Supplementary Appendix: Wilhelm Schlegel’s Homage to Friedrich Wilhelm III

Wilhelm Schlegel’s Poem of Homage to Friedrich Wilhelm III [*]


On the Day of Homage Berlin, 6 July 1798

O, ascend, thou most refreshing of suns,
Lofty herald of the beautiful day!
Irradiate, gloriously, the joys of this celebration,
May it to your profit be to behold them.
May heaven itself, dissolved into cloudless blue,
Be free and serene like the people themselves.
Behold! Incense rises from a thousand altars of thanksgiving,
And purest jubilation rings out unto the spheres.

A noble king is to the world given,
The fatherland swears to him a holy alliance.
Not a single insincere thought among those who
Swear allegiance, nor inner disinclination.
Feelings abounding in every heart
Are proclaimed, spontaneously, by every mouth,
Driven by a heavenly power
To proclaim sincere, elated homage.

You know him well, you joyous millions,
Saw him securely, surely striding to his goal.
His actions do merit the ancestral crown,
The nations' choice would elevate him thereto,
With whom the spirits of grand ancestors dwell,
And in whose image they now behold themselves rejuvenated.
The royal man, just and beneficent,
Dignified in mildness, peaceful in courage.

How could heaven ever go dark for him?
He sought and found love's most beautiful reward.
Luise's smile jests with grief,
Before her gaze, care dissolves.
Even in huts would she be the queen of hearts,
She, the goddess of grace on the throne;
To weave her delicate work, her most blessed success,
Into his laurel myrtles.

Fate will bring about its rare miracle,
We may now trust in the dark future:
The holy laurel defies lightning's blows,
The myrtle sprouts only on meadows of flowers;
The high powers rain down all blessings
In purple clouds of dew upon them;
Peace bears the evergreen palm,
And abundance inclines its heavy fronds.

The muse of history now gazes at you,
Sublime ruler! gracious Queen!
Its severe witness becomes a poem of praise;
She, proclaimer of the golden age.
Alas! only recently did it behold horrific history,
Her pencil sank, a dagger, before it.
Thus did she stride, serious, on tragic cothurnus
And pause, reflecting, at the urn of humanity.

You, however, cheered the goddess's grief.
Here, where the state, an eternal temple, stands,
Not teetering like a ship about to founder,
That yet struggles with all sails aloft,
No power weakened, but purified,
Here the majesty of free truth;
Here rules peace, as the century itself, cursed, admired,
Stumbles into its grave with din and crash.

Only by striving to perfect his own being
Does a person preserve his divine race.
The eagle must turn its flight toward the sun,
Exercising, proudly, his inborn right;
The source of light itself can never blind him,
His wing is weakened by no space.
Fortunate nation! to such virtuous victory
Do you now see the favorite of Zeus soar ahead.


[*] “Am Tage der Huldigung. Berlin 6. Juli 1798,” Jahrbücher der preussischen Monarchie unter der Regierung Friedrich Wilhelms des Dritten (1798) 2 (May, June, July, August) unpaginated following p. 95 of the Anzeiger, which follows the normal p. 268 (Sämmtliche Werke 1:160–61). — Portraits of Friedrich Wilhelm III and Queen Luise of Prussia: frontispieces to vols. 1 and 2 of the Jahrbücher der preussischen Monarchie (1798).

Not surprisingly, perhaps (even considering that the above is but an approximate prose translation), Goethe did not find the poem particularly well done. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott