Jesus and Psyche I
Christus im Olymp by Max Klinger .
But I do not wish to arouse! Oh please, speak softly!
The room is big as a barn,
Is completely full of light,
There he draws, there he chisels, there he paints.
You can feel it, how he needs that much space:
And if chance has it that a terror falls on you,
That cannot be expressed in words, that comes from the heart,
That is how I now stand.
Alone. Yet Zeus sits next to me;
The new Zeus, his countenance and form
That of Beethoven, and the creator
Of the world and of mankind stares down into
The abyss from the throne of sin and redemption,
As the eagle bristles at his feet,
Silent, barely breathing! Over there in the glow
Of the evening sun still shines the old garden of the gods.
The summit of Olympus is ablaze with colors;
Colored columns rest in the radiance of the distant air.
Their temple lies in ruin, but
The pines, laurels and palms
Crowd into the valley as green as ever.
The large bushes of wild flowers grow and spread
Their perfume along the beach of the blue sea.
The gods are all assembled together, and
Jesus walks among them.
They watch him coming, growing taller as he nears,
A lean man, with his gaze on the ground, slowly,
As if to spare the meadow grass with his feet;
In a yellow silk robe, embroidered with gold,
That looks like the priestly robe of a king
And shows traces of blood,—why doesn’t he come to them
Naked, as they themselves are?
And three women follow, modestly covered like him,
Carrying a heavy black cross.
Then they sag, their sisterly steps
Falter: Jesus looks over to the gods.
“Woe to us!” Wild Cupid cries in shock, and
Startles back in terror before those eyes:
“Psyche, Woe, Psyche, flee!”
Yet his Psyche falls
Against the intruder with a blissful cry,
Moans in agony, kneels before him, —Psyche, favorite of the gods,
Clutches his right hand, kisses it,
Kisses the horrible wounds streaming with blood,
The emaciated hand, stammers and sobs:
“My, My Lord and Savior!”
Cupid, with the cherubs and with twitching wings
Listens in amazement from the fronds of a palm;
Hermes turns around and lowers his white staff;
As nymphs and satyrs roll around together in the grass,
In ways that would make any woman blush deeply.
Meanwhile, scarcely paying any attention to what is
Happening beyond them, the other Olympians stand there;
Juno in smug satisfaction;
And Venus, in love with herself.
Each feeling good in their nakedness,
Shameless, unloving, and beautiful.
The sun dips into the sea, the gods become silent;
And Jesus, overshadowing Psyche, raises
His gaze to Zeus; who sits there completely stunned
On his marble bench.
His aged limbs deny him their wrath.
His old eyes are frozen by the night in the eyes
Of the other;
He doesn’t hear how the youth Ganymede
Clings to him and whispers fearfully:
“Father, What does the strange magician want here?”
And as those around him bow down, Eleosyne,
The most compassionate and despised
Of the goddesses, laboriously drags up
The invalid Mars, who also desires to come to Jesus.
And again I hear Psyche’s passionate stammer:
“My Lord and Savior!”
And I feel the pain of her modesty, and feel
Her expectant nakedness, as she kneels and weeps
And desire her to stand up, and I am amazed
That you can’t see the grass through her body.
It is so consumed by longing,
Her pale young breasts so meager—
Isn’t that the dead father of the gods that I see?
“Psyche! Woman, who are you? Speak!”
Jesus and Psyche II
I listen: laughter answers me and
From out of a rose bush, spirited
Bacchus-Dionysus steps forward,
Flowers in his hair, his panther skin in shreds:
High in his hand is a bright chalice
Full of dark wine; in it wavers the reflected
Last blood red rays of the sun.
He nods and offers it to me:
“Drink Jesus, drink!”
And slowly I stretch out my left hand
As if to resist him, but Psyche
Still kisses the scar on my right hand,
And I slowly offer my left hand in greeting
And nodding, I take the chalice from
My brother Bacchus and place it upon my lips;
And pull my Psyche up to me,
And then place the chalice on her lips:
“Drink, this is my blood!”
—and Psyche drinks.
Oh, how flushed her pale forehead becomes,
As she lifts her breasts against me!
Yet she hands the chalice back to me sobbing.
Then I grasp her hand and shake it;
The empty glass flies high in a glittering arc
And shatters in shards on the marble bench
Of dead Zeus.
Then I pull my Psyche to me
And wrap my royal robe around her
“Don’t cry, my darling, come!”
And I climb with her to the seat of Zeus
And offer my crown, my bouquet of thorns:
“Today Jesus celebrates his wedding night!
Up brother Bacchus, swing your wand!
You women, lay down the cross! Olympians,
Take your pale sisters by the hands:
You, Juno, will look more like a believer in
A faded blue robe! Athene, wrap yourself
In a green veil, so you look full of hope!
And you, Frau Venus, wear the most pale purple,
Most virginal looking, the one called love—
Then rejoice: for the bridegroom is here!
Up, you immortals, to the wedding dance!
Eleosyne shall dance with Cupid.
Watch as the dark sea of stars skips;
Mars, stand up and walk, and be mine!
And let the little children come to me:
Go, Ganymede! Heissa! The cherubim
Wait for you! Dance your fairy ring!
But you, Hermes, take dead Zeus
And gently carry him over to the throne
Of the new Zeus, which I have erected,
And lower your white staff before him
And ask him:
Play for us, divine one, your high song,
The high song of sin and redemption,
The joyous high song of the world and humanity,
The high song of the ninth symphony!
Then his eagle will rise up with a rush,
And will softly take us under his wing
And listen to us, as we tremble,
You, my Psyche, and I, your Jesus,
In our star bright marriage night.
Up, you immortals, up, dance and sing.
Sing to me the song of death and of life;
Tomorrow is another day, the sun will not die,
Come, Psyche, come!
Yet Psyche pulls away from me trembling
And stares at me with eyes that freeze me,
So strangely full of fear, full of longing—Psyche!
Beloved! Psyche! You, who are you?
My mouth speaks aloud the answer of my heart,
And echoes swiftly through the great space,
So I stand.
Alone. And stand trembling before the master,
That created one such as me.
Finally I gather up my courage and dare to
Look away from his work, to where my gaze falls
Upon a large, gray, dried crown of beach thistle,
Around which a yellowed,
Once flaming red silk ribbon is tied;
The only piece of memory in this space,
That shows only all of the future.
The sun shines down on it and enough traces are still left
To recognize the delicate blue-green purple glaze
That once adorned the fresh thorns
. . . Silence!
The door opens, he enters, the painter, artist
And creator of our Psyche—KLINGER—and
I think: Which of these women did he intend I give this bouquet to? For there must be a woman, to give this bouquet to . . .
From the collection of “Life’s Leaves”