Verner von Heidenstam.

Sweden's laureate: selected poems of Verner von Heidenstam online

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Online LibraryVerner von HeidenstamSweden's laureate: selected poems of Verner von Heidenstam → online text (page 4 of 6)
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I scanned the world through printed symbol swart,
And through the beggar's rags I strove to see
The inner man. I looked unceasingly
With my cold mind and with my burning heart.
Time's war-cry in the din I could betoken.
In wrath I gripped my charcoal with the will

To make it glow; I tried my utmost skill, Happy

A foot I drew, a heel — with that 'twas broken. Artists

Paris I wept not for, but jealous, lonely,
I bade farewell to that gay artist set,
Who with small genius of the soul had yet
A genius gathered in the eye-sight only.




Immortal Finished, in Paestum's rose-embowering garden,

Stood Neptune's temple, and the man who planned
Sat near. His young wife, on his shoulder leaning,
Spun with the yellow distaff in her hand.
She listened to the piping of the herdsmen
Who tended on the hills their droves of swine,
And with an almost childish joy she murmured,
Twisting the flax about her fingers fine :
"My cup of happiness is filled to brimming.
The man who brings me home to Naxos' strand,
Now he has built yon glorious Neptune temple.
Returns, immortal, to his native land."

Then solemnly her husband answered her:

"No, when we die, our name will pass away

A few years after, but yon temple there

Will still be standing as it stands to-day.

Think you an artist in his time of power

Sees in the background multitudes that shout?

Nay, inward, only inward, turns his eye.

And he knows nothing of the world without.

'Tis therefore that the bard would weep hot blood

If he deliver not his pregnant soul ;

But he would kiss each line wherein he sees

His spirit live again, true-born and whole.

'Tis in such lines as these he lives and moves.

He strives for immortality — but mark!

'Tis for his writings, never for himself ;


The man's true reputation is his work. Nameless

What 's Homer? At the very best a myth! and

We seek to clasp a more enduring fame. Immortal

We see the pulses leap on Homer's brow,
For 'Iliad' has become his mighty name."

He rose, as if to go, but suddenly
She caught him by the cloak and held him fast
And murmured, while a hundred smiles dissolved
In the one look that furtively she cast:
"Still on a column there your name is carved.
If this proud vaunt be earnest, as you say,
Take from among the tools there at your feet
The biggest sledge and hew the name away !"

He turned, he shot at her a keen, quick glance,
But when she sat there calmly as before,
Twisting the flax into an even thread
And gazing at the masts along the shore,
He bent him down impulsively and took
The biggest sledge ; his knuckles were distended
And then grew white as wax, so hard he gripped
Upon the haft. The lifted sledge descended.
It scattered sparks from out the column's side,
And at his feet the steps were sprinkled o'er
With rain of pointed shards. From that time forth
The temple bore the artist's name no more.

Then with a cry of joy his young wife sprang
Quickly from flax and distaff to the place,


Nameless And mid the scattered fragments of his fame

and She fell and clasped his knees in her embrace.

Immortal "Ah, now," she cried, "no words can tell my joy,

As we return to Naxos whence we came.

Now is my lord a thousand times more great

And 'Psestum's Temple' is his mighty name!"

So evening fell. A single ship went out
With lowered sail, a Naxos flag had she.
Slowly she rowed far out against the sun
And vanished on the mirror of the sea.

A thousand years and more have passed away,
Leveling Paestum with the verdant plain.
But still the temple stands, and in its shade
The fiddlers wake Arcadian joys again.
The master's name may no man surely know,
But all who see the temple's gleaming height
May see his very soul in yonder form
• ' And share to-day the architect's delight.
He is to me an old beloved friend —
Though far away, I know him in good truth —
A schoolmate, brother, comrade of my youth.



*■' Loneliness'^

The Spark.

There Is a spark dwells deep within my soul.

To get it out into the daylight's glow

Is my life's aim both first and last, the whole.

It slips away, it burns and tortures me.
That little spark is all the wealth I know;
That little spark is my life's misery.


An Elder Day.

In solitude my life-years drift away;
I babble to my dog, I stir my fire.
I do not feel the loss of yesterday,
'Tis hours fled long since that I desire.
When yonder bent and grizzled serving-man
Who brought my supper in was young.
When, children yet, my parents played among
The grasses, ere my life began.


Childhood Scenes.

I've longed for home these eight long years, I know.
I long in sleep as well as through the day.


"Thoughts I long for home, I seek where'er I go —

Ifi Not men-folk, but the fields where I would stray,

Loneliness" '^^^ stones where as a child I used to play.


^ The Shifting Self.

Each night my old self in the grave I lay

And get me another on waking.

With a hundred thoughts I begin the day,

Not one to my slumber-time taking.

'Twixt sorrow and joy I roam without pause ;

I seem like a riddle, none dafter.

