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A little Novalis

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Just a few paragraphs and poem from the end of the 3rd chapter of Henry of Ofterdingen, by Novalis. I learned about him from Hesse, in Steppenwolf; he was the main character's favorite poet. I find it's wonderful reading, after Goethe in Werther and Wilhelm Meister.

The silence was suddenly interrupted by the low sound of an unknown but beautiful voice, which seemed to proceed from an aged oak. All looks were directed towards it, and a young man in simple, but peculiar dress, was seen standing with a lute upon his arm. He continued his song, yet saluted the king, as he turned his eyes towards him, with a profound, bow. His voice was remarkably fine, and the song of a nature strange and wonderful. He sang the origin of the world, the stars, plants, animals, and men, the all-powerful sympathy of nature; the remote age of gold, and its rulers Love and Poesy; the appearance of hatred and barbarism, and their battles with these beneficient goddesses; and finally, the future triumph of the latter, the end of affliction, the renovation of nature, and the return of an eternal golden age. Even, the old minstrels, wrapped in ecstasy, drew nearer to the singular stranger. A charm, they had never before felt, seized all listeners, and the king was carried away in feeling, as upon a tide from Heaven. Such music had never before been heard. All thought that a heavenly being had appeared among them; and especially so, because the young man appeared, during his song, continually to grow more beautiful and resplendent, and his voice more powerful. The gentle wind played with his golden locks. The lute in his hands seemed inspired, and it was as if his intoxicated gaze pierced into a secret world. The child-like innocence and simplicity of his face appeared to all transcendant. Now the glorious strain was finished. The elder poets pressed the young man to their bosoms with tears of joy. A silent inward exultation shot through the whole assembly. The king, filled with emotion, approached him. The young man threw himself reverently at his feet. The king raised him up, embraced him, and bade him ask for any gift. Then, with glowing cheeks he prayed the king to listen to another song, and to decide as to his request. The king stepped a few paces back, and the young stranger began:--

Through many a rugged, thorny pass,
With tattered robe, the minstrel wends;
He toils through flood and deep morass,
Yet none a helping hand extends.
Now lone and pathless, overflows
With bitter plaint his wearied heart;
Trembling beneath his lute he goes,
And vanquished by a deeper smart.

There is to me a mournful lot,
Deserted quite I wander here;--
Delight and peace to all I brought,
But yet to share them none are near.
To human life, and everything
That mortals have, I lent a bliss;
Yet all, with slender offering
My heart's becoming claim dismiss.

They calmly let me take my leave,
As spring is seen to wander on;
And none she gladdens, ever grieve
When quite dejected she hath gone.
For fruits they covetously long,
Nor wist she sows them in her seed;
I make a heaven for them in song,
Yet not a prayer enshrines the deed.

With joy I feel that from above
Weird spirits to these lips are bann'd,
O, that the magic tie of love
Were also knitted to my hand!
But none regard the pilgrim lone,
Who needy came from distant isles;
What heart will pity yet his own,
And quench his grief in winning smiles?

The lofty grass is waving, where
He sinks with tearful cheeks to rest;
But thither winnowing the air,
Song-spirits seek his aching breast;
Forgetting now thy former pain,
Its burden early cast behind,--
What thou in huts hast sought in vain,
Within the palace wilt thou find.

Awaiteth thee a high renown,
The troubled course is ending now;
The myrtle-wreath becomes a crown,
Hands truest place it on thy brow.
A tuneful heart by nature shares
The glory that surrounds a throne;
Up rugged steps the poet fares,
And straight becomes the monarch's son.

So far he had proceeded in his song, and wonder held the assembly spell-bound; when, during these stanzas, an old man with a veiled female of noble stature, carrying in her arms a child of wondrous beauty, who playfully eyed the assembly, and smilingly outstretched its little hands after the diadem of the king, made their appearance and placed themselves behind the minstrel. But the astonishment was increased, when the king's favorite eagle, which was always about his person, flew down from the tops of the trees with a golden headband, which he must have stolen from the king's chamber, and hovered over the head of the young man, so that the band fastened itself around his tresses. The stranger was frightened for a moment; the eagle flew to the side of the king, and left the band behind. The young man now handed it to the child, who reached after it; and sinking upon one knee towards the king, continued his song with agitated voice:--

From fairy dreams the minstrel flies
Abroad, impatient and elate;
Beneath the lofty trees he hies
Toward the stately palace-gate.
Like polished steel the walls oppose,
But over swiftly climb his strains;
And seized by love's delicious throes,
The monarch's child the singer gains.

They melt in passionate embrace,
But clang of armor bids them flee;
Within a nightly refuge place
They nurse the new-found ecstasy.
In covert timidly they stay,
Affrighted by the monarch's ire;
And wake with every dawning day
At once to grief and glad desire.

Hope is the minstrel's soft refrain,
To quell the youthful mother's tears;
When lo, attracted by the strain,
The king within the cave appears.
The daughter holds in mute appeal
The grandson with his golden hair;
Sorrowed and terrified they kneel,
And melts his stern resolve to air.

And yieldeth too upon the throne
To love and song a Father's breast;
With sweet constraint he changes soon
To ceaseless joy the deep unrest.
With rich requital love returns
The peace it lately would destroy,
And mid atoning kisses burns
And blossoms an Elysian joy.

Spirit of Song! oh, hither come,
And league with love again to bring
The exiled daughter to her home,
To find a father in the king!
To willing bosom may he press
The mother and her pleading one,
And yielding all to tenderness,
Embrace the minstrel as his son.

The young man, on uttering these words, which softly swelled through the dark paths, raised with trembling hand the veil. The princess, her eyes streaming with tears, fell at the feet of the king, and reached to him the beauteous child. The minstrel knelt with bowed head at her side. An anxious silence seemed to hold the breath of every one suspended. For a few moments the king remained grave and speechless; then he took the princess to his bosom, pressed her to himself with a warm embrace, and wept aloud. He also raised the young man, and embraced him with heart-felt tenderness. Exulting joy flew through the assembly, which began to crowd eagerly around them. Taking the child, the king raised it towards Heaven with touching devotion; and then kindly greeted the old man. Countless tears of joy were shed. The poets burst forth in song, and the night became a sacred festive eve of promise to the whole land, where life henceforth was but one delightful jubilee. No one can tell whither that land has fled. Tradition only whispers us that mighty floods have snatched Atlantis from our eyes.

Updated 01-29-2015 at 12:24 AM by NikolaiI