From the German of Reinick
“Why lingerest here in the greenwood,
All day in a childish dream,
Toying with leaves and flowers,
Watching the wavelets gleam,
While a world grown old and hoary
With the spirit of change is rife,
And the outworn past and the present
Are grappling in deadly strife?”
Still here will I dwell in quiet,
Tho’ without the tempests rave;
And while all things reel and totter,
Will seek me an oaken stave,
Plucked from a tree that has weathered
The storms against it hurled,
While into the dust are crumbling
The props that uphold the world.
Yes, I’ll choose this silent garden
Tho’ around me deserts lie,
And bask in the ancient glories
Of earth and sea and sky.
While alone on dark thoughts of ruin
Your pulseless bosoms brood,
I’ll build me a bower of roses,
And rejoice in my solitude.
“Rejoice! Verily we’ve forgotten
The sound of so strange a word;
Nowadays notes of scorn and anger
May well in youth’s songs be heard;
For the woes of our earthly existence
Should find a voice in your rhyme,
Since the word of the poet is ever
The mirror of his time.”
No, no, in the heart of the poet
Can no scornful spirit live—
He is wroth at human baseness,
Can over the sorrows grieve
That round this old earth are woven
Like some fateful web of doom,
And he weeps that bright gleams of radiance
So seldom pierce the gloom.
But whenever a ray out-flashes,
Drink it in with heart and mind,
And a hopeful premonition
Of the future in it find:—
Rejoice, when the sun is shining!
Joy purifies the breast,
And whoso with pure heart rejoiceth,
Even here below is blest!
“What! you believe in the bliss of Heaven
In a happiness yet to be?
Your faith, like your other emotions,
Is mere childish fantasy.
Remain as you have been ever,
A child from your very birth,
Unworthy with men to hold counsel
On the woes and the welfare of earth.”
Yes, I believe in the word of promise,
I believe in each holy word,
In the power that clothes the lily,
And that feeds the nestling bird;
“Be like unto children, of such is
God’s Kingdom.” Ah! well, in sooth,
If all were as little children
In purity and in truth!
To the weal and the woe of the nations
I do not seal my breast,
Tho’ my Motherland is dearer
To me than all the rest.
If to fold universal being,
‘Neath its wings the mind aspires,
Still the heart needs narrower limits
For the growth of its sacred fires.
Rev. John Costello