“Die Stunde vor dem Abschied” (Sämmtliche Werke 69–70):
The Hour of Farewell
From your eyes the tears did flow: Unhappy woman! 'twas I who did cause them, Swept up by tender longing Did I tempestuously stir your innermost being. Farewell's anxious hour did approach, These days' brief happiness disappear; From within our bond, as if made in flight, You faced your desolate road back. Alas, that grief should painfully assault The seat of bliss, the amiably blossoming body! That anyone should harm your heart, Approach it with hatred, delicate lady! Let me drink gently away your tear, Dry it with gentle breath! Behold it here: already twinkling in my eye; Oh, could your suffering, too, but transfer into me! The man who would delicate happiness storm, Deserves to struggle with hostile vexation; While peace considerately, gently shelter woman, For quietly does she await joy's greeting. Would you your pain to me in a kiss extend? How gladly would I accept bitterness from such sweetness of mouth. Grief could not but yield to delight, In me would the lady's languishing be healed once more.
“Nikon und Heliodora” (Sämmtliche Werke 1:78–81):
Nikon and Heliodora. An Idyll
Evening descends, cool, on the meadows, The day's activity disappears in the distance, The entire host of weary ones of nature Gladly perceive the gentle beckon of rest. Except — just as the wakeful pilot follows Arcturus — So does the lover follow the evening star, Which guides him, like Aurora through the night, To his Heliodora.
To his Heliodora Does hope and yearning guide loyal Nikon. She approaches, blushing like Aurora, Her cheeks bepearled by the dew of anxious shame. Each child of Flora closes its eyes, nodding, While more fragrant still, and fully, Does the flower of love open its chalice, Thou quiet night, in your sanctuary.
Thou quiet night, in your sanctuary I find my boldest request fulfilled; For me she risks — reckoning it as merit For the sake of tenderness — to violate mores. Adorned in flowers, she herself a flower, She comes, her steps rustle in the shrubs. I fly to you, O gracious one! Sweet one! That I might greet you with the breath of love.
That I might greet you with the breath of love, I, the foolish one, could not resist my heart; More than sweet yearning did entice me Tenderly to grant feminine bliss. Yet even should I do bitter penance for my trust, Should your oath turn into but a fairy tale: — Before my roses wither and go pale I would rather die here before heaven's countenance!
I would rather die here before heaven's countenance, — No, death in your arms would be bliss and life, — Exiled from you, may ruin overtake me If I am not devoted to you with the purest loyalty! Be calm, lady friend, let your bitter Worries be gone with the wind. Tranquil forgetfulness plays round The breast that wholly feels the beloved within itself.
The breast that wholly feels the beloved within itself Breathes more freely, relieved of anxious fear. As if a zephyr did rustle its garment, It is invited to disrobe; The stream of air that cools all yearning, Tempts it to bathe within its waves: All of heaven descends into them, Now do the stars shine more cordially.
Now do the stars shine more cordially From your eyes, in gentle shadows. By day, such lofty beauty oppresses, My gaze grows weary at its splendor, But now — that the lowered eyelids Of night do fuse brightness with twilight, I can behold and fear not blindness: Love has lost its fetters.
Love has lost its fetters, That it might now behold its image round about. Like soft sighs does the breeze now blow, The flowers' fragrance presage delight, The springs whisper, and gently Bushes gather anon, Caressingly through shadows come Bridal songs of nightingales sweet.
Bridal songs of nightingales sweet Do I hear in loving quarrels resound; Dew finds and weds, falling, Fragrances rising into air. Just as united our own voices resound, So also let lip with lip wrestle: Closer to the soul, at breath's gate, Be unuttered words exchanged. — Be unuttered words exchanged, Then must song's lilt go silent; For it leads the lovers only to the gate Of the temple where blessed offerings fall, Till from the quiet harbor of their joys They reemerge transfigured, and reborn. Blushing, and smiling did find Aurora Nikon at the bosom of his Heliodora.
[*] Approximate renderings. — Josef Körner (“Carolinens Rivalin,” Preussische Jahrbücher 198 , 32n16) suggests that Wilhelm Schlegel might have addressed the following poems to Elise van Nuys: the two love poems “Derselben” (“Bange nicht der Thränen willen”) and “Lied” (“Eine holde süsse Kranke”) (Sämmtliche Werke 1:30, 31–32); “Die Stunde vor dem Abschied” (“Aus deinen Augen sah ich Thränen fliessen”) (ibid., 69–70); “Warnung” (“Ja, ich gestehe mir es mit Entzücken”) (ibid., 71–72; and the sonnet “Zum Andenken” (“Du nahtest nur, uns wieder zu verlassen”) (ibid., 327). Back.
Translation © 2013 Doug Stott