The Bad Monarchs.

A poem by Friedrich Schiller

Earthly gods my lyre shall win your praise,
Though but wont its gentle sounds to raise
When the joyous feast the people throng;
Softly at your pompous-sounding names,
Shyly round your greatness purple flames,
Trembles now my song.

Answer! shall I strike the golden string,
When, borne on by exultation's wing,
O'er the battle-field your chariots trail?
When ye, from the iron grasp set free,
For your mistress' soft arms, joyously
Change your pond'rous mail?

Shall my daring hymn, ye gods, resound,
While the golden splendor gleams around,
Where, by mystic darkness overcome,
With the thunderbolt your spleen may play,
Or in crime humanity array,
Till the grave is dumb?

Say! shall peace 'neath crowns be now my theme?
Shall I boast, ye princes, that ye dream?
While the worm the monarch's heart may tear,
Golden sleep twines round the Moor by stealth,
As he, at the palace, guards the wealth,
Guards but covets ne'er.

Show how kings and galley-slaves, my Muse,
Lovingly one single pillow use,
How their lightnings flatter, when surpressed,
When their humors have no power to harm,
When their mimic minotaurs are calm,
And the lions rest!

Up, thou Hecate! with thy magic seal
Make the barred-up grave its wealth reveal,
Hark! its doors like thunder open spring;
When death's dismal blast is heard to sigh,
And the hair on end stands fearfully,
Princes' bliss I sing!

Do I hear the strand, the coast, detect
Where your wishes' haughty fleet was wrecked,
Where was stayed your greatness' proud career
That they ne'er with glory may grow warm,
Night, with black and terror-spreading arm,
Forges monarchs here.

On the death-chest sadly gleams the crown,
With its heavy load of pearls weighed down,
And the sceptre, needed now no more.
In what splendor is the mould arrayed!
Yet but worms are with the body paid,
That the world watched o'er.

Haughty plants within that humble bed
See how death their pomp decayed and fled
With unblushing ribaldry besets!
They who ruled o'er north and east and west
Suffer now his ev'ry nauseous jest,
And no sultan threats?

Leap for joy, ye stubborn dumb, to-day,
And your heavy slumber shake away!
From the battle, victory upsprings!
Hearken to the trump's exulting song!
Ye are worshipped by the shouting throng!
Rouse ye, then, ye kings!

Seven sleepers! to the clarion hark!
How it rings, and how the fierce dogs bark!
Shouts from out a thousand barrels whizz;
Eager steeds are neighing for the wood,
Soon the bristly boar rolls in his blood,
Yours the triumph is!

But what now? Are even princes dumb?
Tow'rd me scornful echoes ninefold come,
Stealing through the vault's terrific gloom
Sleep assails the page by slow degrees,
And Madonna gives to you the keys
Of her sleeping-room.

Not an answer hushed and still is all
Does the veil, then, e'en on monarchs fall,
Which enshrouds their humble flatt'rers glance?
And ye ask for worship in the dust,
Since the blind jade, Fate, a world has thrust
In your purse, perchance?

And ye clatter, giant puppet troops,
Marshalled in your proudly childish groups,
Like the juggler on the opera scene?
Though the sound may please the vulgar ear,
Yet the skilful, filled with sadness, jeer
Powers so great, but mean.

Let your towering shame be hid from sight
In the garment of a sovereign's right,
From the ambush of the throne outspring!
Tremble, though, before the voice of song
Through the purple, vengeance will, ere long,
Strike down e'en a king!

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