The Celebrated Woman - An Epistle By A Married Man by Friedrich von Schiller

Can I, my friend, with thee condole?--
Can I conceive the woes that try men,
When late repentance racks the soul
Ensnared into the toils of hymen?
Can I take part in such distress?--
Poor martyr,--most devoutly, "Yes!"
Thou weep'st because thy spouse has flown
To arms preferred before thine own;--
A faithless wife,--I grant the curse,--
And yet, my friend, it might be worse!
Just hear another's tale of sorrow,
And, in comparing, comfort borrow!

What! dost thou think thyself undone,
Because thy rights are shared with one!
O, happy man--be more resigned,
My wife belongs to all mankind!
My wife--she's found abroad--at home;
But cross the Alps and she's at Rome;
Sail to the Baltic--there you'll find her;
Lounge on the Boulevards--kind and kinder:
In short, you've only just to drop
Where'er they sell the last new tale,
And, bound and lettered in the shop,
You'll find my lady up for sale!

She must her fair proportions render
To all whose praise can glory lend her;--
Within the coach, on board the boat,
Let every pedant "take a note;"
Endure, for public approbation,
Each critic's "close investigation,"
And brave--nay, court it as a flattery--
Each spectacled Philistine's battery.
Just as it suits some scurvy carcase
In which she hails an Aristarchus,
Ready to fly with kindred souls,
O'er blooming flowers or burning coals,
To fame or shame, to shrine or gallows,
Let him but lead--sublimely callous!
A Leipsic man--(confound the wretch!)
Has made her topographic sketch,
A kind of map, as of a town,
Each point minutely dotted down;
Scarce to myself I dare to hint
What this d----d fellow wants to print!
Thy wife--howe'er she slight the vows--
Respects, at least, the name of spouse;
But mine to regions far too high
For that terrestrial name is carried;
My wife's "The famous Ninon!"--I
"The gentleman that Ninon married!"

It galls you that you scarce are able
To stake a florin at the table--
Confront the pit, or join the walk,
But straight all tongues begin to talk!
O that such luck could me befall,
Just to be talked about at all!
Behold me dwindling in my nook,
Edged at her left,--and not a look!
A sort of rushlight of a life,
Put out by that great orb--my wife!

Scarce is the morning gray--before
Postman and porter crowd the door;
No premier has so dear a levee--
She finds the mail-bag half its trade;
My God--the parcels are so heavy!
And not a parcel carriage-paid!
But then--the truth must be confessed--
They're all so charmingly addressed:
Whate'er they cost, they well requite her--
"To Madame Blank, the famous writer!"
Poor thing, she sleeps so soft! and yet
'Twere worth my life to spare her slumber;
"Madame--from Jena--the Gazette--
The Berlin Journal--the last number!"
Sudden she wakes; those eyes of blue
(Sweet eyes!) fall straight--on the Review!
I by her side--all undetected,
While those cursed columns are inspected;
Loud squall the children overhead,
Still she reads on, till all is read:
At last she lays that darling by,
And asks--"What makes the baby cry?"

Already now the toilet's care
Claims from her couch the restless fair;
The toilet's care!--the glass has won
Just half a glance, and all is done!
A snappish--pettish word or so
Warns the poor maid 'tis time to go:--
Not at her toilet wait the Graces
Uncombed Erynnys takes their places;
So great a mind expands its scope
Far from the mean details of--soap!

Now roll the coach-wheels to the muster--
Now round my muse her votaries cluster;
Spruce Abbe Millefleurs--Baron Herman--
The English Lord, who don't know German,--
But all uncommonly well read
From matchless A to deathless Z!
Sneaks in the corner, shy and small,
A thing which men the husband call!
While every fop with flattery fires her,
Swears with what passion he admires her.--
"'Passion!' 'admire!' and still you're dumb?"
Lord bless your soul, the worst's to come:--

I'm forced to bow, as I'm a sinner,--
And hope--the rogue will stay to dinner!
But oh, at dinner!--there's the sting;
I see my cellar on the wing!
You know if Burgundy is dear?--
Mine once emerged three times a year;--
And now to wash these learned throttles,
In dozens disappear the bottles;
They well must drink who well do eat
(I've sunk a capital on meat).
Her immortality, I fear, a
Death-blow will prove to my Madeira;
It has given, alas! a mortal shock
To that old friend--my Steinberg hock!

