Hymns to the Night
all the wondrous shows of the widespread space around him, what
living, sentient thing loves not the all-joyous light —
with its colors, its rays and undulations, its gentle
omnipresence in the form of the wakening Day? The giant-world
of the unresting constellations inhales it as the innermost
soul of life, and floats dancing in its blue flood — the
sparkling, ever-tranquil stone, the thoughtful, imbibing plant,
and the wild, burning multiform beast inhales it — but
more than all, the lordly stranger with the sense-filled eyes,
the swaying walk, and the sweetly closed, melodious lips. Like
a king over earthly nature, it rouses every force to countless
transformations, binds and unbinds innumerable alliances, hangs
its heavenly form around every earthly substance. — Its
presence alone reveals the marvelous splendor of the kingdoms
of the world.
I turn to the holy, unspeakable, mysterious Night. Afar lies
the world — sunk in a deep grave — waste and lonely
is its place. In the chords of the bosom blows a deep sadness.
I am ready to sink away in drops of dew, and mingle with the
ashes. — The distances of memory, the wishes of youth,
the dreams of childhood, the brief joys and vain hopes of a
whole long life, arise in gray garments, like an evening vapor
after the sunset. In other regions the light has pitched its
joyous tents. What if it should never return to its children,
who wait for it with the faith of innocence?
springs up all at once so sweetly boding in my heart, and
stills the soft air of sadness? Dost thou also take a pleasure
in us, dark Night? What holdest thou under thy mantle, that
with hidden power affects my soul? Precious balm drips from thy
hand out of its bundle of poppies. Thou upliftest the
heavy-laden wings of the soul. Darkly and inexpressibly are we
moved — joy-startled, I see a grave face that, tender and
worshipful, inclines toward me, and, amid manifold entangled
locks, reveals the youthful loveliness of the Mother. How poor
and childish a thing seems to me now the Light — how
joyous and welcome the departure of the day — because the
Night turns away from thee thy servants, you now strew in the
gulfs of space those flashing globes, to proclaim thy
omnipotence — thy return — in seasons of thy
absence. More heavenly than those glittering stars we hold the
eternal eyes which the Night hath opened within us. Farther
they see than the palest of those countless hosts —
needing no aid from the light, they penetrate the depths of a
loving soul — that fills a loftier region with bliss
ineffable. Glory to the queen of the world, to the great
prophet of the holier worlds, to the guardian of blissful love
— she sends thee to me — thou tenderly beloved
— the gracious sun of the Night, — now am I awake
— for now am I thine and mine — thou hast made me
know the Night — made of me a man — consume with
spirit-fire my body, that I, turned to finer air, may mingle
more closely with thee, and then our bridal night endure
the morning always return? Will the despotism of the earthly
never cease? Unholy activity consumes the angel-visit of the
Night. Will the time never come when Love's hidden sacrifice
shall burn eternally? To the Light a season was set; but
everlasting and boundless is the dominion of the Night. —
Endless is the duration of sleep. Holy Sleep — gladden
not too seldom in this earthly day-labor, the devoted servant
of the Night. Fools alone mistake thee, knowing nought of sleep
but the shadow which, in the twilight of the real Night, thou
pitifully castest over us. They feel thee not in the golden
flood of the grapes — in the magic oil of the almond tree
— and the brown juice of the poppy. They know not that it
is thou who hauntest the bosom of the tender maiden, and makest
a heaven of her lap — never suspect it is thou, opening
the doors to Heaven, that steppest to meet them out of ancient
stories, bearing the key to the dwellings of the blessed,
silent messenger of secrets infinite.
when I was shedding bitter tears, when, dissolved in pain, my
hope was melting away, and I stood alone by the barren mound
which in its narrow dark bosom hid the vanished form of my life
— lonely as never yet was lonely man, driven by anxiety
unspeakable — powerless, and no longer anything but a
conscious misery. — As there I looked about me for help,
unable to go on or to turn back, and clung to the fleeting,
extinguished life with an endless longing: — then, out of
the blue distances — from the hills of my ancient bliss,
came a shiver of twilight — and at once snapt the bond of
birth — the chains of the Light. Away fled the glory of
the world, and with it my mourning — the sadness flowed
together into a new, unfathomable world — Thou,
Night-inspiration, heavenly Slumber, didst come upon me —
the region gently upheaved itself; over it hovered my unbound,
newborn spirit. The mound became a cloud of dust — and
through the cloud I saw the glorified face of my beloved. In
her eyes eternity reposed — I laid hold of her hands, and
the tears became a sparkling bond that could not be broken.
