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

The Choirs

By Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803)

Translation of William Taylor

DEAR dream which I must ne’er behold fulfilled,

Thou beamy form, more fair than orient day,

Float back, and hover yet

Before my swimming sight!

Do they wear crowns in vain, that they forbear

To realize the heavenly portraiture?

Shall marble hearse them all,

Ere the bright change be wrought?

Hail, chosen ruler of a freer world!

For thee shall bloom the never-fading song,

Who bidd’st it be,—to thee

Religion’s honors rise.

Yes! could the grave allow, of thee I’d sing:

For once would inspiration string the lyre,—

The streaming tide of joy,

My pledge for loftier verse.

Great is thy deed, my wish. He has not known

What ’tis to melt in bliss, who never felt

Devotion’s raptures rise

On sacred Music’s wing;

Ne’er sweetly trembled, when adoring choirs

Mingle their hallowed songs of solemn praise,

And at each awful pause

The unseen choirs above.

Long float around my forehead, blissful dream!

I hear a Christian people hymn their God,

And thousands kneel at once,

Jehovah, Lord, to thee!

The people sing their Savior, sing the Son;

Their simple song according with the heart,

Yet lofty, such as lifts

The aspiring soul from earth.

On the raised eyelash, on the burning cheek,

The young tear quivers; for they view the goal,

Where shines the golden crown,

Where angels wave the palm.

Hush! the clear song wells forth. Now flows along

Music, as if poured artless from the breast;

For so the Master willed

To lead its channeled course.

Deep, strong, it seizes on the swelling heart,

Scorning what knows not to call down the tear,

Or shroud the soul in gloom

Or steep in holy awe.

Borne on the deep, slow sounds, a holy awe

Descends. Alternate voices sweep the dome,

Then blend their choral force,—

The theme, Impending Doom;

Or the triumphal Hail to Him who rose,

While all the host of heaven o’er Sion’s hill

Hovered, and praising saw

Ascend the Lord of Life.

One voice alone, one harp alone, begins;

But soon joins in the ever fuller choir.

The people quake. They feel

A glow of heavenly fire.

Joy, joy! they scarce support it. Rolls aloud

The organ’s thunder,—now more loud and more,—

And to the shout of all

The temple trembles too.

Enough! I sink! The wave of people bows

Before the altar,—bows the front to earth;

They taste the hallowed cup,

Devoutly, deeply, still.

One day, when rest my bones beside a fane,

Where thus assembled worshipers adore,

The conscious grave shall heave,

Its flowerets sweeter bloom;

And on the morn that from the rock He sprang,

When panting Praise pursues his way,

I’ll hear—He rose again

Vibrating through the tomb.