UND Banner UND Banner UND Banner

"I have the second sight, Goëthe!"
Her Letters.

OUR Goëthe's friend, Bettine,
Hadst thou the second sight—
Upturning worship and delight,
So lovingly and sheenly,
[5] Toward his face, as women will;
The childhood 'neath thine eyelids still?

Before his shrine to doom thee,
Using the same child's smile,
That heav'n and earth, beheld erewhile
[10] For the first time, won from thee;
Ere star and flower grew dim and dead,
Save at his feet, and o'er his head!

Digging thine heart and throwing
Away its childhood's gold;
[15] That so its woman-depth might hold
His spirit's overflowing!
For surging souls no worlds can bound,
Their channel in the heart have found.

O child, to change appointed,
[20] Thou hadst not second sight!
What eyes the future view aright,
Unless by tears anointed?—
Yea! only tears themselves can show
The burning ones that yet shall flow.

[25]O woman, deeply loving,
Thou hadst not second sight!
The star is very high and bright,
And none can see it moving.
Love looks around, below, above,
[30] Yet all his prophecy is—love.

O changing child and woman,
Thou hadst not second sight!
Or bending down thy forehead white,
The human to the human,
[35] The idol's shadow would have made
Its light to vanish like a shade.

Thy spirit was foreknowing
Change to the patriot dead;*
The changing of their battle bed
[40]For meadows ever blowing;—
But ne'er a vision didst thou see
Of death and change to him and thee!

Our Goëthe's friend, Bettine!
What chanceth with thee now?
[45] The funeral stone is on his brow,
The funeral earth between ye!
And, haply, he who left the sun,

For thee hath left a funeral one.

I never shall behold thee—
[50] Thou hast the stranger's face!
Thy smile may keep its ancient place,
And living loves enfold thee;
Yet dost thou change, as others must,
Whose souls have been baptized in dust.

[55]I ween, thy smile is graver—
Paler thy cheek, I ween:
For thou the mystic sight hast seen,
Which maketh quail the braver—
The crowned and loved go naked down,
[60] Without the love, without the crown!

The bird thy childhood's playing
Sent onward o'er the sea,
Thy dove of hope, came back to thee
Without a leaf. Art laying
[65] Its wet cold wing, no sun can dry,
Still in thy bosom, secretly?—

Or hast thou found another;
With plumes thy God hath given,
To leave the wave and meet in heaven
[70](As brother meeteth brother)
Th' eternal Dove who downward flings
His glory on its mounting wings?

Such glory rest upon thee,
Our Goëthe's changëd friend!
[75] For earth's, that cometh to an end,
Hath faded and foregone thee—
And thou, the worshipper, hast spread
Thine idol's ashes o'er thine head!

Text: The Seraphim, and Other Poems (1838), pp. 265-70. 

*The patriot Tyrolese. [EBB's note]