Uplifted is the stone

by Novalis

English version by George MacDonald
Original Language German

Uplifted is the stone --
And all mankind is risen --
We all remain thine own.
And vanished is our prison.
All troubles flee away
Thy golden bowl before,
For Earth and Life give way
At the last and final supper.

To the marriage Death doth call --
The virgins standeth back --
The lamps burn lustrous all --
Of oil there is no lack --
If the distance would only fill
With the sound of you walking alone
And that the stars would call
Us all with human tongues and tone.

Unto thee, O Mary
A thousand hearts aspire.
In this life of shadows
Thee only they desire.
In thee they hope for delivery
With visionary expectation --
If only thou, O holy being
Could clasp them to thy breast.

With bitter torment burning,
So many who are consumed
At last from this world turning
To thee have looked and fled,
Helpful thou hast appeared
To so many in pain.
Now to them we come,
To never go out again.

At no grave can weep
Any who love and pray.
The gift of Love they keep,
From none can it be taken away.
To soothe and quiet his longing,
Night comes and inspires --
Heaven's children round him thronging
Watch and guard his heart.

Have courage, for life is striding
To endless life along;
Stretched by inner fire,
Our sense becomes transfigured.
One day the stars above
Shall flow in golden wine,
We will enjoy it all,
And as stars we will shine.

The love is given freely,
And Separation is no more.
The whole life heaves and surges
Like a sea without a shore.
Just one night of bliss --
One everlasting poem --
And the sun we all share
Is the face of God.

-- from Hymns to the Night: Spiritual Songs, by Novalis / Translated by George MacDonald

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This poem by Novalis works as a powerful meditation on death and loss and restoration within the Christian tradition. Notice how in several sections of the poem Novalis draws in key elements from the Christain Gospels and claims them in a personal way, claims them for everyone, rather than viewing them as part of some remote historical past. For example, the first verse transforms the story of Christ's entombment and resurrection into a universal experience available to everyone:

Uplifted is the stone --
And all mankind is risen --


This gives us a mystical understanding linking the Easter resurrection with the Christian notion of the Day of Judgment as the point when every individual becomes an embodiment the great drama of the death which leads to rebirth into spiritual life. This is not the vision of a catastrophic historical event so favored by fundamentalist Christians today; it is the image of a universal awakening -- which, I would suggest, is much closer to the core of Christian truth.

I especially like the final two verses. Not only do they give us lovely, uplifting imagery, but there seems to be genuine mystical insight... the senses transfigured through an inner fire, a golden "wine" from above, losing the sense of separation, sacred bliss, witnessing God in a sun-like radiance:

Have courage, for life is striding
To endless life along;
Stretched by inner fire,
Our sense becomes transfigured.
One day the stars above
Shall flow in golden wine,
We will enjoy it all,
And as stars we will shine.

The love is given freely,
And Separation is no more.
The whole life heaves and surges
Like a sea without a shore.
Just one night of bliss --
One everlasting poem --
And the sun we all share
Is the face of God.



Recommended Books: Novalis

News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness Hymns to the Night: Spiritual Songs Hymns to the Night Novalis: Philosophical Writings The Novices of Sais





Uplifted is the