Metrical Translations of Corinne’s Odes in Madame de Staël’s Corinne, or Italy/The Last Song of Corinne

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Take ye my solemn farewell! O, my friends,
Already night is darkening on my eyes;—
But is not Heaven most beautiful by night?
Thousands of stars shine in the kindling sky,
Which is an azure desert during day.
Thus do the gathering of eternal shades
Reveal innumerable thoughts, half lost
In the full daylight of prosperity.
But weaken'd is the voice which might instruct;
The soul retires within itself, and seeks
To gather round itself its failing fire.

    From my first days of youth, my inward hope
Was to do honour to the Roman name;
That name at which the startled heart yet beats.
Ye have allow'd me fame, O generous land!
Ye banished not a woman from the shrine!
Ye do not sacrifice immortal gifts
To passing jealousies. Ye who still yield
Applause to Genius in its daring flight;
Victor without the vanquished,—Conqueror,
Yet without spoil;—who, from eternity,
Draws riches for all time.

    Nature and Life! with what deep confidence
Ye did inspire me. I deem'd all grief arose
For what we did not feel, or think enough:
And that we might, even on this our earth,
Beforehand taste that heavenly happiness,
Which is—but length in our enthusiasm,
But constancy in love.

    No, I repent it not, this generous faith;
No—that caused not the bitter tears I've shed,
Watering the dust which doth await me now.
I had accomplish'd all my destiny—
I had been worthy all the gifts of Heaven,
If I had only vow'd my sounding lyre
To celebrate that goodness all divine,
Made manifest throughout the universe.

    And thou, my God!—Oh, thou wilt not reject
The offering of the mind; for poetry,
Its homage is religious, and the wings
Of thought but serve to draw more near to thee.

    Religion has no limits, and no bonds;—
The vast, the infinite, and the eternal,
Never from her may Genius separate.
Imagination from its earliest flight,
Past o'er the bounds of life: and the sublime
Is the reflection of divinity.

    Alas! my God, had I loved only thee; *[1]
If I had raised my head aloft in heaven—
From passionate affections shelter'd there,
I had not now been crush'd before my time—
Phantoms had not displaced my brilliant dreams
Unhappy one, if yet my genius lives,
I only know it by my strength of grief:
Under the features of an enemy
I recognise it now.

    Farewell, my birthplace! farewell, my own land!
Farewell, remembrances of infancy,
Farewell! Ah, what have ye to do with death?
And ye who in my writings may have found
Feelings, whose echo was within your soul,
Oh, friends of mine—where'er ye be—farewell!
Corinne has suffer'd much,—but suffer’d not
In an unworthy cause: she has not lost
At least her claim on pity.

    Beautiful Italy! it is in vain
To promise me your loveliness; my heart
Is worn and wasted; what can ye avail?
Would ye revive my hopes, to edge my griefs?
Would ye recall my happiness, and thus
Make me revolt against my fate?

    Meekly I do submit myself. Oh, ye
Who may survive me,— when the spring returns,
Remember how I loved its loveliness!
How oft I sung its perfume and its air.
I pray you sometimes to recall a line
From out my songs—my soul is written there:
But fatal Muses, love and misery,
Taught my best poetry.

    When the designs of mighty Providence
Are work'd in me, internal music marks
The coming of the angel of the grave:
Nor fearful, nor yet terrible, he spreads
His white wings; and, though compass’d by night,
A thousand omens tell of his approach.

    If the wind murmurs, then they seem to hear
His voice; and when night falls, the shadows round
Seem the dark foldings of his sweeping robe.
At noon, when life sees only the clear sky,
Feels only the bright sun, the fated one
Whom Death hath called, upon the distance marks
The heavy shade so soon to shroud
All nature from their eyes.

    Youth, hope, emotions of the heart—ye all
Are now no more. Far from me—vain regrets;
If I can yet obtain some falling tears,
If I can yet believe myself beloved,
It is because I am about to die.
Could I recall my fleeting life,—that life,
Soon would it turn upon me all its stings.

    And Rome! Rome, where my ashes will be borne!
Thou who hast seen so many die, forgive,
If, with a trembling step, I join the shades,
The multitude of your illustrious dead!
Forgive me for my pity of myself.*[2]
Feelings and noble thoughts, such thoughts perchance
As might have yielded fruit—expire with me.
Of all the powers of mind which nature gave,
The power of suffering has been,the sole one,
Which I have used to its extent.

    It matters not.—I do obey.—Whate’er
May be the mighty mystery of death,
That mystery at least must give repose.
Ye do not answer me, ye silent tombs!
Merciful God, thou dost not answer me!
I made my choice on earth, and now my heart
Has no asylum. Ye decide for me,
And such a destiny is best.L. E. L.

  1. * Had I but served my God with half the zeal," &c.—Wolsey. (Shakspeare)
  2. * J'ai pitié de moi-même."—Corneille.