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  • Translation

The Commencement of a New Century by Friedrich Schiller


Dear friend! Alas, to where has peace now flown?

And when will Freedom find a resting place?

The century has vanished with the storm,

A new one now rears its murderous face.


The bonds of ancient lands withstand no more,

Fleeting are hallowed custom and sign.

The seas are no impediment to war,

Nor are the Nile-god or the ancient Rhine.


Two awesome nations choose to go to battle

Over possession of a continent;

Jettisoned are universal freedoms,

Sundered by lightning bolts and trident.

Vast sums in tribute are from all requited, And just like Brennus in more savage tales, The Frank places his weighty saber on The universal justice scales. Like a creeping octopustentacles awhirl The Briton unleashes his swarm of ships Across a wide expanse of roaring seas, Entangling the world in its grips. He rages on his course unimpeded Amid a vast and starless southern pole; Each isle and rich exotic land surveyed: A trace of paradise still none behold. There is no sacred kingdom’s map where we Will find an untarnished blessed demesne, Where lush gardens spring eternally green And the fountain of youth flows endlessly. Before your gaze appears an endless world Where sails have never rustled in the wind, And yet, upon the countless raging fleets, No room is found for even ten fine men.

Refuge is only found within our hearts When the noble is chased away by throngs; Freedom only reveals itself in dreams And Beauty only blossoms in our songs.


Translation © David B. Gosselin

4 Comments


martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Jan 29, 2023

Yes, I like this! It's got a real epic tone to it, and you've managed to catch all the modulations just perfectly. I especially love the way the narrative builds in intensity to the visually stunning picture in Stanza 5, with its note of high drama: 'Like a creeping octopus - tentacles awhirl / The Briton unleashes his swarm of ships/ Across a wide expanse of roaring seas', then drops gradually to the quiet and philosophic reflectiveness of the final lines. Schiller has evidently found in you a translator with the right skill-set to do justice to his work. Great job, David.

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Cindy Erlandson
Cindy Erlandson
Jan 27, 2023

Quite lovely!

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Guest
Jan 26, 2023

Excellent, David. Your translations are a gorgeous treat.

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Guest
Jan 26, 2023
Replying to

Dean Z Douthat

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