I think those are the final touches now,
And feel that I may call my work complete.
Especial pleasure hath it given me
Thy nature to interpret through mine art.
This picture is a marvel unto me,
But its creator still more wonderful.
For naught, which men like me have up till now
Considered possible, can be compared
With this change that hath taken place in thee.
One only can believe, when actual sight
Compels belief. We met three years ago;
And I was then allowed to count myself
A visitor in that community,
In which thou didst attain thine excellence.
A man of sad demeanour wast thou then,
Witness each glance and aspect of thy face.
Once did I hear a lecture in thy group,
And at the end felt urged to add thereto
Words that were wrenched with pain from out my soul.
I spake in such a mood wherein one doth
Think almost always of oneself alone;
And none the less my gaze did ever rest
Upon that painter, whelmed 'neath sorrow's load,
Who sat and kept still silence, far apart.
Silent he pondered in a fashion strange,
And one might well believe that he heard not
A single word of all those spoken near.
The sorrow unto which he gave himself
Seemed of itself to have a separate life;
It seemed as though the man himself heard not,
But rather that his very grief had ears:
It is perhaps not inappropriate
To say he was by sorrow quite obsessed.
Soon after that day did we meet again,
And even then there was a change in thee;
For happiness did beam forth from thine eyes;
Within thy nature power did dwell again,
And noble fire did ring in all thy words.
Thou, didst express a wish to me that day
Which seemed to me most strange and curious —
To be my pupil didst thou then desire.
of a truth thou hast throughout these years
With utmost diligence absorbed thyself
In all I had to say on world events.
And, as we grew more intimate, I then
Did know the riddle of thine artist life,
And each new picture proved a fresh surprise.
My thought in former days was ill-inclined
To soar to worlds beyond the life of sense —
Not that I doubted them — but yet it seemed
Presumptuous to draw near with eager mind.
But now I must admit that thou hast changed
My point of view. I hear thee oft repeat
That thine artistic skill depends alone
Upon the gift to function consciously
In other worlds; and that thou canst implant
Naught in thy works but what thou hast first seen
In spirit worlds: indeed thy works do show
How spirit stands revealed in actual life.
Never so little have I understood
Thy speech; for surely in all artists' work
The living spirit is thus manifest.
How therefore doth thy friend, Thomasius,
Differ from other masters in his art?
Ne'er have I doubted that the spirit shows
Itself in man, who none the less remains
Unconscious of its nature. He creates
Through this same spirit, but perceives it not.
Thomasius however doth create
In worlds of sense what he in spirit-realms
Can consciously behold; and many times
Hath he assured me, that, for men like him,
No other method of creation serves.
Thomasius is a marvel unto me,
And freely I admit this picture here
Hath first revealed to me in his true self
Capesius, whom I thought I knew full well.
In thought I knew him; but this work doth show
How little of him I had really known.
How comes it, doctor, that thou canst admire
The greatness of this work so much, and yet
Canst still deny the greatness of its source?
What hath my wonder at the artist's work
In common with my faith in spirit-sight?
One can indeed admire a work, e'en when
One hath no faith in that which is its source;
Yet in this case there would be naught to rouse
Our admiration, had this artist not
Trodden the path that led to spirit-life.
Yet still we must not say that whoso'er
Doth to the spirit wholly give himself
Will consciously be guided by its power.
The spirit power creates in artists' souls,
E'en as it works within the trees and stones:
Yet is the tree not conscious of itself.
And only he, who sees it from without,
Can recognize the spirit's work therein.
So too each artist lives within his work
And not in spiritual experience.
But when mine eyes now on this picture fall,
I do forget all that allures to thought;
The very soul-force of my friend doth gleam
From out those eyes, and yet — they are but paint!
The seeker's thoughtfulness dwells on that brow;
And e'en his noble warmth of words doth stream
From all the colour-tones with which thy brush
Hath solved the mystery of portraiture.
Ah, these same colours, surely they are flat!
And yet they are not; they seem visible
Only to vanish straightway from my sight.
