Friedrich Schiller’ Poem: "The Ring of Polycrates"

Posted: August 21, 2007 in Friedrich Schiller, Poem

translated by Melanie Morris

He stood upon his castle’s turret,
He gazed out with delighted spirit
O’er mastered Samos down below.
“The whole of this to me is subject,”
Began he to the King of Egypt,
“That I am fortunate, avow.”

“Thou has enjoyed the godly favor!
Those formerly thine equals ever,
Bend now beneath thy sceptor’s might.
Yet one still lives, their vengeance seeking,
Thy bliss my lips cannot be speaking
So long the foeman’s eye has sight.”

And ere the King had barely ended,
A herald, from Miletus wended,
Before the tyrant made his bow.
“Let, Lord, arise the sweet oblation
And with the laurel’s gay vernation
Encircle now thy splendid brow.”

By spear thy foe was stricken under,
I’m with the happy news sent hither
By thy true Gen’ral Polydor—”
And taking from a black container,
Still bloody, to the both men’s terror,
A well-known head he brings to th’ fore.

The king steps back with trepidation:
“Trust not in fortune, thee I caution,”
Replies with anxious look to him.
“Reflect, upon the faithless welling,
How simply can the storm be quelling,
Thy fleet’s uncertain fortunes swim.”

And ere he has these words yet spoken,
His speech by jubilation’s broken,
Which from the port rejoicing blasts.
Beladen with their foreign riches,
Return now to their native beaches
The teeming wood of vessels’ masts.

The royal guest was much bewildered:
“Today thy fortune is good humored,
Yet fear thou its inconstancy.
The Grecian troops expert in weapon
With battle’s peril would thee threaten,
Already near this shore they be.”

And ere did he these words but utter,
One sees from out the ships now flutter,
A thousand voices: “Vic’try!” roar.
“From foe’s affliction we’re unfettered,
The Cretans by the storm are scattered,
’Tis over, ended is the war!”

With terror doth the guest-friend beckon:
“Indeed, thee fortunate I reckon,
Yet,” said he, “for thy good I shake.
Before gods’ envy I am frightful,
The joy of life so pure and rightful
Were not for mortals to partake.

“For me all things have also prospered,
In every kingly thing endeavored
The grace of heaven by me stayed;
Though once I had an heir to cherish,
God took from me, I saw him perish,
To fortune has my debt been paid.

“Thus, wouldst thou from all grief be shielded,
To the Unseen thy plea be wielded,
That they thy fortune lend some woe.
For saw I none yet ending happ’ly,
On whom with hands e’er laden fully
The gods their blessings do bestow.

“If this the gods have not conceded,
A friend’s advice then must be heeded
And call upon thyself this woe,
And from what out of all thy treasure
Thy heart derives the highest pleasure,
Take that and in this ocean throw.”

By fear persuaded speaks the other:
“Of all, that doth this island harbor,
My highest blessing is this ring.
To th’ Furies be it dedicated,
That my luck be exonerated.”
And in the flood the gem did fling.

And in the next day’s morning gleaming,
There strides forth with a visage beaming
A fisherman before the King:
“My Lord, this fish I have just captured,
As no more in my net have ventured,
It as a gift to thee I bring.”

And as the cook the fish was slashing,
Confounded comes he hither dashing
And with astonished look cries out:
“Look, Lord, the ring, which thou hast carried,
I found it in the fish maw buried,
O, limits hath thy fortune not!”

At this the guest turned ’round with horror:
“Thus here can I reside no longer,
My friend canst thou no longer be.
The gods thy ruination cherish,
Forth haste I, not with thee to perish.”
And spoke’t and swiftly sailed to sea.

::More Poems by Friedrich Schiller visit


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