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SCENE I.—: A Room. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 3.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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I with uncertain footsteps follow thee.
O princess; there arise within my soul
Thoughts without rule and measure. Solitude
Appears to beckon me; complaisantly
She whispers: “Hither come, I will allay,
Within thy breast, the newly-waken’d doubt.”
Yet catch I but a glimpse of thee, or takes
My listening ear one utterance from thy lip,
At once a new-born day around me shines,
And all the fetters vanish from my soul.
To thee I freely will confess, the man
Who unexpectedly appear’d among us
Hath rudely wak’d me from a beauteous dream;
So strangely have his nature and his words
Affected me, that more than ever now
A want of inward harmony I feel,
And a distracting conflict with myself.
’Tis not to be expected that a friend,
Who long hath sojourn’d in a foreign land,
Should in the moment of his first return
The tone of former times at once resume;
He in his inner mind is still unchang’d,
And a few days of intercourse will tune
The jarring strings, until they blend once more
In perfect harmony. When he shall know
The greatness of the work thou hast achiev’d
Believe me, he will place thee by the bard,
Whom as a giant now he sets before thee.
My princess, Ariosto’s praise from him
Has more delighted than offended me.
Consoling ’tis to know the man renown’d,
Whom as our model we have plac’d before us;
An inward voice then whispers to the heart
“Canst thou obtain a portion of his worth,
A portion of his fame is also thine.”
No, that which hath most deeply mov’d my heart,
Which even now completely fills my soul,
Was the majestic picture of that world,
Which, with its living, restless, mighty forms
Around one great and prudent man revolves.
And runs with measur’d steps the destin’d course
Prescrib’d beforehand by the demigod.
I listen’d eagerly, and heard with joy
The wise discourse of the experienc’d man;
But ah! the more I heard, the more I felt
Mine own unworthiness, and fear’d that I
Like empty sound, might dissipate in air,
Or vanish like an echo or a dream.
And yet erewhile thou didst so truly feel
How bard and hero for each other live,
How bard and hero to each other tend,
And toward each other know no envious thought.
Noble in truth are deeds deserving fame,
But it is also noble to transmit
The lofty grandeur of heroic deeds,
Through worthy song, to our posterity.
Be satisfied to contemplate in peace,
From a small, shelt’ring state, as from the shore,
The wild and stormy current of the world.
Was it not here, amaz’d, I first beheld
The high reward on valiant deeds bestow’d?
An inexperienc’d youth I here arriv’d,
When festival on festival conspir’d
To render this the centre of renown.
Oh, what a scene Ferrara then display’d!
The wide arena, where in all its pomp
Accomplish’d valor should its skill display,
Was bounded by a circle, whose high worth
The sun might seek to parallel in vain.
The fairest women sat assembled there,
And men the most distinguish’d of the age.
Amaz’d the eye ran o’er the noble throng;
Proudly I cried, “And ’tis our Fatherland,
That small, sea-girded land, hath sen; them here.
They constitute the noblest court that e’er
On honor, worth, or virtue, judgment pass’d.
Survey them singly, thou wilt not find one
Of whom his neighbor needs to feel asham’d!”
And then the lists were open’d, chargers pranc’d,
Esquires press’d forward, helmets brightly gleam’d,
The trumpet sounded, shivering lances split,
The din of clanging helm and shield was heard,
And for a moment eddying dust conceal’d
The victor’s honor and the vanquisa’d’s shame.
Oh, let me draw a curtain o’er the scene,
The all too brilliant spectacle conceal,
That in this tranquil hour I may not feel
Too painfully mine own unworthiness!
If that bright circle and those noble deeds
Arous’d thee then to enterprise and toil,
I could the while, young friend, have tutor’d thee
In the still lesson of calm sufferance.
The brilliant festival thou dost extol,
Which then and since a hundred voices prais’d,
I did not witness. In a lonely spot,
So tranquil that unbroken on the ear
Joy’s lightest echo faintly died away,
A prey to pain and melancholy thoughts,
I was compell’d to pass the tedious hours.
Before me hover’d on extended wing
Death’s awful form, concealing from my view
The prospect of this ever-changing world.
Slowly it disappear’d, and I beheld,
As through a veil, the varied hues of life,
Pleasing but indistinct: while living forms
Began once more to flicker through the gloom.
Still feeble, and supported by my women,
For the first time my silent room I left,
When hither, full of happiness and life,
Thee leading by the hand, Lucretta came.
A stranger then, thou, Tasso, wast the first
To welcome me on my return to life.
Much then I hop’d for both of us, and hope
Hath not, methinks, deceiv’d us hitherto.
Stunn’d by the tumult, dazzled by the glare,
Impetuous passions stirring in my breast,
I by thy sister’s side pursu’d my way
In silence through the stately corridors,
Then in the chamber enter’d, where ere long
Thou didst appear supported by thy women.