The moulding too doth seem like colour's work
And yet it tells of spirit intertwined
In every line, and many things besides,
That are not of itself. — Where then is that
Whereof it speaks? Not on the canvas there,
Where only spirit-barren colours lie.
Is it then in Capesius himself?
But why can I perceive it not in him?
Thomasius, thou hast so painted here
That what is painted doth destroy itself,
The moment that the eye would fathom it.
I cannot grasp whereto it urgeth me.
What must I grasp from it? What should I seek?
I fain would pierce this canvas through and through
To find what I must seek within its depths;
To find where I may grasp all that which streams
From this same picture into my soul's core.
I must attain it. — Oh — deluded fool!
It seems as though some ghost were haunting me,
A ghost I cannot see, nor have I power
Which doth enable me to focus it.
Thou dost paint ghostly things, Thomasius,
Ensnaring them by magic in thy work.
They do allure us on to seek for them,
And yet they never let themselves be found.
Oh — how I suffer from your pictures!
My friend, in this same moment hast thou lost
The thinker's peace of mind. Consider now,
If from this picture some ghost speaks to thee
Then I myself must surely ghostly be.
Forgive me, friend, 'twas weakness on my part.
Ah, speak but good, not evil, of this hour!
For though thou seemed'st to have lost thyself,
Yet in reality thou wast upraised
Far, far above thyself; and thou didst feel,
Even as I myself full oft have felt.
At such times, howsoe'er one feels oneself
Strong-armoured at all points with logic's might,
One can but be convinced that one is seized
By some strange power that can have origin
Not in sense-knowledge or sense-reasoning.
Who hath endowed this picture with such power?
To me it seems the symbol in sense-life
Of soul-experiences gained thereby.
It hath taught me to recognize my soul,
As never heretofore seemed possible;
And most convincing this self-knowledge proved.
Thomasius did search me through and through:
For unto him was given power to pierce
Through sense-appearance unto spirit-self.
With his developed sight he penetrates
To spirit verity; and thus for me
Those ancient words of wisdom: ‘Know thyself,’
In new light do appear. To know ourselves
E'en as we are, we must first find that power
Within ourselves, which, as true spirit, doth
Conceal itself from us in our own selves.
We must, to find ourselves, that power unfold
Which can pierce through into our very souls:
And truly do these words of wisdom speak —
Unfold thyself and thou shalt find thyself.
If we admit now, that Thomasius
Hath through the unfolding of his spirit power,
Attained to knowledge of that entity,
That dwells, invisible, within thy soul,
Then must we say that on each plane of life
Knowledge doth differ.
So would I maintain.
If matters thus do stand, then is all thought
Nothing all learning but illusory;
And every moment I must lose myself.
Oh, do leave me alone. ...
I'll go with him.
Capesius is nearer far to-day
To spirit lore, then he himself doth think;
And Strader suffers deeply. What his soul
So hotly craves, his spirit cannot find.
The inner nature of these two did stand
Already then before my spirit's eye
When first I dared to tread the realm of souls.
As a young man I saw Capesius,
And Strader in the years he hath not reached
By some long span as yet. Capesius
Did show a youthful promise which conceals
Much that this life will not allow to come
To due fruition in the realms of sense.
I was attracted to his inner self:
In his soul's essence I could first behold
What is the essential kernel of a man;
And how a man's peculiarities
In earthly life do manifest themselves
As consequences of some former life.
Saw the struggles that he overcame,
Which in his other lives had origin,
And which have shaped his present mode of life.
I could not see his death-discarding being
With my soul's vision, yet I did perceive
Within his nature that which could not rise
From his surroundings as they are to-day.
Thus in the picture I could reproduce,
What dwells within the basis of his soul.
My brush was guided by the powers, which he
Unfolded in his former lives on earth.
If thus I have revealed his inmost self,
My picture will have served the aim, which I
Did purpose for it in my thought: for as
A work of art I do not rate it high.
It will confirm its work within that soul
To whom it showed the path to spirit-realms.