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THE ELEUSINIAN FESTIVAL. Friedrich Schiller

THE ELEUSINIAN FESTIVAL

   Wreathe in a garland the corn’s golden ear! 
    With it, the Cyane blue intertwine
   Rapture must render each glance bright and clear,
    For the great queen is approaching her shrine,-
   She who compels lawless passions to cease,
    Who to link man with his fellow has come,
   And into firm habitations of peace
    Changed the rude tents’ ever-wandering home.

   Shyly in the mountain-cleft
    Was the Troglodyte concealed;
   And the roving Nomad left,
    Desert lying, each broad field. 
   With the javelin, with the bow,
    Strode the hunter through the land;
   To the hapless stranger woe,
    Billow-cast on that wild strand!

   When, in her sad wanderings lost,
    Seeking traces of her child,
   Ceres hailed the dreary coast,
    Ah, no verdant plain then smiled! 
   That she here with trust may stay,
    None vouchsafes a sheltering roof;
   Not a temple’s columns gay
    Give of godlike worship proof.

   Fruit of no propitious ear
    Bids her to the pure feast fly;
   On the ghastly altars here
    Human bones alone e’er dry. 
   Far as she might onward rove,
    Misery found she still in all,
   And within her soul of love,
    Sorrowed she o’er man’s deep fall.

   “Is it thus I find the man
    To whom we our image lend,
   Whose fair limbs of noble span
    Upward towards the heavens ascend? 
   Laid we not before his feet
    Earth’s unbounded godlike womb? 
   Yet upon his kingly seat
    Wanders he without a home?”

   “Does no god compassion feel? 
    Will none of the blissful race,
   With an arm of miracle,
    Raise him from his deep disgrace? 
   In the heights where rapture reigns
    Pangs of others ne’er can move;
   Yet man’s anguish and man’s pains
    My tormented heart must prove.”

   “So that a man a man may be,
    Let him make an endless bond
   With the kind earth trustingly,
    Who is ever good and fond
   To revere the law of time,
    And the moon’s melodious song
   Who, with silent step sublime,
    Move their sacred course along.”

   And she softly parts the cloud
    That conceals her from the sight;
   Sudden, in the savage crowd,
    Stands she, as a goddess bright. 
   There she finds the concourse rude
    In their glad feast revelling,
   And the chalice filled with blood
    As a sacrifice they bring.

   But she turns her face away,
    Horror-struck, and speaks the while
   “Bloody tiger-feasts ne’er may
    Of a god the lips defile,
   He needs victims free from stain,
    Fruits matured by autumn’s sun;
   With the pure gifts of the plain
    Honored is the Holy One!”

   And she takes the heavy shaft
    From the hunter’s cruel hand;
   With the murderous weapon’s haft
    Furrowing the light-strown sand,-
   Takes from out her garland’s crown,
    Filled with life, one single grain,
   Sinks it in the furrow down,
    And the germ soon swells amain.

   And the green stalks gracefully
    Shoot, ere long, the ground above,
   And, as far as eye can see,
    Waves it like a golden grove. 
   With her smile the earth she cheers,
    Binds the earliest sheaves so fair,
   As her hearth the landmark rears,-
    And the goddess breathes this prayer: 

   “Father Zeus, who reign’st o’er all
    That in ether’s mansions dwell,
   Let a sign from thee now fall
    That thou lov’st this offering well! 
   And from the unhappy crowd
    That, as yet, has ne’er known thee,
   Take away the eye’s dark cloud,
    Showing them their deity!”

   Zeus, upon his lofty throne,
    Harkens to his sister’s prayer;
   From the blue heights thundering down,
    Hurls his forked lightning there,
   Crackling, it begins to blaze,
    From the altar whirling bounds,-
   And his swift-winged eagle plays
    High above in circling rounds.

