Three words I will tell you, of meaning full:
The lips of the many shout them;
Yet were they born of no sect or school,
The heart only knows about them:
That man is of everything worth bereft
Who in those three words has no faith left:
Man is born free–and is free alway
Even were he born in fetters!
Let not the mob’s cry lead you astray,
Or the misdeeds of frantic upsetters:
Fear not the slave when he breaks his bands;
Fear nothing from any free man’s hands.
And Virtue–it is no empty sound;
That a man can obey her, no folly;
Even if he stumble all over the ground
He yet can follow the Holy;
And what never wisdom of wise man knew
A child-like spirit can simply do.
And a God there is–a steadfast Will,
However the human shrinketh!
High over space and time He still,
The live Thought, doth what He thinketh;
And though all things keep circling, to change confined,
He keeps, in all changes, a changeless mind.
These three words cherish–of meaning full:
From mouth to mouth send them faring;
For, although they spring from no sect or school,
Your hearts them witness are bearing;
And man is never of worth bereft
While yet he has faith in those three words left.
Three words there are of weighty sound,
And from good men’s lips they hail us;
But a tinkling cymbal, a drum’s rebound,
For help or for comfort they fail us!
His Life’s fruit away he forfeit flings
Who catches after those shadows of things;
Who still believes in a Golden Age,
Where the Right and the Good reign in splendour:
The Right and the Good war ever must wage–
Their foe will never surrender;
And chok’st thou him not in the upper air,
His strength he will still on the earth repair.
Who yet believes that Fortune, the jilt,
To the noble will bind herself ever:
Her love-looks follow the man of guilt;
The world to the good belongs never;
He is in it a stranger; he wanders away
Seeking a house that will not decay.
Who still believes that no human gaze
Truth ever her visage discloses:
Her veil no mortal hand shall raise;
Man only thinks and supposes:
Thou mayst prison the spirit in sounding form,
But the Fetterless walks away on the storm.
Then, noble spirit, from folly break free,
This heav’nly faith holding and handing:
What the ear never heard, what no eye can see,
Is the lovely, the true, notwithstanding;
Outside, the fool seeks for it evermore;
The wise man finds it with closed door!