Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Ride to the Hartz in Winter

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.

Harz Mountains

Ride to the Hartz in Winter

By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)

Translated by J. S. Dwight

FREE as the hawk,

Which, on yon dark morning cloud-pile

With soft-spread pinion resting,

Looks out for prey,

Float my loose song!

Sure a God hath

Unto each his path


Which the fortunate

Swift to happiest

Goal pursues:

But whom misfortune

Hath frozen to the heart,

He frets him vainly

Against the restraint of

The wire-woven cord, which

Soon shall the bitter scissors

Snap once for all.

To gloomy thicket

Rushes the reindeer wild,

And with the sparrows have

Long ago the rich folks

Into their swamps for shelter sunk.

Easy to follow the chariot,

When ’t is Fortune drives,

Just as the lumbering cart

Over the hard, smooth road rolls

After a monarch’s march.

But aside who fareth?

In the woods he loses his path;

Swiftly behind him

The boughs fly together,

The grass stands up again,

The desert o’erwhelms him.

Ah! but who healeth the pangs of

Him, whose balm becomes poison?

Who but hate for man

From the fulness of love hath drunk?

First despised, and now a despiser,

Wastes he secretly

All his own best worth,

Brooding over himself.

Is there on thy psalter,

Father of love, one tone

Which his ear would welcome?

O, then, quicken his heart!

Open his beclouded look

Over the thousand fountains

All round him thirsting there

In the desert.

Thou, who on each bestowest

Joys, a superabundant share,

Bless the brothers of the chase,

Out on track of wild beasts

With danger-loving zeal of youth,

Eager to take life,

Late avengers of mischief,

Which for years hath defied the

Farmer’s threatening cudgel.

But the lone wanderer wrap

In thy golden cloud-fleeces;

And wreathe with evergreen,

Till the summer roses be blowing,

The dripping ringlets,

O Love, of this thy poet!

With thy flickering torch thou

Lightest him on

Through the fords, in the night,

Over treacherous footing

On desolate commons.

With the thousand tints of the morn, thou

Smil’st to his heart so!

With the bitter cold blast

Bear’st him gloriously up.

Winter torrents down from the rocks roll

Into his anthems.

An altar of cheerfulest thanks

Seems to him the terrible summit’s

Snow-hung, hoary crown,

Wreathed with rows of pale sprites

By the marvellous people.

Thou stand’st, with unexplored bosom

Mysteriously prominent,

Over the astonished world,

And look’st from the clouds there

Down on its riches and majesty,

Which thou from the veins of these thy brothers

Bound thee here waterest.