Life and the Ideal
Friedrich Schiller, 1796
Clear horizon and mirror perfect sky
Life sails us along on the zephyr's sigh
To Olympus where the blessed ones stay.
As moon cycles pass and men meet their doom
Your eternal rose continues to bloom
Unchanged amid perpetual decay.
Enrich your soul or surrender to fate
Humanity must make its selection
Iridescent rays lead to heaven's gate
Turn your head to the stars for direction.
Imitate the gods if you desire
Believe yourself free of death's empire
But don't trample the fruit of the garden.
Graze too long on the godly delusion
You will find that at pleasure's conclusion
Nature's revenge will offer no pardon.
Not even the Styx, flowing nine times round
Prevents Persephone's earthly arrival
Each Spring life grows back on dead winter ground
Nature wills her continued survival.
Oh, ironic fate, bound to Nature's realm
Corporeal forces direct the helm
But the eternal spark reaches beyond.
Seeking out the corridors of light
Unfettered by nature it soars to flight
To be godly as were the divine ones anon.
Do you wish to fly high upon these wings
To escape a world that is all too real
Cast aside your fears of worldly things
Come and join me in the realm of the Ideal!
Freed from the earthly pigments, once again young
Feel the purifying rays of the sun
Above man finds his godly counterpart.
The voiceless phantom who resided below
Becomes transformed in the Stygian flow
And stands before the heavenly rampart.
But the gods will not yield without a fight
They taunt you with your own mortality
Face your own mortal fear then summon your might
Strength of conviction brings victory.
Fail in this battle to divide their ranks
Give them a chance to fortify their ranks
You lose, they win the victor's shabby crown.
You must temper the forces of human urge
Which condemn us to the tidal flood's surge
Into the whirlpool funnel we spin, we drown.
Into the pit of deepest depression
The intrepid wings of courage descend
One brief moment of spirit's ascension
Follows us as we spiral to our end.
Is it worth it to protect, to defend
To fight the mighty warrior to the end
To what end - worldly riches, vainglory?
Hence bravery is destroyed by power
Like the wagon wheel crushing the flower
Just another defeated hero's story.
Brazen courage brings fortune and fame
To the charioteer who seeks the prize
The stronger man gains history's acclaim
While the underdog dies before our eyes.
A barrier reef insulates a place
From the turbulent rage of the sea's place
Smooth and steady flows the river of life.
Passing through beauty's silent shadowland
Waves tipped with silver caress the shoreline sand
It is a world beyond all human strife.
The evening star and the goddess of the dawn
Stand united in the free bond of grace
Temporal limits negated and gone
In a tender maternal embrace.
If the dead aspire to creation
To reshape themselves with imagination
The activities of genius ignite.
Nerve pathways open, consciousness expands
The body obeys the spirit's commands
Human thought can freely seek out the light.
Persistence of effort is needed
The inner truth of nature is concealed
Heavy blows of the chisel are wielded
Before the marble statue is revealed.
Explore the nature of earthly suppression
Remold the dust and give it direction
Elevate it to the aesthetic spheres.
Suffering transformed, contentment attained
The Garden of Eden will be regained
From nothingness the image appears.
Mortal doubt, human struggle find repose
When sublimated in art's creation
March's thorny bush produces June's rose
Bringing the weary soul's liberation.
The condemning forces of tragic flaws
The enormity of natural laws
Fade when exposed to the truth's cleansing ray.
Absolved, redeemed, virtuously we bask
Ready to take up the holiest task
Pursuit of the Ideal glides us away.
There's no bridge to walk, no boat in sight
The expanse too deep, too long, too wide
To cross the abyss you must take to flight
Strap on wings and soar to the other side.
Self-imposed limits of the senses flee
Once the spirit is allowed to fly free
The illusion of fear is negated.
The eternal abyss begins to fill
Due to our defiance, due to our will
We are now to the divine related.
The heavy chains which binds us to our fear
Continue to enslave humanity
Examine, confront, make them disapppear
Let's take on the god's immortality.
When mankind clothes himself with compassion
When Apollo's priest springs into action
The serpent of abyssmal pain departs.
Then may humaity raise itself high!
Let the heavens thunder a mournful cry
They can never destroy our feeling hearts.
The awesome power of nature singing
The heavens shaken by an earthly chorus
No longer to the immortals clinging
The eternal spark igniting in us.
In the world of artistic creation
Pure form resides within sublimation
And the destructive storm rages no more.
Pain cannot devour the human soul
Or torrents of tears blind us to our goal
Courageous resistance has won the war.
Filling the brush with our own palette hues
We give the sky an iridescent glow
Repaint the gray storm clouds with sun-lit blues
Over the absyss we paint a rainbow.
Deeply hidden in the cavernous snare
The coward suffered infernal despair
Until the hero offered salvation.
Hercules championed the mortal cause
Wrestled the lion, took him by the jaws
To save his friends from death's damnation.
The goddess of discord composed the waltz
So freely we dance to the tune of hatred
Consciously we must perceive our own faults
And proceed to the realm of the sacred.
We're not ready yet to join the divine
The eternal spark we need to refine
Before we can sip the heavenly drink.
Man must free himself from his earthly plights
So he can soar to unaccustomed heights
As night terrors into nothingness sink.
The gates of Olympus will open wide
The gods will welcome us into the palace
A pink cheeked goddess will await inside
Smiling as she offers us the chalice.