If Faust had really any hand
In printing, I can understand
The fate which legends more than hint;--
The devil take all hands that print!

And what my thanks for all?--a pout--
Sour looks--deep sighs; but what about?
About! O, that I well divine--
That such a pearl should fall to swine--
That such a literary ruby
Should grace the finger of a booby!

Spring comes;--behold, sweet mead and lea
Nature's green splendor tapestries o'er;
Fresh blooms the flower, and buds the tree;
Larks sing--the woodland wakes once more.
The woodland wakes--but not for her!
From Nature's self the charm has flown;
No more the Spring of earth can stir
The fond remembrance of our own!
The sweetest bird upon the bough
Has not one note of music now;
And, oh! how dull the grove's soft shade,
Where once--(as lovers then)--we strayed!
The nightingales have got no learning--
Dull creatures--how can they inspire her?
The lilies are so undiscerning,
They never say--"how they admire her!"

In all this jubilee of being,
Some subject for a point she's seeing--
Some epigram--(to be impartial,
Well turned)--there may be worse in Martial!

But, hark! the goddess stoops to reason:--
"The country now is quite in season,
I'll go!"--"What! to our country seat?"
"No!--Travelling will be such a treat;
Pyrmont's extremely full, I hear;
But Carlsbad's quite the rage this year!"
Oh yes, she loves the rural Graces;
Nature is gay--in watering-places!
Those pleasant spas--our reigning passion--
Where learned Dons meet folks of fashion;
Where--each with each illustrious soul
Familiar as in Charon's boat,
All sorts of fame sit cheek-by-jowl,
Pearls in that string--the table d'hote!
Where dames whom man has injured--fly,
To heal their wounds or to efface, them;
While others, with the waters, try
A course of flirting,--just to brace them!

Well, there (O man, how light thy woes
Compared with mine--thou need'st must see!)
My wife, undaunted, greatly goes--
And leaves the orphans (seven!!!) to me!

O, wherefore art thou flown so soon,
Thou first fair year--Love's honeymoon!
All, dream too exquisite for life!
Home's goddess--in the name of wife!
Reared by each grace--yet but to be
Man's household Anadyomene!
With mind from which the sunbeams fall,
Rejoice while pervading all;
Frank in the temper pleased to please--
Soft in the feeling waked with ease.
So broke, as native of the skies,
The heart-enthraller on my eyes;
So saw I, like a morn of May,
The playmate given to glad my way;
With eyes that more than lips bespoke,
Eyes whence--sweet words--"I love thee!" broke!
So--Ah, what transports then were mine!
I led the bride before the shrine!
And saw the future years revealed,
Glassed on my hope--one blooming field!
More wide, and widening more, were given
The angel-gates disclosing heaven;
Round us the lovely, mirthful troop
Of children came--yet still to me
The loveliest--merriest of the group
The happy mother seemed to be!
Mine, by the bonds that bind us more
Than all the oaths the priest before;
Mine, by the concord of content,
When heart with heart is music-blent;
When, as sweet sounds in unison,
Two lives harmonious melt in one!
When--sudden (O the villain!)--came
Upon the scene a mind profound!--
A bel esprit, who whispered "Fame,"
And shook my card-house to the ground.

What have I now instead of all
The Eden lost of hearth and hall?
What comforts for the heaven bereft?
What of the younger angel's left?
A sort of intellectual mule,
Man's stubborn mind in woman's shape,
Too hard to love, too frail to rule--
A sage engrafted on an ape!
To what she calls the realm of mind,
She leaves that throne, her sex, to crawl,
The cestus and the charm resigned--
A public gaping-show to all!
She blots from beauty's golden book
A name 'mid nature's choicest few,
To gain the glory of a nook
In Doctor Dunderhead's Review.

by Friedrich von Schiller

Other poems by 'Friedrich von Schiller'

Friend And Foe

Friendship

Geniality

Genius

German Faith

Germany And Her Princes

Greekism

Group From Tartarus

Hero And Leander

Honor To Woman

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