Stefan George, "Man and Faun" (1928)
Many of the poems included in The New Empire [Das neue Reich] were originally published between 1914 and 1919 in Blätter für die Kunst, the literary magazine founded by Stefan George in 1892. Circulated privately as an exclusive forum for poets and like-minded intellectuals who would later come to be known as the George Circle [George-Kreis], Blätter für die Kunst declared: “The name of this publication says in part what its intention is: to serve art – especially poetry and the written word, and to exclude everything pertaining to the state and society.” The last issue appeared in 1919.
page 1 of 2
MAN AND FAUN
A fall of water locks the narrow stream–
But who is there and hangs his shaggy leg
From lush and dripping mosses of this rock?
From bushy, curling pate protrudes a horn.
Though far on wooded mountains I have hunted,
His like I never yet have met ... stay still,
The way is blocked to you, hide nothing here!
The limpid wave reveals a goaten foot.
Your find will pleasure neither you nor me.
I knew indeed of creatures kin to you
From tales of long ago–not that today
Such useless, ugly monsters still survive.
When you have driven off the last of us,
For noble quarry you will search in vain,
Your prey will be the gnawing beasts and worms,
And when you have invaded every thicket,
The drouth will take what most you need: the well.
You, one so base, would tutor me? Our mind
The hydra, giant, dragon, griffin slew,
And cleared the wilderness that bears no fruit.
Where marshes stood, the wheaten acre sways,
On sappy meadow, tame, our cattle browse,
Demesnes and cities bloom and shining gardens
And woods enough are left for stag and doe–
We lifted treasures from the sea and earth,
Our victories the stones proclaim to heaven,
What would you, relic of the awful jungle?
For order follows in our tracks and light.
You are but man, and where your wisdom ends
Our own begins, you only see the brink
When you have suffered for the step beyond.
When ripe your grain has grown, your cattle thrive,
The sacred trees their oil and wine surrender,
You think this only comes through ruse of yours.
The earths that breathe in stolid nights primeval
Do not decay, if ever they were joined
They sunder when a link escapes the ring.
Your rule is right for your appointed time.
Now hasten back! You have beheld the faun.
The worst, you do not know, is that your mind
Which can do much, in clouds may be enmeshed,
May rend apart the bond with clod and creature–
Loathing and lust, monotony and flux,
And dust and light and death and being born,
No more will grasp within the course of things.