Madison Julius Cawein Poems >>
Der Freischutz

He? why, a tall Franconian strong and young,
 Brown as a walnut the first frost hath hulled;
 A soul of full endeavor powerful
 Bound in lithe limbs, knit into grace and strength
 Of bronze-like muscles elegant, that poised
 A head like Hope's; and then the manly lines
 Of face developed by action and mobile
 To each suggestive impulse of the mind,
 Of smiles of buoyancy or scowls of gloom.--
 And what deep eyes were his!--Aye; I can see
 Their wild and restless disks of luminous night
 Instinct with haughtiness that sneered at Fate,
 Glared cold conclusion to all circumstance,
 As with loud law, to his advantage swift:
 With scorn derisive that shot out a barb,
 Stabbed Superstition to its dagger hilt;
 That smiled a thrust-like smile which curled the lip,
 A vicious heresy with incredible lore,
 When God's or holy Mary's name came forth
 Exclaimed in reverence or astonishment;
 And then would say,
       "What is this God you mouth,
 Employ whose name to sanctify and damn?--
 A benedictive curse?--'T hath past my skill
 Of grave interpretation. And your faith--
 Distinguishment unseen, design unlawed.
 For earth, air, fire or water or keen cold,
 Hints no existence of such, worships not,
 Such as men's minds profess. Rather, meseems,
 Throned have they one such as their hopes have wrought
 In hope there may prove such an one in death
 For Paradise or punishment. I hold
 He juster were and would be kinglier kind
 In sovereign mercy and a prodigal--
 Not to few favored heads who, crowned with state,
 Rule sceptered Infamies--of indulgence free
 To all that burn luxuriant incense on
 Shrines while they prayer him love's obedience.
 Are all not children of the same weak mold?
 Clay of His Adam-modeled clay made quick?
 Endowed with the like hopes, loves, fears and hates,
 Our mother's weaknesses? And these, forsooth,
 These little crowns that lord it o'er His world,
 Tricked up with imitative majesty,
 God-countenanced arrogances, throned may still
 Cry, 'crawl and worship, for we are as gods
 Through God! great gods incarnate of his kind!'
 --Omnipotent Wrong-representatives!
 With might that blasts the world with wars and wrings
 Groans from pale Nations with hell's tyranny.
 So to my mind real monarch only he--
 Your Satan cramped in Hell!--aye, by the fiend!
 To pygmy Earth's frail tinsel majesties,
 That ape a God in a sonorous Heaven.
 Grant me the Devil in all mercy then,
 For I will none of such! a fiend for friend
 While Earth is of the earth; and afterward--
 Nay! ransack not To-morrow till To-day,
 If all that's joy engulf you when it is."
  And laughed an oily laugh of easy jest
 To bow out God and hand the Devil in.--
 I met him here at Ammendorf one Spring,
 Toward the close of April when the Harz,
 Veined to their ruin-crested summits, pulsed
 A fluid life of green and budded gold
 Beneath pure breathing skies of boundless blue:
 Where low-yoked oxen, yellow to the knees,
 Along the fluted meadow, freshly ploughed,
 Plodded and snuffed the fragrance of the soil,
 The free bird sang exultant in the sun.
 Triumphant Spring with hinted hopes of May
 And jaunty June, her mouth a puckered rose.
 Here at this very hostelery o' The Owl;
 Mine host there sleek served cannikins of wine
 Beneath that elm now touseled by that shrew,
 Lean Winter. Well!--a lordly vintage that!
 With tang of fires which had sucked out their soul
 From feverish sun-vats, cooled it from the moon's;
 From wine-skin bellies of the bursting grape
 Trodden, in darkness of old cellars aged
 Even to the tingling smack of olden earth.
 Rich! I remember!--wine that spurred the blood--
 Thou hast none such, I swear, nor wilt again!--
 That brought the heart loud to the generous mouth,
 And made the eyes unlatticed casements whence
 The good man's soul laughed interested out.
 Stoups of rare royal Rhenish, such they say
 As Necromance hides guarded in vast casks
 Of antique make far in the Kyffh