by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
translated by George Madison
Ye wavering forms draw near again as ever
When ye long since moved past my clouded eyes.
To hold you fast, shall I this time endeavour?
Still does my heart that strange illusion prize?
Ye crowd on me! 'Tis well! Your might assever
While ye from mist and murk around me rise.
As in my youth my heart again is bounding,
Thrilled by the magic breath your train surrounding.
Ye bring with you glad days and happy faces.
Ah, many dear, dear shades arise with you;
Like some old tale that Time but half erases,
First Love draws near to me and Friendship too.
The pain returns, the sad lament retraces
Life's labyrinthine, erring course anew
And names the good souls who, by Fortune cheated
Of lovely hours, forth from my world have fleeted.
They do not hear the melodies I'm singing,
The souls to whom my earliest lays I sang;
Dispersed that throng who once to me were clinging,
The echo's died away that one time rang.
Now midst an unknown crowd my grief is ringing,
Their very praise but gives my heart a pang,
While those who once my song enjoyed and flattered,
If still they live, roam through the wide world scattered.
And I am seized with long-unwonted yearning
Toward yonder realm of spirits grave and still.
My plaintive song's uncertain tones are turning
To harps aeolian murmuring at will.
Awe binds me fast; tear upon tear falls burning,
My stern heart feels a gentle, tender thrill;
What I possess, as if far off I'm seeing,
And what has vanished, now comes into being.