Of these four lyrical poems —chosen from among the many that Clarence Mangan translated from the German of Schiller— the first treats of Confucian themes ; the second speaks of philosophy’s quiet eloquence ; the third represents Life as a raree-show to Youth (i. e. a peep-show or camera obscura of the period circa 1790) ; and the fourth poem offers three riddles (the present Editor has provided the answers at the very foot of this post, and Mangan’s own general notes are included interstitially among the verses as they appeared in The Dublin University Magazine in 1838). ~Q~
The Course of Time
Dreyfach ist der Schritt der Zeit :
Time is threefold— triple— three ;
First— and Midst— and Last ;
Was— and Is— and Yet-To-Be ;—
Future— Present— Past.
Lightning-swift, the Is is gone—
The Yet-To-Be crawls with a snakelike slowness on ;
Still stands the Was for aye ; its goal is won.
No fierce impatience, no entreating,
Can spur or wing the tardy Tarrier :
No strength, no skill, can rear a barrier
Between departure and the Fleeting :
No prayers, no tears, no magic spell,
Can ever move the Immovable.
Wouldst thou, fortunate and sage,
Terminate Life’s Pilgrimage ?
Wouldst thou quit this mundane stage
Better, happier, worthier, wiser ?
Then, whate’er thine aim and end,
Take, O, Youth, for thine adviser,
Not thy working-mate, The Slow ;
O, make not The Vanishing thy friend,
Or The Permanent thy foe !
The following is less lofty.
Breadth and Depth.
Es glänzen Viele in der Welt.
Gentry there be who don’t figure in History ;
Yet they are clever, too— deucèdly !—
All that is puzzling, all tissues of mystery
They will unravel you lucidly.
Hear their oracular dicta but thrown out,
You’d fancy these Wise Men of Gotham must find the Philosophers’
Stone out !
Yet they quit Earth without signal and voicelessly ;
All their existence was vanity.
He seldom speaks— he deports himself noiselessly
Who would enlighten Humanity :
Lone, unbeheld, he by slow, but incessant
Exertion, extracts for the Future the pith of the Past and the Present.
Look at yon tree, spreading like a pavilion ! See
How it shines, shadows and flourishes !
Not in its leaves, though all odour and brilliancy,
Seek we the sweet fruit that nourishes.
No ! a dark prison encloses the kernel
Whence shoots with round bole and broad boughs the green giant whose
youth looks eternal !
The last stanza is very German. Schiller compares the showy talkative man to a leaf-tree, and the plain, thoughtful, practical man to a fruit-tree. Good : but it happens that a tree with fruit is showier than a tree with merely leaves : so far, therefore, the comparison fails. Then, the connection that subsists between the final couplet and the quatrain that precedes it is not clear. You need not look for fruit among the leaves of that fine tree yonder, quoth the poet, because the whole tree springs from an insignificant kernel. How, we should like to know, is the superiority of a peach-tree to a beech-tree illustrated by the fact that an oak proceeds from an acorn ?
Forgive us, gentlest shade ! Perhaps it is in our own brains that the muddlement lies, this balmy, sleepy, June afternoon. We are again an experimentalist upon thine Iambics.
The Game of Life.
Wollt ihr in meinen Kasten sehn ?
Who’s for my Box ? Who’ll have a peep at
The Game of Life, the World in Miniature ?
Come, youths and maidens ! come, look in at your
Ease ! Nought’s to pay— a price ’tis cheap at.
Don’t come too near, though, for you know you
Would only spoil my necromancy ;
You can’t see anything I shew you
Save by the light of Hope and Fancy.
Look in ! The matron rocks the sleeping Baby ;
The Boy bounds o’er the stage, skipping and shouting ;
Then rushes in the Youth, as wild as may be ;
The Man walks to and fro, half hoping and half doubting.
Every one buckles to his business now,
Or sacrifices to his ruling passion,
According to his fortune or his fashion :
See how the smiling Courtier makes his bow !
