The Ideals

by Friedrich von Schiller

Friedrich von Schiller

And wilt thou, faithless one, then, leave me,

With all thy magic phantasy,--

With all the thoughts that joy or grieve me,

Wilt thou with all forever fly?

Can naught delay thine onward motion,

Thou golden time of life's young dream?

In vain! eternity's wide ocean

Ceaselessly drowns thy rolling stream.



The glorious suns my youth enchanting

Have set in never-ending night;

Those blest ideals now are wanting

That swelled my heart with mad delight.

The offspring of my dream hath perished,

My faith in being passed away;

The godlike hopes that once I cherish

Are now reality's sad prey.



As once Pygmalion, fondly yearning,

Embraced the statue formed by him,

Till the cold marble's cheeks were burning,

And life diffused through every limb,

So I, with youthful passion fired,

My longing arms round Nature threw,

Till, clinging to my breast inspired,

She 'gan to breathe, to kindle too.



And all my fiery ardor proving,

Though mute, her tale she soon could tell,

Returned each kiss I gave her loving,

The throbbings of my heart read well.

Then living seemed each tree, each flower,

Then sweetly sang the waterfall,

And e'en the soulless in that hour

Shared in the heavenly bliss of all.



For then a circling world was bursting

My bosom's narrow prison-cell,

To enter into being thirsting,

In deed, word, shape, and sound as well.

This world, how wondrous great I deemed it,

Ere yet its blossoms could unfold!

When open, oh, how little seemed it!

That little, oh, how mean and cold!



How happy, winged by courage daring,

The youth life's mazy path first pressed--

No care his manly strength impairing,

And in his dream's sweet vision blest!

The dimmest star in air's dominion

Seemed not too distant for his flight;

His young and ever-eager pinion

Soared far beyond all mortal sight.



Thus joyously toward heaven ascending,

Was aught for his bright hopes too far?

The airy guides his steps attending,

How danced they round life's radiant car!

Soft love was there, her guerdon bearing,

And fortune, with her crown of gold,

And fame, her starry chaplet wearing,

And truth, in majesty untold.



But while the goal was yet before them,

The faithless guides began to stray;

Impatience of their task came o'er them,

Then one by one they dropped away.

Light-footed Fortune first retreating,

Then Wisdom's thirst remained unstilled,

While heavy storms of doubt were beating

Upon the path truth's radiance filled.



I saw Fame's sacred wreath adorning

The brows of an unworthy crew;

And, ah! how soon Love's happy morning,

When spring had vanished, vanished too!

More silent yet, and yet more weary,

Became the desert path I trod;

And even hope a glimmer dreary

Scarce cast upon the gloomy road.



Of all that train, so bright with gladness,

Oh, who is faithful to the end?

Who now will seek to cheer my sadness,

And to the grave my steps attend?

Thou, Friendship, of all guides the fairest,

Who gently healest every wound;

Who all life's heavy burdens sharest,

Thou, whom I early sought and found!



Employment too, thy loving neighbor,

Who quells the bosom's rising storms;

Who ne'er grows weary of her labor,

And ne'er destroys, though slow she forms;

Who, though but grains of sand she places

To swell eternity sublime,

Yet minutes, days, ay! years effaces

From the dread reckoning kept by Time!