The billows surged,
They foamed and murmured,
The sun poured down, as in haste,
Flickering ripples of rosy light;
Long strings of frightened sea-gulls
Flutter away shrill screaming;
War-horses trample, and shields clash loudly,
And far resounds the triumphant cry:
Hail to thee, thou eternal sea!
Like accents of home thy waters are whispering,
And dreams of childhood lustrous I see
Through thy limpid and crystalline wave,
Calling to mind the dear old memories
Of dear and delightful toys,
Of all the glittering Christmas presents,
Of all the red-branched forests of coral,
The pearls, the goldfish and bright-colored shells,
Which thou dost hide mysteriously
Deep down in thy clear house of crystal.
Oh, how have I languished in dreary exile!
Like unto a withered flower
In the botanist’s capsule of tin,
My heart lay dead in my breast.
Methought I was prisoned a long sad winter,
A sick man kept in a darkened chamber;
And now I suddenly leave it,
And outside meets me the dazzling Spring,
Tenderly verdant and sun-awakened;
And rustling trees shed snowy petals,
And tender young flowers gaze on me
With their bright fragrant eyes,
And the air is full of laughter and gladness,
And rich with the breath of blossoms,
And in the blue sky the birds are singing—
Oh, my brave Anabasis-heart!
How often, ah! how sadly often
Wast thou pressed hard by the North’s fair Barbarians!
From large and conquering eyes
They shot forth burning arrows;
With crooked words as sharp as a rapier
They threatened to pierce my bosom;
With cuneiform angular missives they battered
My poor stunned brains;
In vain I held out my shield for protection,
The arrows hissed and the blows rained down,
And hard pressed I was pushed to the sea
By the North’s fair Barbarians—
And, breathing freely, I greet the sea,
The sea my deliverer, the sea my friend—
[Illustration: PLAY OF THE WAVES From the Painting by Arnold Boecklin]
* * * * *
Happy is he who hath reached the safe
Leaving behind him the stormy wild ocean,
And now sits cosy and warm
In the good old Town-Cellar of Bremen.
How sweet and homelike the world is reflected,
In the chalice green of Rhinewine Rummer.
And how the dancing microcosm
Sunnily glides down the thirsty throat!
Everything I behold in the glass—
History, old and new, of the nations,
Both Turks and Greeks, and Hegel and Gans,
Forests of citron and big reviews,
Berlin and Shilda, and Tunis and Hamburg;
But, above all, thy image, Beloved,
And thy dear little head on a gold-ground of Rhenish!