Parables And Riddles Poem by Friedrich Schiller

Parables And Riddles

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A bridge of pearls its form uprears
High o'er a gray and misty sea;
E'en in a moment it appears,
And rises upwards giddily.

Beneath its arch can find a road
The loftiest vessel's mast most high,
Itself hath never borne a load,
And seems, when thou draw'st near, to fly.

It comes first with the stream, and goes
Soon as the watery flood is dried.
Where may be found this bridge, disclose,
And who its beauteous form supplied!


It bears thee many a mile away,
And yet its place it changes ne'er;
It has no pinions to display,
And yet conducts thee through the air.

It is the bark of swiftest motion
That every weary wanderer bore;
With speed of thought the greatest ocean
It carries thee in safety o'er;
One moment wafts thee to the shore.


Upon a spacious meadow play
Thousands of sheep, of silvery hue;
And as we see them move to-day,
The man most aged saw them too.

They ne'er grow old, and, from a rill
That never dries, their life is drawn;
A shepherd watches o'er them still,
With curved and beauteous silver horn.

He drives them out through gates of gold,
And every night their number counts;
Yet ne'er has lost, of all his fold,
One lamb, though oft that path he mounts.

A hound attends him faithfully,
A nimble ram precedes the way;
Canst thou point out that flock to me,
And who the shepherd, canst thou say?


There stands a dwelling, vast and tall,
On unseen columns fair;
No wanderer treads or leaves its hall,
And none can linger there.

Its wondrous structure first was planned
With art no mortal knows;
It lights the lamps with its own hand
'Mongst which it brightly glows.

It has a roof, as crystal bright,
Formed of one gem of dazzling light;
Yet mortal eye has ne'er
Seen Him who placed it there.


Within a well two buckets lie,
One mounts, and one descends;
When one is full, and rises high,
The other downward wends.

They wander ever to and fro--
Now empty are, now overflow.
If to the mouth thou liftest this,
That hangs within the dark abyss.
In the same moment they can ne'er
Refresh thee with their treasures fair.


Know'st thou the form on tender ground?
It gives itself its glow, its light;
And though each moment changing found.
Is ever whole and ever bright.
In narrow compass 'tis confined,
Within the smallest frame it lies;
Yet all things great that move thy mind,
That form alone to thee supplies.

And canst thou, too, the crystal name?
No gem can equal it in worth;
It gleams, yet kindles near to flame,
It sucks in even all the earth.
Within its bright and wondrous ring
Is pictured forth the glow of heaven,
And yet it mirrors back each thing
Far fairer than to it 'twas given.


For ages an edifice here has been found,
It is not a dwelling, it is not a Pane;
A horseman for hundreds of days may ride round,
Yet the end of his journey he ne'er can attain.

Full many a century o'er it has passed,
The might of the storm and of time it defies!
Neath the rainbow of Heaven stands free to the last,--
In the ocean it dips, and soars up to the skies.

It was not vain glory that bade its erection,
It serves as a refuge, a shield, a protection;
Its like on the earth never yet has been known
And yet by man's hand it is fashioned alone.


Among all serpents there is one,
Born of no earthly breed;
In fury wild it stands alone,
And in its matchless speed.

With fearful voice and headlong force
It rushes on its prey,
And sweeps the rider and his horse
In one fell swoop away.

The highest point it loves to gain;
And neither bar nor lock
Its fiery onslaught can restrain;
And arms--invite its shock.

It tears in twain like tender grass,
The strongest forest-trees;
It grinds to dust the hardened brass,
Though stout and firm it be.

And yet this beast, that none can tame,
Its threat ne'er twice fulfils;
It dies in its self-kindled flame.
And dies e'en when it kills.


We children six our being had
From a most strange and wondrous pair,--
Our mother ever grave and sad,
Our father ever free from care.

Our virtues we from both receive,--
Meekness from her, from him our light;
And so in endless youth we weave
Round thee a circling figure bright.

We ever shun the caverns black,
And revel in the glowing day;
'Tis we who light the world's dark track,
With our life's clear and magic ray.

Spring's joyful harbingers are we,
And her inspiring streams we swell;
And so the house of death we flee,
For life alone must round us dwell.

Without us is no perfect bliss,
When man is glad, we, too, attend,
And when a monarch worshipped is,
To him our majesty attend.


What is the thing esteemed by few?
The monarch's hand it decks with pride,
Yet it is made to injure too,
And to the sword is most allied.

No blood it sheds, yet many a wound
Inflicts,--gives wealth, yet takes from none;
Has vanquished e'en the earth's wide round,
And makes life's current smoothly run.

The greatest kingdoms it has framed,
The oldest cities reared from dust,
Yet war's fierce torch has ne'er inflamed;
Happy are they who in it trust!


I live within a dwelling of stone,
There buried in slumber I dally;
Yet, armed with a weapon of iron alone,
The foe to encounter I sally.
At first I'm invisible, feeble, and mean,
And o'er me thy breath has dominion;
I'm easily drowned in a raindrop e'en,
Yet in victory waxes my pinion.
When my sister, all-powerful, gives me her hand,
To the terrible lord of the world I expand.


Upon a disk my course I trace,
There restlessly forever flit;
Small is the circuit I embrace,
Two hands suffice to cover it.
Yet ere that field I traverse, I
Full many a thousand mile must go,
E'en though with tempest-speed I fly,
Swifter than arrow from a bow.


A bird it is, whose rapid motion
With eagle's flight divides the air;
A fish it is, and parts the ocean,
That bore a greater monster ne'er;
An elephant it is, whose rider
On his broad back a tower has put:
'Tis like the reptile base, the spider,
Whenever it extends its foot;
And when, with iron tooth projecting,
It seeks its own life-blood to drain,
On footing firm, itself erecting,
It braves the raging hurricane.

Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller

Marbach, Württemberg
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