   Soon at the feet of their mistress are kneeling,
    Filled with emotion, the rapturous throng;
   Into humanity’s earliest feeling
    Melt their rude spirits, untutored and strong. 
   Each bloody weapon behind them they leave,
    Rays on their senses beclouded soon shine,
   And from the mouth of the queen they receive,
    Gladly and meekly, instruction divine.

   All the deities advance
    Downward from their heavenly seats;
   Themis’ self ’tis leads the dance,
    And, with staff of justice, metes
   Unto every one his rights,-
    Landmarks, too, ’tis hers to fix;
   And in witness she invites
    All the hidden powers of Styx.

   And the forge-god, too, is there,
    The inventive son of Zeus;
   Fashioner of vessels fair
    Skilled in clay and brass’s use. 
   ’Tis from him the art man knows
    Tongs and bellows how to wield;
   ’Neath his hammer’s heavy blows
    Was the ploughshare first revealed.

   With projecting, weighty spear,
    Front of all, Minerva stands,
   Lifts her voice so strong and clear,
    And the godlike host commands. 
   Steadfast walls ’tis hers to found,
    Shield and screen for every one,
   That the scattered world around
    Bind in loving unison.

   The immortals’ steps she guides
    O’er the trackless plains so vast,
   And where’er her foot abides
    Is the boundary god held fast;
   And her measuring chain is led
    Round the mountain’s border green,-
   E’en the raging torrent’s bed
    In the holy ring is seen.

   All the Nymphs and Oreads too
    Who, the mountain pathways o’er,
   Swift-foot Artemis pursue,
    All to swell the concourse, pour,
   Brandishing the hunting-spear,-
    Set to work,-glad shouts uprise,-
   ‘Neath their axes’ blows so clear
    Crashing down the pine-wood flies.

   E’en the sedge-crowned God ascends
    From his verdant spring to light,
   And his raft’s direction bends
    At the goddess’ word of might,-
   While the hours, all gently bound,
    Nimbly to their duty fly;
   Rugged trunks are fashioned round
    By her skilled hand gracefully.

   E’en the sea-god thither fares;-
    Sudden, with his trident’s blow,
   He the granite columns tears
    From earth’s entrails far below;-
   In his mighty hands, on high,
    Waves he them, like some light ball,
   And with nimble Hermes by,
    Raises up the rampart-wall.

   But from out the golden strings
    Lures Apollo harmony,
   Measured time’s sweet murmurings,
    And the might of melody. 
   The Camoenae swell the strain
    With their song of ninefold tone: 
   Captive bound in music’s chain,
    Softly stone unites to stone.

   Cybele, with skilful hand,
    Open throws the wide-winged door;
   Locks and bolts by her are planned,
    Sure to last forevermore. 
   Soon complete the wondrous halls
    By the gods’ own hands are made,
   And the temple’s glowing walls
    Stand in festal pomp arrayed.

   With a crown of myrtle twined,
    Now the goddess queen comes there,
   And she leads the fairest hind
    To the shepherdess most fair. 
   Venus, with her beauteous boy,
    That first pair herself attires;
   All the gods bring gifts of joy,
    Blessing their love’s sacred fires.

   Guided by the deities,
    Soon the new-born townsmen pour,
   Ushered in with harmonies,
    Through the friendly open door. 
   Holding now the rites divine,
    Ceres at Zeus’ altar stands,-
   Blessing those around the shrine,
    Thus she speaks, with folded hands:-

   “Freedom’s love the beast inflames,
    And the god rules free in air,
   While the law of Nature tames
    Each wild lust that lingers there. 
   Yet, when thus together thrown,
    Man with man must fain unite;
   And by his own worth alone
    Can he freedom gain, and might.”

   Wreathe in a garland the corn’s golden ear! 
    With it, the Cyane blue intertwine! 
   Rapture must render each glance bright and clear,
    For the great queen is approaching her shrine,-
   She who our homesteads so blissful has given,
    She who has man to his fellow-man bound: 
   Let our glad numbers extol then to heaven,
    Her who the earth’s kindly mother is found!

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