Into the distance swept by, like a tempest, thousands of years.
On her neck I welcomed the new life with ecstatic tears. It was
the first, the only dream — and just since then I have
held fast an eternal, unchangeable faith in the heaven of the
Night, and its Light, the Beloved.
know when will come the last morning — when the Light no
more scares away Night and Love — when sleep shall be
without waking, and but one continuous dream. I feel in me a
celestial exhaustion. Long and weariful was my pilgrimage to
the holy grave, and crushing was the cross. The crystal wave,
which, imperceptible to the ordinary sense, springs in the dark
bosom of the mound against whose foot breaks the flood of the
world, he who has tasted it, he who has stood on the mountain
frontier of the world, and looked across into the new land,
into the abode of the Night — truly he turns not again
into the tumult of the world, into the land where dwells the
Light in ceaseless unrest.
those heights he builds for himself tabernacles —
tabernacles of peace, there longs and loves and gazes across,
until the welcomest of all hours draws him down into the waters
of the spring — afloat above remains what is earthly, and
is swept back in storms, but what became holy by the touch of
love, runs free through hidden ways to the region beyond,
where, like fragrances, it mingles with love asleep.
wakest thou, cheerful Light, that weary man to his labor
— and into me pourest joyous life — but thou wilest
me not away from Memory's moss-grown monument. Gladly will I
stir busy hands, everywhere behold where thou hast need of me
— praise the lustre of thy splendor — pursue
unwearied the lovely harmonies of thy skilled handicraft
— gladly contemplate the clever pace of thy mighty,
luminous clock — explore the balance of the forces and
the laws of the wondrous play of countless worlds and their
seasons. But true to the Night remains my secret heart, and to
creative Love, her daughter. Canst thou show me a heart
eternally true? has thy sun friendly eyes that know me? do thy
stars lay hold of my longing hand? and return me the tender
pressure and the caressing word? was it thou did adorn them
with colors and a flickering outline — or was it she who
gave to thy jewels a higher, a dearer weight? What delight,
what pleasure offers thy life, to outweigh the transports of
Death? Wears not everything that inspires us the color of the
Night? She sustains thee mother-like, and to her thou owest all
thy glory. Thou wouldst vanish into thyself — in
boundless space thou wouldst dissolve, if she did not hold thee
fast, if she swaddled thee not, so that thou grewest warm, and
flaming, begot the universe. Truly I was, before thou wast
— the mother sent me with my brothers and sisters to
inhabit thy world, to hallow it with love that it might be an
ever-present memorial — to plant it with flowers
unfading. As yet they have not ripened, these thoughts divine
— as yet is there small trace of our coming revelation
— One day thy clock will point to the end of time, and
then thou shalt be as one of us, and shalt, full of ardent
longing, be extinguished and die. I feel in me the close of thy
activity — heavenly freedom, and blessed return. With
wild pangs I recognize thy distance from our home, thy
resistance against the ancient, glorious heaven. Thy rage and
thy raving are in vain. Unscorchable stands the cross —
victory-banner of our breed.
Over I journey
And for each pain
A pleasant sting only
Shall one day remain.
Yet in a few moments
Then free am I,
In Love's lap lie.
Lifts, wave-like, at me,
I gaze from its summit
Down after thee.
Your lustre must vanish
Yon mound underneath —
A shadow will bring thee
Thy cooling wreath.
Oh draw at my heart, love,
Draw till I'm gone,
That, fallen asleep, I
Still may love on.
I feel the flow of
Death's youth-giving flood
To balsam and ether
Transform my blood —
I live all the daytime
In faith and in might
And in holy fire
I die every night.
ancient times, over the widespread families of men an iron Fate
ruled with dumb force. A gloomy oppression swathed their heavy
souls — the earth was boundless — the abode of the
gods and their home. From eternal ages stood its mysterious
structure. Beyond the red hills of the morning, in the sacred
bosom of the sea, dwelt the sun, the all-enkindling, living
Light. An aged giant upbore the blissful world. Fast beneath
mountains lay the first-born sons of mother Earth. Helpless in
their destroying fury against the new, glorious race of gods,
and their kindred, glad-hearted men. The ocean's dark green
abyss was the lap of a goddess. In crystal grottos revelled a
luxuriant folk. Rivers, trees, flowers, and beasts had human
wits. Sweeter tasted the wine — poured out by
Youth-abundance — a god in the grape-clusters — a
loving, motherly goddess upgrew in the full golden sheaves
— love's sacred inebriation was a sweet worship of the
fairest of the god-ladies — Life rustled through the
centuries like one spring-time, an ever-variegated festival of
heaven-children and earth-dwellers. All races childlike adored
the ethereal, thousand-fold flame as the one sublimest thing in
the world. There was but one notion, a horrible dream-shape
That fearsome to the merry tables strode,
A wrapt the spirit there in wild fright.
