,
Distinct and glorious grow upon his sight;
The fair enigmas brighten from the night;        40
More rich the universe his thoughts inclose,
More wide the ocean with whose wave he flows;
The wrath of fate grows feebler to his fears,
As from God’s scheme Chance wanes and disappears;
And as each straining impulse soars above,        45
How his pride lessens, how augments his love!
So, scattering blooms, the still guide Poetry
Leads him through paths, though hid, that mount on high,
Through forms and tones more pure and more sublime,—
Alp upon Alp of beauty,—till the time        50
When what we long as poetry have nurst,
Shall as God’s own swift inspiration burst,
And flash in glory, on that youngest day,—
One with the truth to which it wings the way!…
O sons of Art! into your hands consigned,        55
  O heed the trust, O heed it and revere!—
The liberal dignity of human-kind!
  With you to sink, with you to reappear.
The hallowed melody of Magian song
Does to creation as a link belong,        60
Blending its music with God’s harmony,
As rivers melt into the mighty sea.
Truth, when the age she would reform expels,
Flies for safe refuge to the Muses’ cells.
More fearful for the veil of charms she takes,        65
From song the fullness of her splendor breaks;
And o’er the foe that persecutes and quails
Her vengeance thunders, as the bard prevails.
Rise, ye free sons of the free Mother, rise:
Still on the light of Beauty sun your eyes;        70
Still to the heights that shine afar aspire,
Nor meaner meads than those she gives, desire.
If here the sister Art forsake awhile,
Elude the clasp, and vanish from the toil:
Go seek and find her at the mother’s heart;        75
Go search for Nature—and arrive at Art!
Ever the Perfect dwells in whatsoe’er
Fair souls conceive and recognize as fair!
Borne on your daring pinions, soar sublime
Above the shoal and eddy of the time.        80
Far-glimmering on your wizard mirror, see
The silent shadow of the age to be.
Through all life’s thousandfold entangled maze,
One godlike bourne your gifted sight surveys;
Through countless means one solemn end foreshown,        85
The labyrinth closes at a single Throne.
As in seven tints of variegated light
Breaks the lone shimmer of the lucid white,
As the seven tints that paint the Iris bow
Into the lucid white dissolving flow,—        90
So truth in many-colored splendor plays:
Now on the eye enchanted with the rays;
Now in one lustre gathers every beam,
And floods the world with light—a single stream!

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