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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Introductory to Greece

The Gods of Greece

By Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)

Translated by E. A. Bowring

WHILST the smiling earth ye governed still,

And with rapture’s soft and guiding hand

Led the happy nations at your will,

Beauteous beings from the fable-land!

Whilst your blissful worship smiled around,

Ah! how different was it in that day!

When the people still thy temples crowned,

Venus Amathusia!

When the magic veil of poesy

Still round truth entwined its loving chain,—

Through creation poured life’s fulness free,

Things then felt, which ne’er can feel again.

Then to press her ’gainst the breast of love,

They on Nature nobler power bestowed,

All, to eyes enlightened from above,

Of a god the traces showed.

There, where now, as we ’re by sages told,

Whirls on high a soulless fiery ball,

Helios guided then his car of gold,

In his silent majesty, o’er all.

Oreads then these heights around us filled,

Then a dryad dwelt in yonder tree,

From the urn of loving naiads rilled

Silver streamlets foamingly.

Yonder Laurel once imploring wound,

Tantal’s daughter slumbers in this stone;

From yon rush rose Syrinx’ mournful sound,

From this thicket Philomela’s moan.

Yonder brook Demeter’s tears received,

That she wept for her Persephone,

From this hill, of her loved friend bereaved,

Cried Cythera, fruitlessly!

To Deucalion’s race from realms of air

Then the great Immortals still came down;

And to vanquish Pyrrha’s daughter fair,

Then a shepherd’s staff took Leto’s son.

Then ’tween heroes, deities, and men

Was a beauteous bond by Eros twined,

And with deities and heroes then

Knelt in Cyprus’ Isle mankind.

Gloomy sternness and denial sad

Ne’er were in your service blest descried;

Each heart throbbed then with emotions glad,

For the happy were with you allied.

Nothing then was holy, save the fair;

Of no rapture was the god ashamed,

When the modest Muse was blushing there,

When their sway the Graces claimed!

Palace-like, then smiled your temples all,

Ye were honored in the hero-sport

At the isthmus’ crown-clad festival,

And the goal the thundering chariots sought.

Beauteous dances that a spirit breathed

Circled round your altars bright and fair;

Round your brows the crown of triumph wreathed,

Garlands graced your fragrant hair.

Thyrsus-swingers’ loud Evoë then,

And the panther-team that shone afar,

Welcomed him who rapture brought to men;

Fauns and Satyrs reeled before his car!

Round him sprang the Mænads’ raving crew,

While their dances showed his wine’s great worth,

And the host’s full cheeks of tawny hue

Pointed to the cup with mirth.

In those days before the bed of death

Stood no ghastly form. Then took away

From the lips a kiss the parting breath,

And a genius quenched his torch’s ray.

Even Orcus’ rigid judgment scales

By a mortal’s offspring once were held,

And the Thracian’s spirit-breathing wails

E’en the angry Furies quelled.

Once again within Elysium’s grove

Met the happy shade his joys so dear;

Lover faithful found his faithful love,

And his path regained the charioteer;

Linus’ lute gave back each wonted strain,

Admet clasped Alcestis to his heart,

And Orestes found his friend again,

Philoctetes found his dart.

Nobler prizes then the wrestler crowned,

Who the arduous path of virtue pressed;

Glorious workers then of deeds renowned

Clambered up to join the spirits blest.

All the band of silent gods the while

Bowed to him who summoned back the dead;

From Olympus’ height the twin-stars’ smile

O’er the waves the pilot led.

Beauteous world, where art thou gone? O, thou,

Nature’s blooming youth, return once more!

Ah, but in song’s fairy region now

Lives thy fabled trace so dear of yore!

Cold and perished, sorrow now the plains,

Not one godhead greets my longing sight;

Ah, the shadow only now remains

Of yon living image bright!