Oh, what a moment! Princess, pardon me!
As in the presence of a deity
The victim of enchantment feels with joy
His frenzied spirit from delusion freed,
So was my soul from every phantasy,
From every passion, every false desire
Restor’d at once by one calm glance of thine.
And if, before, my inexperienc’d mind
Had lost itself in infinite desires,
I then, with shame, first turn’d my gaze within,
And recogniz’d the truly valuable.
Thus on the wide sea-shore we seek in vain
The pearl, reposing in its silent shell.
’Twas the commencement of a happy time.
And had Urbino’s duke not led away
My sister from us, many years had pass’d
For us is calm, unclouded happiness
But now, alas! we miss her all too much.
Miss her free spirit, buoyancy and ire.
And the rich war of the accomplish’d woman.
Too well I know since she departed hence
None hath been able to supply to thee
The pure enjoyment which her presence gave.
Alas, how often hath it griev’d my soul!
How often have I in the silent grove
Pour’d forth my lamentation! How! I cried.
Is it her sister’s right and joy alone
To be a treasure to the dear one’s heart?
Does then no other soul respond to hers,
No other heart her confidence deserve?
Are soul and wit extinguish’d? and should one,
How great soe’er her worth, engross her love?
Forgive me, princess! Often I have wish’d
I could be something to thee,—little, perhaps,
But something; not with words alone, with deeds
I wish’d to be so, and in life to prove
How I had worshipp’d thee in solitude,
But I could ne’er succeed, and but too oft
In error wounded thee, offending one
By thee protected, or perplexing more
What thou didst wish to solve, and thus, alas!
E’en in the moment when I fondly strove
To draw more near thee, felt more distant still.
Thy wish I never have misconstru’d, Tasso;
How thou dost prejudice thyself I know;
Unlike my sister, who possess’d the art
Of living happily with every one,
After so many years, thou art in sooth
Thyself well nigh unfriended.
But after say, where shall I find the man,
The woman where, to whom as unto thee
I freely can unbosom every thought?
Thou should’st in my brother more confide.
He is my Prince!—Yet do not hence suppose
That freedom’s lawless impulse swells my breast.
Man is not born for freedom, and to serve
A prince deserving honor and esteem
Is a pure pleasure to a noble mind.
He is my sovereign, of that great word
I deeply feel the full significance.
I must be silent when he speaks, and learn
To do what he commandeth, though perchance
My heart and understanding both rebel.
That with my brother never can befall.
And in Antonio, who is now return’d,
Thou wilt possess another prudent friend.
I hop’d it once, now almost I despair.
His converse how instructive, and his words
How useful in a thousand instances!
For he possesses, I may truly say.
All that in me is wanting. But, alas!
When round his cradle all the gods assembled
To bring their gifts, the Graces were not there;
And he who lacks what these fair powers impart,
May much possess, may much communicate,
But on his bosom we can ne’er repose.
But we can trust in him, and that is much.
Thou should’st not, Tasso, in one man expect
All qualities combin’d; Antonio
What he hath promis’d surely will perform.
If he have once declar’d himself thy friend,
He’ll care for thee, where thou dost fail thyself
Ye must be friends! I cherish the fond hope
Ere long this gracious work to consummate.
Only oppose me not, as is thy wont.
Then, Leonora long hath sojourn’d here,
Who is at once refin’d and elegant;
Her easy manners banish all restraint,
Yet thou hast ne’er approach’d her as she wish’d.
To thee I hearken’d, or believe me, princess,
I should have rather shunn’d her than approach’d,
Though she appear so kind, I know not why,
I can but rarely feel at ease with her;
E’en when her purpose is to aid her friends,
They feel the purpose, and are thence constrain’d.
Upon this pathway, Tasso, nevermore
Will glad companionship be ours! This track
Leadeth us on through solitary groves
And silent vales to wander; more and more
The spirit is untun’d, and fondly strives
The golden age, that from the outer world
For aye hath vanish’d, to restore within,
How vain soever the attempt may prove.
Oh, what a word, my princess, hast thou spoken!
The golden age, ah, whither is it flown,
For which in secret every heart repines?
When o’er the yet unsubjugated earth
Men roam’d, like herds, in joyous liberty;
When on the flowery lawn an ancient tree
Lent to the shepherd and the shepherdess
Its grateful shadow, and the leafy grove
Its tender branches lovingly entwin’d
Around confiding love; when still and clear,
O’er sands forever pure, the pearly stream
The nymph’s fair form encircled; when the snake
Glided innoxious through the verdant grass,
And the bold youth pursu’d the daring faun;
When every bird winging the limpid air,
And every living thing o’er hill and dale
Proclaim’d to man,—What pleases is allow’d.
My friend, the golden age hath pass’d away;
Only the good have power to bring it back;
Shall I confess to thee my secret thought?
The golden age, wherewith the bard is wont
Our spirits to beguile, that lovely prime,
Existed in the past no more than now;
And did it e’er exist, believe me, Tasso,
As then it was, it now may be restor’d.
Still meet congenial spirits, and enhance
Each other’s pleasure in this beauteous world;
But in the motto change one single word,
And say, my friend:—What’s fitting is allow’d.
Would that of good and noble men were form’d
A great tribunal, to decide for all
What is befitting! then no more would each
Esteem that right which benefits himself.
The man of power acts ever as he lists,
And whatsoe’er he doth is fitting deem’d.
Would’st thou define exactly what is fitting,
Thou should’st apply, methinks, to noble women;
For them it most behoveth that in life
Naught should be done unseemly or unfit;
Propriety encircles with a wall
The tender, weak, and vulnerable sex.
Where moral order reigneth, women reign,
They only are despis’d where rudeness triumphs;
And would’st thou touching either sex inquire,
’Tis order woman seeketh; freedom, man.
Thou thinkest us unfeeling, wild and rude?
Not so! but ye with violence pursue
A multitude of objects far remote.
Ye venture for eternity to act,
While we, with views more narrow, on this earth
Seek only one possession, well content
If that with constancy remain our own.
For we, alas! are of no heart secure,
Whate’er the ardor of its first devotion.
Beauty is transient, which alone ye seem
To hold in honor; what beside remains
No longer charms,—what doth not charm is dead.
If among men there were who knew to prize
The heart of woman, who could recognize
What treasures of fidelity and love
Are garner’d safely in a woman’s breast
If the remembrance of bright single hours
Could vividly abide within your souls;
If your so searching glance could pierce the veil
Which age and wasting sickness o’er us fling;
If the possession which should satisfy
Waken’d no restless cravings in your hearts:
Then were our happy days indeed arriv’d,
We then should celebrate our golden age.
Thy words, my princess, in my breast awake
An old anxiety half lull’d to sleep.
What mean’st thou, Tasso? Freely speak with me.
I oft before have heard, and recently
Again it hath been rumor’d,—had I not
Been told, I might have known it,—princes strive
To win thy hand. What we must needs expect
We view with dread, nay, almost with despair.
Thou wilt forsake us,—it is natural:
Yet how we shall endure it, know I not.
Be for the present moment unconcern’d!
Almost, I might say, unconcern’d forever.
I am contented still to tarry here,
Nor know I any tie to lure me hence.
And if thou would’st indeed detain me, Tasso,
Live peaceably with all, so shalt thou lead
A happy life thyself, and I through thee.
Teach me to do whate’er is possible!
My life itself is consecrate to thee.
When to extol thee and to give thee thanks
My heart unfolded, I experienc’d first
The purest happiness that man can feel.
My soul’s ideal I first found in thee.
As destiny supreme is rais’d above
The wile and counsel of the wisest men,
So tower the gods of earth o’er common mortals.
The rolling surge which we behold with dread
Doth all unheeded murmur at their feet
Lake gentle billows; they hear not the storm
Which blusters round us, scarcely heed our prayers,
And treat us as we helpless children treat.
Letting us fill the air with sighs and plaints.
Thou hast, divine one! often borne with me,
And like the radiant sun, thy pitying glance
Hath from mine eyelid dried the dew of sorrow.
’Tis only just that women cordially
Should meet the poet, whose heroic song
In strains so varied glorifies the sex.
Tender or valiant, thou hast ever known
To represent them amiable and noble;
And if Armida is deserving hate,
Her love and beauty reconcile us to her.
Whatever in my song doth reach the heart
And find an echo there, I owe to one,
And one alone! No image undefin’d
Hover’d before my soul, approaching now
In radiant glory, to retire again.
I have myself, with mine own eyes, beheld
The type of every virtue, every grace;
What I have copied thence will aye endure;
The heroic love of Tancred to Clorinda,
Erminia’s silent and unnotic’d truth,
Sophronia’s greatness and Olinda’s woe;
These are not shadows by illusion bred;
I know they are eternal, for they are.
And what is more deserving to survive,
And silently to work for centuries,
Than the confession of a noble love
Confided modestly to gentle song?
And shall I name to thee another charm
Which, all unconsciously, this song may claim?
It doth allure us still to listen to it:
We listen, and we think we understand;
We understand, and yet we censure not,
So with thy song, thou winnest us at last.
Oh, what a heaven thou dost open to me,
My princess! if this radiance blinds me not,
I see unhop’d-for and eternal bliss
Descending gloriously on golden beams.
No further, Tasso! many things there are
That we may hope to win with violence;
While others only can become our own
Through moderation and wise self-restraint.
Such, it is said, is virtue, such is love,
Which is allied to her. Think well of this!