What hidden mystery in this riddle lies?
The spirit I, which evermore denies!
And justly; for whate’er to light is brought
Deserves again to be reduced to naught;
Then better ’twere that naught should be.
Thus all the elements which ye
Destruction, Sin, or briefly, Evil, name,
As my peculiar element I claim.
Thou nam’st thyself a part, and yet a whole I see.
The modest truth I speak to thee.
Though folly’s microcosm, man, it seems,
Himself to be a perfect whole esteems:
Part of the part am I, which at the first was all,
A part of darkness, which gave birth to light—
Proud light, who now his mother would enthrall,
Contesting space and ancient rank with night.
Yet he succeedeth not, for struggle as he will,
To forms material he adhereth still;
From them he streameth, them he maketh fair,
And still the progress of his beams they check;
And so, I trust, when comes the final wreck,
Light will, ere long, the doom of matter share.
Thy worthy avocation now I guess!
Wholesale annihilation won’t prevail,
So thou’rt beginning on a smaller scale.
And, to say truth, as yet with small success.
Oppos’d to naught, this clumsy world,
The something—it subsisteth still;
Not yet is it to ruin hurl’d,
Despite the efforts of my will.
Tempests and earthquakes, fire and flood, I’ve tried;
Yet land and ocean still unchang’d abide!
And then of humankind and beasts, the accursed brood,—
Neither o’er them can I extend my sway.
What countless myriads have I swept away!
Yet ever circulates the fresh young blood.
It is enough to drive me to despair!
As in the earth, in water, and in air,
A thousand germs burst forth spontaneously;
In moisture, drought, heat, cold, they still appear!
Had I not flame selected as my sphere,
Nothing apart had been reserved for me.
So thou with thy cold devil’s fist,
Still clench’d in malice impotent,
Dost the creative power resist,
The active, the beneficent!
Henceforth some other task essay,
Of Chaos thou the wondrous son!
We will consider what you say,
And talk about it more anon!
For this time have I leave to go?
Why thou shouldst ask, I cannot see.
Since thee I now have learned to know,
At thy good pleasure, visit me.
Here is the window, here the door,
The chimney, too, may serve thy need.