Wednesday 12 February 2014

Important poem of Danish Romanticism - 'The One' by Schack Staffeldt

The One

All that is beautiful dies, that the spirit shall gain no contentment
     In its debased human state: longings shall thus here below
Man’s bosom forever consume, like the lamp in a dark night-time dungeon,
     Which, at the dread dead of night, a mark on the light of the sky.
Man! it is not what you own, but what you long for and crave for,
     This is your treasure most dear, this is your value most high,
The glorious you can but own by suffering great deprivation:
     Man’s fall is very precise, longing its heavenmost flight.
All that it beautiful dies, the world of the symbols knows change,
     And in different signs the One expresses itself.
Delve into all the world’s annals: there centuries lie in succession,
     Like strata washed up on the shore, deposit and trace of the spirit.
The globe is a ruin itself, and, like mould growth on crumbling walls,
     Out of the granite’s great rifts sprouts what will later be spring.
No single thing can stand firm through the rise and the fall of the ages,
     No single thing ever was, is and will be as before:
It is eternal life which, like blood from the heart, courses
     Through all of nature, flowing outwards and later returning;
So too the soul shows itself, its mien always changing
     Its features uncountable, constantly one and the same.
Therefore there only exists that where the One does reside,
     Only the idea, as shield, wards off what passes away.
In your life’s great work of art you therefore present the idea,
     Attune yourself to your own nature, that nature eternal as God,
Otherwise you will be lost, like bubbles that burst on the sea:
     The sea still remains but where is the bubble, its bright-coloured child?
Should the idea though transfuse your profound and significant life,
     You are immortal – in God as God is in you.
Exceptional natures withdraw now their summit from time,
     Like mountain peaks, visible far o’er the flood’s mirror surface.
Otherwise was it of old, otherwise will it be later,
     The future another repeat of time that is past.
Yes! there once was an age when nature childlike did express
     With imprint most faithful the eternal traits of the father,
When it had not as yet, like ripening fruit, left the bough
     And in its bold fall become free though ephemeral.
Still behind the eclipse of the past the golden sphere rolls,
     Poetry it still retains in its rhythmical bands;
Thither do all longings swarm, like castaways, who from the rock,
     Naked, in direst distress, see far off the bay that they crave.
Was is the plaintive myth, shall be the joyous prediction,
     Myth and religion, fond memory and much desired hope,
Poles of time constantly seeking each other in vain,
     Until they melt into One, there where time is no more. –
Self-seeking Present, whose roothold is only the moment,
     World-life for you stands in its winter solstice;
Necessity you do defy and flaunt freedom’s sceptre?
     Free in defection are you, your freedom the choice of a yoke.
Know then that selfdom is raging rebellion in nature,
     And sin that is monstrous freedom’s gargantuan child;
Selfdom the son’s great revolt against what life has granted,
     Nor does the death of the son atone for the crime –
So may you perish, nature, like fever’s groundless delusion,
     And cured from you, slowly, with passage of time,
May the life now engendered strive for the world’s blessed heart,
     And in unity’s lap, sonnet, may consciousness die.

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