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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Adam and his Mother

By Frederik Paludan-Müller (1809–1876)

From ‘Adam Homo’: Translation of J. J., in Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine, 1865

IS it a dream? A dream—ah no, for there

She sits, and fondles him with tender hand,

Her gaze revealing all a mother’s care,

And all a mother’s love,—the twofold band

That, aye unbroken, every wrench can bear,

Until the invalid, at length unmanned

By shame and sorrow, yet supremely blest,

Sank, as in boyhood, on that sacred breast.

“Thou here!—and wherefore?” scarcely words are needed

To solve the secret,—for her watchful eye

Each step of his career had closely heeded,

And through his letters clearly could descry,

Veiled though they were, the dangers he should fly;

So, by affection’s wings upborne she speeded

From the last rites beside a father’s grave,

Her darling’s life and soul alike to save.

“But”—thus she stopped his questions with a smile—

“Spend not thy strength in further words, for rest

Is what thou lackest—so sleep on a while.”

She smoothed his pillow while she spoke, and pressed

Her lips on his in the old childish style,—

Then left him to fulfill her sweet behest,

And take his way through Dreamland’s mazes, folden

In clouds no longer black, but rosy-golden.

O reader, if thou ever hast been near

Destruction’s brink, experience must have taught thee,

When Providence from such dread peril caught thee,

How sweet a thing existence is; how dear

The life to which that friendly arm has brought thee

Back from the verge of death;—I need not fear

But thou wilt know the blessedness that lapped

Our hero’s spirit, thus in slumber wrapped.

For thine own heart has then all gladly tasted

The fairest fruit of time, when from its grave—

Where earthly elements their booty crave—

The new-born soul once more has upward hasted

To heaven, where its wings so worn and wasted

Fresh in immortal life and beauty wave;

When, bird-like, soaring on replumaged pinions,

It suns itself again in God’s dominions.

After earth’s bondage, what emancipation!

After earth’s midnight, what a glorious morn!

After the agonizing aspiration

Breathed for deliverance, lo! the spirit borne

Above its prison-house to contemplation

Of all the former life it led forlorn!

How poor each earthly pleasure in our eyes,

Contrasted with the new-found Paradise!

And from this Paradise a ray descended

Now into Adam’s heart, as by degrees

It gathered something of the ancient ease,

While from the Tree of Life that o’er him bended—

Bough fair as those the eye of boyhood sees

Ere dimmed by manhood’s scales—the fruit extended

Within his grasp he plucked, and found it give

New vigor to his soul, new power to live.

Whole hours beside the window he would sit,

And follow with his gaze along the sky

The clouds that o’er its azure chanced to flit,

Or on the street would mark the passer-by.

The world lay fresh before him, and from it

He drew enjoyment, as in infancy;

If but at night a neighbor’s lamp were gleaming,

With childlike interest he watched it beaming.

For all creation now appeared quite other

Than it to him had ever been before;

Men, as of old, were enemies no more,

But taught by love, he saw in each a brother;

Like music from some far celestial shore

Thrilled through his soul the accents of his mother;

Till at their tones the spectres of the past

Fell back, and melted in thin air at last.

He saw each arrow aimed against his weal

Glance harmless by when her embrace was round him,

And that sweet voice of hers would fondly steal

Into his soul, and break the spell that bound him:

So, step by step, the state in which she found him

Changed for the better; he began to feel,

To speak, to act anew, and from their tomb

Youth’s blasted hopes commenced again to bloom.

At day’s declining, often arm in arm

They paced the floor, and then the son confessed

Old sins and errors, while the mother pressed

Kind lessons home to him in accents warm.

She plied religion, not to strike alarm

Into his heart, but rather yield him rest;

And only strove to gently heal the spirit

Too long in strange and sickly torpor buried.

But when the lamp was lit at eventide,

Before the harpsichord she sat, and swept

Its keys to songs whose spirit-echoes kept

The listener fettered to the player’s side;

Or else their voices would accordant glide

Into sweet childlike duets, strains that wept

And smiled by turns through all their varied plan,—

So thus one night the twofold music ran:—

World! for aye from me depart!

And thy joys to others offer;

Fairer flowers than thou canst proffer

Blossom now within my heart.

All thy roses, beauty-molded,

When I plucked them, faded fast,

And the thorn each leaf enfolded

Into me in torture passed.

Winter overwhelmed my soul;

In its icy grasp I shivered;

Aspen-like I bent and quivered

When I heard its tempests roll.

Then to dust in anguish smitten

Sank the brow I bore so high,—

On it branded, lightning-written,

That dread sentence, “Thou must die.”

Hope renews its blossoms fair,

As the spring-blooms earth are covering,

While the joyous birds are hovering

In the odor-laden air.

At the moment they were praising

All that richest life of May,

I my soul was also raising

From the dust in which it lay.

In solitude how droops the soul!

A branch dissevered from the bole,

And tossed aside to perish;

It is the spirit’s vital breath,

In sun and storm, in life and death,

All-clasping love to cherish.

The bees from flower to flower that roam,—

I saw them, when they wandered home,

Construct their cells in union;

The ants beneath the hillocks, too,

Are bound by harmony as true,

And labor in communion.

In heaven’s vault I also saw

The stars fulfill eternal law

Accordant with each other;

Not for themselves alone they shine,

But every orb by rule divine

Irradiates his brother.

Be thine that starlike brother-mind!

To God and man thy spirit bind

In earthly joy and sorrow;

Then on His people here below

Will burst ere long in golden glow

His own celestial morrow!

In grove and glen, on hill and lea,

Each blade of grass, each stately tree,

Alike for dew is calling;

No freshness fills the summer air,

No blessed influence is there,

Without the dew-bath falling.

But vapors gather thick and fast,

Until the azure sky at last

In darkness is enshrouded;

Then breaks the tempest in its force,

And lightnings take their lurid course

Athwart the zenith clouded.

O morning prayer, the soul’s sweet dew!

Thou canst alone its power renew,

And free it from its sadness;

Upwafted by our souls on high,

And homewards sent with God’s reply,

That breathes celestial gladness.

Then trust no more the joys of earth!

So soon succeeded by the dearth

Of all that cheers and blesses;

Drenched with the dew that heaven bestows,

Will bloom and blossom like a rose

The spirit’s wildernesses.

Oft our hopes are doomed to die in sorrow,

Oft our seed-time knows no harvest-morrow,

What the worm has spared the storms destroy;

Vainly looking earthward for assistance,

Man drags on the burden of existence,

Left—how early!—by his dream of joy.

Whence, then, comfort in our time of anguish?

Skyward lift the eyes that droop and languish;

God alone gives consolation birth;

Deep in him the well of life is streaming,

Well of blessedness, forever teeming,

Vast enough for heaven and for earth.

Soon shall dawn the festal morn resplendent,

When the fullness of the Lord transcendent

Pours itself in rivers all abroad;

Then shall every fount of joy be springing,

Every soul be hallelujahs singing,

High and lowly, bathed alike in God!