And listen to the Trifler’s tittle-tattle !
The stout-limbed Labourer trundles his wheel-barrow ;
The Husbandman prepares his plough and harrow ;
The General and his troops march forth to battle ;
The Sickling and the Timid stop at home ;
The Rich Man purchases a costly dome ;
The Proud Man falls, and Laughter mocks his fall ;
The Crafty Man makes cat’s-paws of them all !
Apart you see the Virgin and the Wife,
The one preparing wreaths, the other dinners,
For all who at this bustling Game of Life
May come off winners.
While the losers may take their stand with their hurdy-gurdies, at the gates of the feasters’ palaces— highly honored in a nod of approval— richly rewarded by a penny. Asses they were and are. Success is not only a great thing itself, but the sole criterion of another thing not so great— Merit.
Had Buonaparte won at Waterloo
It had been firmness— now ’tis pertinacity.
The question, it may be alleged, has its perplexities. So, we reply, has every other. Posers are a drug. Man would appear to be an animal that puzzles and is puzzled. He talks enigmas, he hears enigmas, he sees enigmas, he dreams enigmas, he meets enigmas, he enacts enigmas— and last, not least, he sits down and writes, or else translates
Unter allen Schlangen ist Eine.
Of the fiercer snakes there is one,
Alone on a chartless path—
Outstripped in swiftness by none,
Unrivalled of any for wrath.
A stunning roar is its hiss—
Death tracks its desolate course :
It upswallows in one abyss
The Rider and his Horse.
It winds round the peaky spire
When throes make the sick earth reel,
For its forkèd tongue of fire
Is lured by the beamy steel.
‘Twill rive and rend in twain
The eldest oak of the wood—
In the glance of an eye ’twill drain
The heart of its warmest blood.
But this monster dies in its birth ;
A moment bounds its reign :
It visits, to vanish from, Earth ;
It slays, but, in slaying, is slain !
Wir stammen, unsrer sechs Geschwister.
We form a strange groupe, six in number,
The offspring of a wondrous pair ;
The mother all begemmed and sombre,
The father blithe and debonnair.
When, at the birth of Time, they drest us,
The last in light, the first in shade,
We bound Creation as a cestus,
And swore it not to fail or fade.
We fear and flee the Drear and Gloomy ;
It is our banner which, unfurled,
Makes jewel bright and flowret bloomy,
And vivifies the living world.
We lead along the Car of Summer ;
We marshal yellow Autumn’s hours,
Nor fly till Winter, the Benumber
And Darkener, tramples down our bowers.
Wherever Splendor greets the gazer,
we are seen ;Where Beauty smiles, there
And, let his rank exalt the Kaiser,
We lend his throne its pomp and sheen.
Ein Gebäude steht da von uralten Zeiten.
A Fabric was raised in ages of old ;
No temple— no house— without roof or pier ;
No cavalier of mortal mould
Shall ride around it in a year.
Centuries have rolled, and still the march
Of Time and Tempest it proudly braves ;
It stands undecayed under Heaven’s blue arch,
It soars to the clouds, it rests in the waves.
No idle vanity gave it birth ;
It shelters and shields— it is useful as grand ;
Its peer is not found on the face of the earth,
And yet it was raised by the human hand !
[From J. C. Mangan’s Anthologia Germanica, No. XII, The Dublin University Magazine, July 1838]
Solutions to Schiller’s three Enigmas :
1. lightning (der schlängelnde Blitz)
2. The six prismatic colours according to Goethe’s theory : red, violet, orange, yellow, green, blue
3. Schiller gives the answer to this puzzle of an ancient Gebäude (“building, fabricated structure”) as die chinesische Mauer (“the Chinese Wall” – the Great Wall of China)
N. B. In the original set under their German title Parabeln und Räthsel (“Parables and Riddles”) the versified riddles number thirteen, three of them being connected with Turandot, Schiller’s Chinese play translated from the Italian of Gozzi.