The Great

The great are often shunned by their own age,
While even the noble dead are sometimes mocked,
And eras are damned when none who sees is shocked
By scads of scorn spat on a sacred page.

Today the sneering cynic’s deemed a sage.
The door to love and beauty’s never been locked,
Though years have passed when not a soul has knocked
But chose to dwell in a crass comic’s foul-smelling cage.

Yet there are those still called to higher things
Than raucous crowds’ applause and glib success.
Yes, some know better how to spend their days:

They work to shape a soul that ever sings,
A spirit stirred to soothe, inspire, and bless,
A nature moved to sing and pray and praise.


Poetry’s Return

At times, all poetry leaves my life.
And if it leaves for just a day—
Or even for an hour or less—
I feel like a dog in wait for its master:
Enslaved to time, I only know
Despair as I yearn for its return.

At times I think of days with my wife
When we were young and life but play—
Mild sun, green leaves, no flaws to confess—
Before the years began to go faster,
Before a sense of sunset’s glow . . .
Then poetry’s fires begin to burn.


The Giant

(By Joseph von Eichendorff; translated by William Ruleman)

A tower his domain,
He crouched, a creature caged.
Insane, the weather vane
Spun round as storm winds raged.

A small hole let him hear
Rivers’ spray and splash;
Bright birds’ cheep and cheer;
Weapons’ clang and clash.

With glee a song implored
The Lord’s eternal will.
A wild mob rushed and roared,
Then all grew deathly still.

Now various voices stray
Like turbulent sea winds,
Part, join, a mad melee
He hardly comprehends.

Still, at every sound,
He feels with shuddering zest
Life, like a giant, pound
Its path into his breast.


(By Joseph von Eichendorff)

Es saß ein Mann gefangen
Auf einem hohen Turm,
Die Wetterfähnlein klangen
Gar seltsam in den Sturm.

Und draußen hört’ er ringen
Verworrner Ströme Gang,
Dazwischen Vöglein singen
Und heller Waffen Klang.

Ein Liedlein scholl gar lustig:
Heisa, solang Gott will!
Und wilder Menge Tosen;
Dann wieder totenstill.

So tausend Stimmen irren,
Wie Wind’ im Meere gehn,
Sich teilen und verwirren,
Er konnte nichts verstehn.

Doch spürt’ er, wer ihn grüße,
Mit Schaudern und mit Lust,
Es rührt’ ihm wie ein Riese
Das Leben an die Brust.


The Forest Maiden

(By Joseph von Eichendorff, translated by William Ruleman)

I’m a glowing fire that blazes
Round the rocks’ leaf-fringed expanse;
Sea wind’s my love, and he raises
Me to a lusty dance
That changes as it churns.
Rising wildly,
Bending mildly
In slim flames’ twists and turns;
Don’t come near me: this fire burns!

Where the wild brooks rush and glisten
And the towering palm trees stand,
There the stealthy hunters listen:
Deer roam on every hand.
I’m a deer flying through the debris,
High and low,
Where, in the snow,
The last crest gleams silently:
Follow me not: you’ll never catch me!

I’m a little bird in the skies,
Soaring o’er the ocean’s blue;
Through the clouds from the cliff there flies
No arrow as high as I do;
And the leas and cliffs today,
The woods’ solitude
Of such magnitude—
All have fled in wavelets’ spray:
For I, alas, have flown away!



(By Joseph von Eichendorff)

Bin ein Feuer hell, das lodert
Von dem grünen Felsenkranz,
Seewind ist mein Buhl und fodert
Mich zum lustgen Wirbeltanz,
Kommt und wechselt unbeständig.
Steigend wild,
Neigend mild,
Meine schlanken Lohen wend ich:
Komm nicht nah mir, ich verbrenn dich!

Wo die wilden Bäche rauschen
Und die hohen Palmen stehn,
Wenn die Jäger heimlich lauschen,
Viele Rehe einsam gehn.
Bin ein Reh, flieg durch die Trümmer,
Über die Höh,
Wo im Schnee
Still die letzten Gipfel schimmern,
Folg mir nicht, erjagst mich nimmer!
Bin ein Vöglein in den Lüften,
Schwing mich übers blaue Meer,
Durch die Wolken von den Klüften
Fliegt kein Pfeil mehr bis hieher,
Und die Au’n und Felsenbogen,
Weit, wie weit,
Sind versunken in die Wogen –
Ach, ich habe mich verflogen!


William Ruleman’s poems have appeared, most recently, in The Belle Rȇve Literary Journal, The New English Review, The New Verse News, The Pennsylvania Review, The Quarterday Review, and The Sonnet Scroll.His books include two collections of his own poems (A Palpable Presence and Sacred and Profane Loves, both from Feather Books), as well as the following volumes of translation: Poems from Rilke’s Neue Gedichte (WillHall Books, 2003), Vienna Spring: Early Novellas and Stories of Stefan Zweig (Ariadne Press, 2010), and, from Cedar Springs Books, Verse for the Journey: Poems on the Wandering Life by the German Romantics, A Girl and the Weather (poems and prose of Stefan Zweig),and Selected Poems of Maria Luise Weissmann. He is Professor of English at Tennessee Wesleyan College.

Featured Image: “King Alfred [the Great] Burning the Cakes” by David Wilkie.



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One Response

  1. Terence Marin

    A great poem. Well said. I like the painting too. Alfred the Great was… great.


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