I saw thee once - only once - years ago:I must not say how many - but not many.It was a July midnight; and from outA full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring,Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,There fell a silvery-silken veil of light,With quietude and sultriness and slumber,Upon the upturn'd faces of a thousandRoses that grew in an enchanted garden,Where no wind dared stir, unless on tiptoe -Fell on the upturn'd faces of these rosesThat gave out, in return for the love-light,Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death -Fell on the upturn'd faces of these rosesThat smiled and died in the parterre, enchantedBy thee and by the poetry of thy presence.Clad all in white, upon a violet bankI saw thee half reclining; while the moonFell upon the upturn'd faces of the roses,And on thine own, upturn'd - alas, in sorrow!Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight -Was it not Fate, (whose name is also Sorrow,)That bade me pause before that garden-gate,To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?No footsteps stirred: the hated world all slept,Save only thee and me. (Oh, Heaven! - oh, G**!How my heart beats in coupling those two words!)Save only thee and me. I paused - I looked -And in an instant all things disappeared.(Ah, bear in mind the garden was enchanted!)The pearly lustre of the moon went out:The mossy banks and the meandering paths,The happy flowers and the repining trees,Were seen no more: the very roses' odorsDied in the arms of the adoring airs.All - all expired save thee - save less than thou:Save only divine light in thine eyes -Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes.I saw but them - they were the world to me.I saw but them - saw only them for hours -Saw only them until the moon went down.What wild heart-histories seemed to lie enwrittenUpon those crystalline, celestial spheres!How dark a wo! yet how sublime a hope!How silently serene a sea of pride!How daring an ambition! yet how deep -How fathomless a capacity for love!But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight,Into a western couch of thunder-cloud;And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing treesDidst glide away. Only thine eyes remained.They would not go - they never yet have gone.Lighting my lonely pathway home that night,They have not left me (as my hopes have) since.They follow me - they lead me through the years.They are my ministers - yet I their slave.Their office is to illumine and enkindle -My duty, to be saved by their bright fire,And purified in their electric fire,And sanctified in their elysian fire.They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope,)And are far up in Heaven - the stars I kneel toIn the sad, silent watches of my night;While even in the meridian glare of dayI see them still - two sweetly scintillantVenuses, unextinguished by the sun!
Edgar Allan Poe
[On kneeling down at the Warsaw Ghetto Monument during his 1970 state visit to Poland:] Es war eine ungewöhnliche Last, die ich auf meinem Weg nach Warschau mitnahm. Nirgends hatte das Volk, hatten die Menschen so gelitten wie in Polen. Die maschinelle Vernichtung der polnischen Judenheit stellte eine Steigerung der Mordlust dar, die niemand für möglich gehalten hatte. [...] Ich hatte nichts geplant, aber Schloß Wilanow, wo ich untergebracht war, in dem Gefühl verlassen, die Besonderheit des Gedenkens am Ghetto-Monument zum Ausdruck bringen zu müssen. Am Abgrund der deutschen Geschichte und unter der Last der Millionen Ermordeten tat ich, was Menschen tun, wenn die Sprache versagt. Ich weiß es auch nach zwanzig Jahren nicht besser als jener Berichterstatter, der festhielt: 'Dann kniet er, der das nicht nötig hat, für alle, die es nötig haben, aber nicht knien – weil sie es nicht wagen oder nicht können oder nicht wagen können.'(I took an extraordinary burden to Warsaw. Nowhere else had a people suffered as much as in Poland. The robotic mass annihilation of the Polish Jews had brought human blood lust to a climax which nobody had considered possible. [...] Although I had made no plans, I left my accommodations at Wilanow Castle feeling that I was called upon to mark in some way the special moment of commemoration at the Ghetto Monument. At the abyss of German history and burdened by millions of murdered humans, I acted in the way of those whom language fails. Even twenty years later, I wouldn't know better than the journalist who recorded the moment by saying, 'Then he, who would not need to do this, kneels down in lieu of all those who should, but who do not kneel down – because they do not dare, cannot kneel, or cannot dare to kneel.')[Note: The quotation used by Brandt is from the article Ein Stück Heimkehr [A Partial Homecoming] (Hermann Schreiber/ Der Spiegel No. 51/1970, Dec. 14, 1970]
Willy Brandt