But lucky is he who for any cause,

Can burst into tears or laughter.


My Mother.

As years would fade, I often kept returning

To an old empty house, deserted quite,

Its hundred windows burning

With vivid sunset light.

Opening and closing, anxiously I strayed there

From room to room, but found no clocks that swayed

Bright pendulums, nor furniture beneath.
To the last room I came. Displayed there
Upon the wall in withered wreath


A dark, half-ruined picture hung: "Thoughts

A small, old dame in black arrayed, — ;«

A starched cap round her comely features clung. Loneliness"

And yonder woman, silently portrayed

On canvas dark, I saw when I was young,

She prayed my life might have a worthy goal.

And 'twas her picture, when all else was gone,

That still was left me, that alone.

Yon empty dwelling was my soul.



You seek for fame; but I would choose another

And greater blessing: so to be forgotten

That none should hear my name ; no, not my mother.



Now even-song is ringing,

I ride to win me rest.

My steed, let us be springing

Out into the glowing west!

How glad among men my life would be,

Were not "Obey!" our A and Z!

If the world had one mouth like a great black well
And should cry as loud as a booming bell :
"Obey, or in fetters double


"Thoughts Of iron and wood thou shalt straight be bound!"
ifi I hardly should take the trouble

Loneliness" "^^ \o6k up and glance around.

If the Lord of the World from an evening cloud
Should thunder "Obey!" with menacings loud,
I would answer: "Lower your voice, God, pray,
And perhaps I shall hear what you say!"

My steed so strong,

Not yet do I long

For my stuffy home and the stove.

Keep on for an hour, for twain maybe !

And you purchase for me

Two hours of the respite I love.


Helpless Animals.

If I should have a friend, one only friend.
And that friend slew a helpless beast and gave
His hand, to which of late mine warmly clave.
Though I still longed an answering grasp to lend,
My hand with his I never more would blend.

If he lay sick, the friend who had the heart
To slay a helpless beast, and felt the smart
Of thirst, and I was sitting there beside him
On his last night, no drink would I provide him,
But fill and drain my gla§s, and so depart.

XII. "Thoughts

The Trap. in

A ^ . ^ T' 1 • Loneliness"

A cunning trap 1 m laying.

Your love I have truly sought,

But just as you w^ill be saying

Deep down in your inmost thought:

"I'll give the bad man his due then,
My heart that he's begged so long;"
I'll turn my back on you then
And make a merry song.


The Cup.

A mighty cup my sires possessed,
A mighty great pew^ter cup.
My heart is warmed as I fill it up
And lift it on high with a zest.

Then out of the ale sighs an ancient song,
Like torches the strophes flame.
God grant that our children may hear it long
While of us it murmurs the same!



Within my heart of hearts I'm well advised
That I am worst among the men I know of.


"Thoughts Not only friends I mean, but this is so of
lyi All those as well whom I have most despised.


When comes the day when, j'oung and strong for

I may step forth and prove with eager passion
The tithe of greatness in my composition
And for a sacred cause yield up my life?



I've searched half the world over everywhere
For a place that I fairest might call.
So lovely, though, were they all
That none could well be most fair.

Take all that is mine or mine can be,
But leave me my one best gift:
That scenes may delight me, uplift.
Which another scarcely would see.


A Farewell.

You cared for me, and at your behest

I'd have laid my all at your feet.

But late I'd have given the world, my sweet,

For your heart, your lips, your breast.


But luckj' our love, ever hid from sight, "Thoughts

Which bound not for weal or for woe /^j

Till it languished away, till we slew it outright Loneliness"
By faults neither one could forego !

What can be forgotten with years, forget!
Cast me out as a corpse might be cast!
This mournful dream of our love may be yet
A memory of youth at the last.



Too proud am I to see another suffer

A death abhorred

My guilt to ease;

Too tender to look on when Christ should offer

To thorns his forehead —

My thorns are these.

For my life's care, in my heart I hide it.

The sin that I on man and beast have wrought

And against thee, O Nature, be it brought

Upon my life, and let my memory abide it !


Last Prayer.

Quickly my little life will have departed.
To whom then should I pray, if at the last I could,


"Thoughts Lying upon my pillow, heavy-hearted

Ifl For the much ill I'd done and little good?


Shall hopeless prayers be hushed in their up-spring-
Shall I in dumb despair upon my death-bed lie?
Or to deaf Nature's might shall I be flinging
A cry that fades away without reply?

No, but I will pray, lest my spirit harden.

Silent but heart-warm prayers to those of my own

That they forgive my sins as theirs I pardon.
Unto my living fellow-men I'll pray.

F%p,M ''TOe

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Online LibraryVerner von HeidenstamSweden's laureate: selected poems of Verner von Heidenstam → online text (page 4 of 6)