The gods themselves no counsel knew nor showed
To fill the anxious hearts with comfort light.
Mysterious was the monster's pathless road,
Whose rage no prayer nor tribute could requite;
'Twas Death who broke the banquet up with fears,
With anguish, dire pain, and bitter tears.
Eternally from all things here disparted
That sway the heart with pleasure's joyous flow,
Divided from the loved ones who've departed,
Tossed by longing vain, unceasing woe —
In a dull dream to struggle, faint and thwarted,
Seemed all was granted to the dead below.
Broke lay the merry wave of human bliss
On Death's inevitable, rocky cliff.
With daring spirit and a passion deep,
Did man ameliorate the horrid blight,
A gentle youth puts out his torch, to sleep —
The end, just like a harp's sigh, comes light.
Cool shadow-floods o'er melting memory creep,
So sang the song, into its sorry need.
Still undeciphered lay the endless Night —
The solemn symbol of a far-off might.
old world began to decline. The pleasure-garden of the young
race withered away — up into more open, desolate regions,
forsaking his childhood, struggled the growing man. The gods
vanished with their retinue — Nature stood alone and
lifeless. Dry Number and rigid Measure bound it with iron
chains. Into dust and air the priceless blossoms of life fell
away in words obscure. Gone was wonder-working Faith, and its
all-transforming, all-uniting angel-comrade, the Imagination. A
cold north wind blew unkindly over the rigid plain, and the
rigid wonderland first froze, then evaporated into ether. The
far depths of heaven filled with glowing worlds. Into the
deeper sanctuary, into the more exalted region of feeling, the
soul of the world retired with all its earthly powers, there to
rule until the dawn should break of universal Glory. No longer
was the Light the abode of the gods, and the heavenly token of
their presence — they drew over themselves the veil of
the Night. The Night became the mighty womb of revelations
— into it the gods went back — and fell asleep, to
go abroad in new and more glorious shapes over the transfigured
world. Among the people who too early were become of all the
most scornful and insolently estranged from the blessed
innocence of youth, appeared the New World with a face never
seen before — in the poverty of a poetic shelter —
a son of the first virgin and mother — the eternal fruit
of mysterious embrace. The foreboding, rich-blossoming wisdom
of the East at once recognized the beginning of the new age
— A star showed the way to the humble cradle of the king.
In the name of the distant future, they did him homage with
lustre and fragrance, the highest wonders of Nature. In
solitude the heavenly heart unfolded to a flower-chalice of
almighty love — upturned toward the supreme face of the
father, and resting on the bliss-foreboding bosom of the
sweetly solemn mother. With deifying fervor the prophetic eye
of the blooming child beheld the years to come, foresaw,
untroubled over the earthly lot of his own days, the beloved
offspring of his divine stem. Ere long the most childlike
souls, by true love marvellously possessed, gathered about him.
Like flowers sprang up a strange new life in his presence.
Words inexhaustible and the most joyful tidings fell like
sparks of a divine spirit from his friendly lips. From a far
shore, born under the clear sky of Hellas, came a singer to
Palestine, and gave up his whole heart to the wonder-child:
The youth thou art who ages long hast stood
Upon our graves, so deeply lost in thought;
A sign of comfort in the dusky gloom
For high humanity, a joyful start.
What dropped us all into abyssmal woe,
Pulls us forward with sweet yearning now.
In everlasting life death found its goal,
For thou art Death who at last makes us whole.
with joy, the singer went on to Hindustan — his heart
intoxicated with the sweetest love; and poured it out in fiery
songs under the balmy sky, so that a thousand hearts bowed to
him, and the good news sprang up with a thousand branches. Soon
after the singer's departure, his precious life was made a
sacrifice for the deep fall of man — He died in his
youth, torn away from his beloved world, from his weeping
mother, and his trembling friends. His lovely mouth emptied the
dark cup of unspeakable woes — in ghastly fear the birth
of the new world drew near. Hard he wrestled with the terrors
of old Death — Heavy lay the weight of the old world upon
him. Yet once more he looked fondly at his mother — then
came the releasing hand of eternal love, and he fell asleep.
