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Stanzas In Memory Of The Author Of "Obermann"
by [?]



In front the awful Alpine track
Crawls up its rocky stair;
The autumn storm-winds drive the rack,
Close o’er it, in the air.

Behind are the abandon’d baths[26]
Mute in their meadows lone;
The leaves are on the valley-paths,
The mists are on the Rhone–

The white mists rolling like a sea!
I hear the torrents roar.
–Yes, Obermann, all speaks of thee;
I feel thee near once more!

I turn thy leaves! I feel their breath
Once more upon me roll;
That air of languor, cold, and death,
Which brooded o’er thy soul.

Fly hence, poor wretch, whoe’er thou art,
Condemn’d to cast about,
All shipwreck in thy own weak heart,
For comfort from without!

A fever in these pages burns
Beneath the calm they feign;
A wounded human spirit turns,
Here, on its bed of pain.

Yes, though the virgin mountain-air
Fresh through these pages blows;
Though to these leaves the glaciers spare
The soul of their white snows;

Though here a mountain-murmur swells
Of many a dark-bough’d pine;
Though, as you read, you hear the bells
Of the high-pasturing kine–

Yet, through the hum of torrent lone,
And brooding mountain-bee,
There sobs I know not what ground-tone
Of human agony.

Is it for this, because the sound
Is fraught too deep with pain,
That, Obermann! the world around
So little loves thy strain?

Some secrets may the poet tell,
For the world loves new ways;
To tell too deep ones is not well–
It knows not what he says.

Yet, of the spirits who have reign’d
In this our troubled day,
I know but two, who have attain’d,
Save thee, to see their way.

By England’s lakes, in grey old age,
His quiet home one keeps;
And one, the strong much-toiling sage,
In German Weimar sleeps.

But Wordsworth’s eyes avert their ken
From half of human fate;
And Goethe’s course few sons of men
May think to emulate.

For he pursued a lonely road,
His eyes on Nature’s plan;
Neither made man too much a God,
Nor God too much a man.

Strong was he, with a spirit free
From mists, and sane, and clear;
Clearer, how much! than ours–yet we
Have a worse course to steer.

For though his manhood bore the blast
Of a tremendous time,
Yet in a tranquil world was pass’d
His tenderer youthful prime.

But we, brought forth and rear’d in hours
Of change, alarm, surprise–
What shelter to grow ripe is ours?
What leisure to grow wise?

Like children bathing on the shore,
Buried a wave beneath,
The second wave succeeds, before
We have had time to breathe.

Too fast we live, too much are tried,
Too harass’d, to attain
Wordsworth’s sweet calm, or Goethe’s wide
And luminous view to gain.

And then we turn, thou sadder sage,
To thee! we feel thy spell!
–The hopeless tangle of our age,
Thou too hast scann’d it well!

Immoveable thou sittest, still
As death, composed to bear!
Thy head is clear, thy feeling chill,
And icy thy despair.

Yes, as the son of Thetis said,
I hear thee saying now:
Greater by far than thou art dead;
Strive not! die also thou!

Ah! two desires toss about
The poet’s feverish blood.
One drives him to the world without,
And one to solitude.

The glow, he cries, the thrill of life,
Where, where do these abound?
Not in the world, not in the strife
Of men, shall they be found.

He who hath watch’d, not shared, the strife,
Knows how the day hath gone.
He only lives with the world’s life,
Who hath renounced his own.