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I bade it keep the world away,
And grow a home for only thee;
Nor fear'd but thy love likewise grew,
As mine, each day, more tried, more true.
The fault was grave! I might have known,
What far too soon, alas! I learn'd-
The heart can bind itself alone,
And faith may oft be unreturn'd.
Self-sway'd our feelings ebb and swell-
Thou lov'st no more;-Farewell! Farewell!
Farewell!-and thou, thou lonely heart,
Which never yet without remorse
Even for a moment didst depart
From thy remote and spherèd course
To haunt the place where passions reign—
Back to thy solitude again!
Back! with the conscious thrill of shame
Which Luna felt, that summer-night,
Flash through her pure immortal frame,
When she forsook the starry height
To hang over Endymion's sleep
Upon the pine-grown Latmian steep.
Yet she, chaste queen, had never proved
How vain a thing is mortal love,
Wandering in Heaven, far removed.
But thou hast long had place to prove
This truth-to prove, and make thine own:
"Thou hast been, shalt be, art, alone."
Or, if not quite alone, yet they
Which touch thee are unmating things-
Ocean and clouds and night and day;
Lorn autumns and triumphant springs;
And life, and others' joy and pain,
And love, if love, of happier men.
Of happier men-for they, at least,
Have dream'd two human hearts might blend
In one, and were through faith released
From isolation without end
Prolong'd; nor knew, although not less
Alone than thou, their loneliness.
[Zuerst in Empedocles etc. 1852 u. d. Tit.: To Marguerite; 1857 umgenannt "Isolation"; 1869 trat es diesen Titel an das vorige ab und erhielt die obige Benennung. Jetzt Nr. 5 des Zyklus "Switzerland".]
YES! in the sea of life enisled,
With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
We mortal millions live alone.
The islands feel the enclasping flow,
And then their endless bounds they know.
But when the moon their hollows lights,
And they are swept by balms of spring,
And in their glens, on starry nights,
The nightingales divinely sing;
And lovely notes, from shore to shore,
Across the sounds and channels pour-
Oh! then a longing like despair
Is to their farthest caverns sent;
For surely once, they feel, we were
Parts of a single continent!
Now round us spreads the watery plain-
Oh might our marges meet again!
Who order'd, that their longing's fire
Should be, as soon as kindled, cool'd?
Who renders vain their deep desire? —
A God, a God their severance ruled!
And bade betwixt their shores to be
The unplumb'd, salt, estranging sea.
THE TERRACE AT BERNE. (COMPOSED TEN YEARS AFTER THE PRECEDING.) [New Poems 1867; Nr. 7 des Zyklus "Switzerland".]
TEN years!-and to my waking eye
Once more the roofs of Berne appear;
The rocky banks, the terrace high,
The stream!-and do I linger here?
The clouds are on the Oberland,
The Jungfrau snows look faint and far;
But bright are those green fields at hand,
And through those fields comes down the Aar,
And from the blue twin-lakes it comes,
Flows by the town, the church-yard fair;
And 'neath the garden-walk it hums,
The house!-and is my Marguerite there?
Ah, shall I see thee, while a flush
Of startled pleasure floods thy brow,
Quick through the oleanders brush,
And clap thy hands, and cry: 'Tis thou!
Or hast thou long since wander'd back,
Daughter of France! to France, thy home;
And flitted down the flowery track
Where feet like thine too lightly come?
Doth riotous laughter now replace
Thy smile; and rouge, with stony glare,
Thy cheek's soft hue; and fluttering lace
The kerchief that enwound thy hair?
Or is it over?-art thou dead?-
Dead!-and no warning shiver ran
Across my heart, to say thy thread
Of life was cut, and closed thy span!
Could from earth's ways that figure slight
Be lost, and I not feel 'twas so?
Of that fresh voice the gay delight
Fail from earth's air, and I not know?
Or shall I find thee still, but changed,
But not the Marguerite of thy prime?
With all thy being re-arranged,
Pass'd through the crucible of time;
With spirit vanish'd, beauty waned,
And hardly yet a glance, a tone,
Of all that was my Marguerite's own?
I will not know! For wherefore try,
To things by mortal course that live,
A shadowy durability,
For which they were not meant, to give?
Like driftwood spars, which meet and pass Upon the boundless ocean-plain,
So on the sea of life, alas!
Man meets man-meets, and quits again.
I knew it when my life was young;
I feel it still, now youth is o'er.
-The mists are on the mountains hung,
And Marguerite I shall see no more.
[Empedocles etc. 1852.]
WEARY of myself, and sick of asking
What I am, and what I ought to be,
At this vessel's prow I stand, which bears me
Forwards, forwards, o'er the starlit sea.
And a look of passionate desire
O'er the sea and to the stars I send:
"Ye who from my childhood up have calm'd me, Calm me, ah, compose me to the end!
"Ah, once more," I cried, "ye stars, ye waters, On my heart your mighty charm renew;
Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,
Feel my soul becoming vast like you!"
From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven, Over the lit sea's unquiet way,
In the rustling night-air came the answer:
"Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.
"Unaffrighted by the silence round them, Undistracted by the sights they see,
These demand not that the things without them Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.
"And with joy the stars perform their shining,
And the sea its long moon-silver'd roll;
For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting
All the fever of some differing soul.