Only a few days hung a deep veil over the roaring sea, over the
quaking land — countless tears wept his loved ones
— the mystery was unsealed — heavenly spirits
heaved the ancient stone from the gloomy grave. Angels sat by
the Sleeper — delicately shaped from his dreams —
awoken in new Godlike glory; he clomb the limits of the
new-born world — buried with his own hand the old corpse
in the abandoned hollow, and with a hand almighty laid upon it
a stone which no power shall ever again upheave.
weep thy loved ones tears of joy, tears of feeling and endless
thanksgiving over your grave — joyously startled, they
see thee rise again, and themselves with thee — behold
thee weep with sweet fervor on the blessed bosom of thy mother,
solemnly walking with thy friends, uttering words plucked as
from the Tree of Life; see thee hasten, full of longing, into
thy father's arms, bearing with thee youthful humanity, and the
inexhaustible cup of the golden future. Soon the mother
hastened after thee — in heavenly triumph — she was
the first with thee in the new home. Since then, long ages have
flowed past, and in ever-increasing splendor have stirred your
new creation — and thousands have, away from pangs and
tortures, followed thee, filled with faith and longing and
fidelity — walking about with thee and the heavenly
virgin in the kingdom of love, serving in the temple of
heavenly Death, and forever thine.
Uplifted is the stone —
And all mankind is risen —
We all remain thine own.
And vanished is our prison.
All troubles flee away
Thy golden bowl before,
For Earth and Life give way
At the last and final supper.
To the marriage Death doth call —
The virgins standeth back —
The lamps burn lustrous all —
Of oil there is no lack —
If the distance would only fill
With the sound of you walking alone
And that the stars would call
Us all with human tongues and tone.
Unto thee, O Mary
A thousand hearts aspire.
In this life of shadows
Thee only they desire.
In thee they hope for delivery
With visionary expectation —
If only thou, O holy being
Could clasp them to thy breast.
With bitter torment burning,
So many who are consumed
At last from this world turning
To thee have looked and fled,
Helpful thou hast appeared
To so many in pain.
Now to them we come,
To never go out again.
At no grave can weep
Any who love and pray.
The gift of Love they keep,
From none can it be taken away.
To soothe and quiet his longing,
Night comes and inspires —
Heaven's children round him thronging
Watch and guard his heart.
Have courage, for life is striding
To endless life along;
Stretched by inner fire,
Our sense becomes transfigured.
One day the stars above
Shall flow in golden wine,
We will enjoy it all,
And as stars we will shine.
The love is given freely,
And Separation is no more.
The whole life heaves and surges
Like a sea without a shore.
Just one night of bliss —
One everlasting poem —
And the sun we all share
Is the face of God.
Longing for Death
the bosom of the earth,
Out of the Light's dominion,
Death's pains are but a bursting forth,
Sign of glad departure.
Swift in the narrow little boat,
Swift to the heavenly shore we float.
Blessed be the everlasting Night,
And blessed the endless slumber.
We are heated by the day too bright,
And withered up with care.
We're weary of a life abroad,
And we now want our Father's home.
What in this world should we all
Do with love and with faith?
That which is old is set aside,
And the new may perish also.
Alone he stands and sore downcast
Who loves with pious warmth the Past.
The Past where the light of the senses
In lofty flames did rise;
Where the Father's face and hand
All men did recognize;
And, with high sense, in simplicity
Many still fit the original pattern.
The Past wherein, still rich in bloom,
Man's strain did burgeon glorious,
And children, for the world to come,
Sought pain and death victorious,
And, through both life and pleasure spake,
Yet many a heart for love did break.
The Past, where to the flow of youth
God still showed himself,
And truly to an early death
Did commit his sweet life.
Fear and torture patiently he bore
So that he would be loved forever.
With anxious yearning now we see
That Past in darkness drenched,
With this world's water never we
Shall find our hot thirst quenched.
To our old home we have to go
That blessed time again to know.
What yet doth hinder our return
To loved ones long reposed?
Their grave limits our lives.
We are all sad and afraid.
We can search for nothing more —
The heart is full, the world is void.
Infinite and mysterious,
Thrills through us a sweet trembling —
As if from far there echoed thus
A sigh, our grief resembling.
Our loved ones yearn as well as we,
And sent to us this longing breeze.
Down to the sweet bride, and away
To the beloved Jesus.
Have courage, evening shades grow gray
To those who love and grieve.
A dream will dash our chains apart,
And lay us in the Father's lap.