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THE COMPLAINT OF CERES. Friedrich Schiller


   Does pleasant spring return once more? 
    Does earth her happy youth regain? 
   Sweet suns green hills are shining o’er;
    Soft brooklets burst their icy chain: 
   Upon the blue translucent river
    Laughs down an all-unclouded day,
   The winged west winds gently quiver,
    The buds are bursting from the spray;
   While birds are blithe on every tree;
    The Oread from the mountain-shore
   Sighs, “Lo! thy flowers come back to thee-
    Thy child, sad mother, comes no more!”

   Alas! how long an age it seems
    Since all the earth I wandered over,
   And vainly, Titan, tasked thy beams
    The loved-the lost one-to discover! 
   Though all may seek-yet none can call
    Her tender presence back to me
   The sun, with eyes detecting all,
    Is blind one vanished form to see. 
   Hast thou, O Zeus! hast thou away
    From these sad arms my daughter torn? 
   Has Pluto, from the realms of day,
    Enamored-to dark rivers borne?

   Who to the dismal phantom-strand
    The herald of my grief will venture? 
   The boat forever leaves the land,
    But only shadows there may enter.-
   Veiled from each holier eye repose
    The realms where midnight wraps the dead,
   And, while the Stygian river flows,
    No living footstep there may tread! 
   A thousand pathways wind the drear
    Descent;-none upward lead to-day;-
   No witness to the mother’s ear
    The daughter’s sorrows can betray.

   Mothers of happy human clay
    Can share at least their children’s doom;
   And when the loved ones pass away,
    Can track-can join them-in the tomb! 
   The race alone of heavenly birth
    Are banished from the darksome portals;
   The Fates have mercy on the earth,
    And death is only kind to mortals!
   Oh, plunge me in the night of nights,
    From heaven’s ambrosial halls exiled! 
   Oh, let the goddess lose the rights
    That shut the mother from the child!

   Where sits the dark king’s joyless bride,
    Where midst the dead her home is made;
   Oh that my noiseless steps might glide,
    Amidst the shades, myself a shade! 
   I see her eyes, that search through tears,
    In vain the golden light to greet;
   That yearn for yonder distant spheres,
    That pine the mother’s face to meet! 
   Till some bright moment shall renew
    The severed hearts’ familiar ties;
   And softened pity steal in dew,
    From Pluto’s slow-relenting eyes!

   Ah, vain the wish, the sorrows are! 
    Calm in the changeless paths above
   Rolls on the day-god’s golden car-
    Fast are the fixed decrees of Jove! 
   Far from the ever-gloomy plain,
    He turns his blissful looks away. 
   Alas! night never gives again
    What once it seizes as its prey! 
   Till over Lethe’s sullen swell,
    Aurora’s rosy hues shall glow;
   And arching through the midmost hell
    Shine forth the lovely Iris-bow!

   And is there naught of her; no token-
    No pledge from that beloved hand? 
   To tell how love remains unbroken,
    How far soever be the land? 
   Has love no link, no lightest thread,
    The mother to the child to bind? 
   Between the living and the dead,
    Can hope no holy compact find? 
   No! every bond is not yet riven;
    We are not yet divided wholly;
   To us the eternal powers have given
    A symbol language, sweet and holy.

   When Spring’s fair children pass away,
    When, in the north wind’s icy air,
   The leaf and flower alike decay,
    And leave the rivelled branches bare,
   Then from Vertumnus’ lavish horn
    I take life’s seeds to strew below-
   And bid the gold that germs the corn
    An offering to the Styx to go! 
   Sad in the earth the seeds I lay-
    Laid at thy heart, my child-to be
   The mournful tokens which convey
    My sorrow and my love to thee!

   But, when the hours, in measured dance,
    The happy smile of spring restore,
   Rife in the sun-god’s golden glance
    The buried dead revive once more! 
   The germs that perished to thine eyes,
    Within the cold breast of the earth,
   Spring up to bloom in gentler skies,
    The brighter for the second birth! 
   The stem its blossom rears above-
    Its roots in night’s dark womb repose-
   The plant but by the equal love
    Of light and darkness fostered-grows!

   If half with death the germs may sleep,
    Yet half with life they share the beams;
   My heralds from the dreary deep,
    Soft voices from the solemn streams,-
   Like her, so them, awhile entombs,
    Stern Orcus, in his dismal reign,
   Yet spring sends forth their tender blooms
    With such sweet messages again,
   To tell,-how far from light above,
    Where only mournful shadows meet,
   Memory is still alive to love,
    And still the faithful heart can beat!

   Joy to ye children of the field! 
    Whose life each coming year renews,
   To your sweet cups the heaven shall yield
    The purest of its nectar-dews! 
   Steeped in the light’s resplendent streams,
    The hues that streak the Iris-bow
   Shall trim your blooms as with the beams
    The looks of young Aurora know. 
   The budding life of happy spring,
    The yellow autumn’s faded leaf,
   Alike to gentle hearts shall bring
    The symbols of my joy and grief.

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