When Nature, unconcerned, twirls her endless thread
and fixes it upon the spindle,
when all creation’s inharmonious myriads
vex us with a potpourri of sound,
who then divides the strand monotonously unreeling
and gives it life and rhythmic motion,
who summons single voices to the general choir
where music swells in glorious accord?
So now upon our modest stage act out
creation in its every aspect,
and move with all deliberate haste
from heaven, through the world, to hell!
Angels gain comfort from the sight,
though none can fully grasp Your Being,
and all the grandeur You have wrought
still has the splendor of its primal day.
I merely see how mankind toils and moils.
Earth’s little gods still do not change a bit,
are just as odd as on their primal day.
Their lives would be a little easier
if You’d not let them glimpse the light of heaven—
they call it Reason and employ it only
to be more bestial than any beast.
I’ve studied now, to my regret,
Philosophy, Law, Medicine,
and—what is worst—Theology
from end to end with diligence.
Yet here I am, a wretched fool
and still no wiser than before.
No dog would want to linger on like this!
That is why I’ve turned to magic,
in hope that with the help of spirit-power
I might solve many mysteries,
so that I need no longer toil and sweat
to speak of what I do not know,
can learn what, deep within it,
binds the universe together,
may contemplate all seminal forces—
and be done with peddling empty words.
How all things interweave as one
and work and live each in the other!
How grand a show! But still, alas! mere show.
Infinite Nature, when can I lay hold of you
and of your breasts?
Is parchment then the sacred fount,
and does one drink from it forever to slake our thirst?
There’s nothing you can gain refreshment from
except what has its source in your own soul.
Alas! it is so hard to find corporeal wings
that match those of the human mind.
Yet in all of us there is an innate urge
to rise aloft and soar along
when, lost in the blue space above us,
the lark pours forth its vibrant song,
when high above fir-covered crags
the eagle floats on outspread wing,
and when above the plains and lakes
the crane seeks out its native place.
My spirit prompts me, now I see a solution
and boldly write: “In the beginning was the Act.”
[I am] a part of that force
which, always willing evil, always produces good.
Take my word for it, anyone who thinks too much
is like an animal that in a barren heath
some evil spirit drives around in circles
while all about lie fine green pastures.
Simple folk never sense the devil’s presence,
not even when his hands are on their throats.
Don’t be afraid! Look in my eyes,
let them and let these hands that now clasp yours
express what tongue can never say:
complete devotion and a sense of bliss
that must endure eternally!
Eternally!—Its end would be despair.
There must not be an end! Not ever!
My heart is heavy,
all peace is gone,
I’ll never find it,
My breast is yearning
to be with him;
could I but clasp
and hold him tight,
and kiss him
as my heart desires,
under his kisses
I’d swoon and die!
How readily I once declaimed
when some poor girl did the wrong thing!
I’d cross myself, act high and mighty—
and now I’m prey to sin myself!
And yet, o God, what brought me to it,
was all so good, and oh so sweet!
Great folk may like the noisy life,
we’ll be quite cozy in this quiet spot.
Besides, it is an ancient practice
to make your own small worlds inside the great one.
Nature and intellect are not words said to Christians.
Because such language is so dangerous
the atheist is executed at the stake.
Nature is sin, and Intellect the devil;
hermaphroditic Doubt their child
which they foster together.
That merit and good fortune are connected
is something that these idiots will never see;
the philosopher’s stone could be in their possession,
but there’d be no philosopher to use it.
You are the father of all mystagogues
who ever cheated docile neophytes,
but you reverse their method—send me to a void
for higher wisdom and for greater powers.
You’re making me the cat whose task it is
to pull your chestnuts from the fire.
But do not stop! Let’s probe the matter fully,
since in your Nothingness I hope to find my All.
Does some more inward sense than sight perceive
the overflowing fountainhead of beauty?
My dread ordeal is gloriously rewarded.
How circumscribed and empty was my world before!
Now, with this priesthood, it at last becomes
desirable and has a lasting basis.
[Homunculus’s vial is] rising, flashing, piling up—
another moment and it’s done!
A grand design may seem insane at first;
but in the future chance will seem absurd,
and such a brain as this, intended for great thoughts,
will in its turn create a thinker too.
You’ll never learn unless you make mistakes.
If you want to exist, do so on your own!
The worst of torments we can suffer
is to feel want when we are rich.
The tinkling bell, the lindens’ scent,
make me feel buried in a crypt.
If only I might see that people’s teeming life,
share their autonomy on unencumbered soil;
then, to the moment, I could say:
tarry a while, you are so fair—
the traces of my days on earth
will survive into eternity!—
Envisioning those heights of happiness,
I now enjoy my highest moment.