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To Charlotte Von Stein

  • Contest: Love Poetry
  • Author: Goethe
  • Fate, why did you grant us this depth
    Of insightful vision into our future,
    So that our love, earthly happiness,
    Is a thing we can trust in happily never?
    Why did you grant us such intuition,
    Such power to know each other’s heart,
    To see, among life’s scattered throng,
    The true relationship where we are?

    Oh, many thousands of us drift dumbly
    Through life, our hearts scarcely known,
    Floating here and there, and aimlessly
    Fleeing unexpected pain, without hope:
    Rejoicing again, at the unexpected
    Morning radiance of swift delight:
    Only we two, love-filled, wretched
    Souls are denied that mutual light
    Of loving without knowing one another,
    Of seeing in each what each never was,
    Setting out anew towards the Dream Lover,
    Faltering at phantom Danger’s course.
  • Happy those an empty dream preoccupies,
    Happy those whose presentiments prove vain!
    Our every meeting, every mutual sight
    Sadly confirms our presentiments, our dream.
    Tell me, what does Fate intend for us?
    Say, how it bound us so strictly, purely?
    Oh, in some far off time you must
    Have been my wife, been a sister to me.

    You knew every feature of my being,
    Saw the purest tremor of each nerve,
    With a single glance you could read me,
    Hard as I am for mortal eye to pierce:
    You brought calm to my heated blood,
    Guiding my wild and wandering course,
    And in your arms, an angel’s arms, I could
    Rest as my ravaged heart was restored.
    You bound your lover fast with magic ease,
    And made many a day pass gloriously.
    What happiness could compare with these
    Hours of rapture, thankful at your feet,
    Feeling his heart flow towards your heart,
    Feeling himself virtuous in your sight,
    All his senses brightened by your art,
    The raging blood in his veins grown quiet?

    And, of all of that, but a drifting memory
    Is left, round his uncertain heart again.
    He feels the old truth within, eternally,
    While this new state only brings him pain.
    And we seem to ourselves only half alive,
    The brightest day is twilight all around.
    Happy are we that Fate torments our lives,
    Yet can change nothing of what we found.

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