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Novalis - Hymns to the Night 4

Identifier

012617

Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

Novalis - Hymns to the Night

In ancient times, over the widespread families of men an iron Fate ruled with dumb force. A gloomy oppression swathed their heavy souls -- the earth was boundless -- the abode of the gods and their home. From eternal ages stood its mysterious structure. Beyond the red hills of the morning, in the sacred bosom of the sea, dwelt the sun, the all-enkindling, living Light. An aged giant upbore the blissful world. Fast beneath mountains lay the first-born sons of mother Earth. Helpless in their destroying fury against the new, glorious race of gods, and their kindred, glad-hearted men. The ocean's dark green abyss was the lap of a goddess. In crystal grottos revelled a luxuriant folk. Rivers, trees, flowers, and beasts had human wits. Sweeter tasted the wine -- poured out by Youth-abundance -- a god in the grape-clusters -- a loving, motherly goddess upgrew in the full golden sheaves -- love's sacred inebriation was a sweet worship of the fairest of the god-ladies -- Life rustled through the centuries like one spring-time, an ever-variegated festival of heaven-children and earth-dwellers. All races childlike adored the ethereal, thousand-fold flame as the one sublimest thing in the world.

There was but one notion, a horrible dream-shape --

That fearsome to the merry tables strode,
A wrapt the spirit there in wild fright.
The gods themselves no counsel knew nor showed
To fill the anxious hearts with comfort light.
Mysterious was the monster's pathless road,
Whose rage no prayer nor tribute could requite;
'Twas Death who broke the banquet up with fears,
With anguish, dire pain, and bitter tears.

Eternally from all things here disparted
That sway the heart with pleasure's joyous flow,
Divided from the loved ones who've departed,
Tossed by longing vain, unceasing woe --
In a dull dream to struggle, faint and thwarted,
Seemed all was granted to the dead below.
Broke lay the merry wave of human bliss
On Death's inevitable, rocky cliff.

With daring spirit and a passion deep,
Did man ameliorate the horrid blight,
A gentle youth puts out his torch, to sleep --
The end, just like a harp's sigh, comes light.
Cool shadow-floods o'er melting memory creep,
So sang the song, into its sorry need.
Still undeciphered lay the endless Night --
The solemn symbol of a far-off might.

The old world began to decline. The pleasure-garden of the young race withered away -- up into more open, desolate regions, forsaking his childhood, struggled the growing man. The gods vanished with their retinue -- Nature stood alone and lifeless. Dry Number and rigid Measure bound it with iron chains. Into dust and air the priceless blossoms of life fell away in words obscure. Gone was wonder-working Faith, and its all-transforming, all-uniting angel-comrade, the Imagination. A cold north wind blew unkindly over the rigid plain, and the rigid wonderland first froze, then evaporated into ether. The far depths of heaven filled with glowing worlds. Into the deeper sanctuary, into the more exalted region of feeling, the soul of the world retired with all its earthly powers, there to rule until the dawn should break of universal Glory. No longer was the Light the abode of the gods, and the heavenly token of their presence -- they drew over themselves the veil of the Night. The Night became the mighty womb of revelations -- into it the gods went back -- and fell asleep, to go abroad in new and more glorious shapes over the transfigured world.

The source of the experience

Novalis

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities