Early Works of Karl Marx: Book of Verse


A Ballad

Life seems wed to gaiety
     As the dancers tread the measure.
Each feels chosen specially
     For the sacred vows to pleasure.

Rosy cheeks flush ever higher,
     Faster still the heart's blood races,
And the longings of desire
     Lift the soul to heavenly places.

Kiss fraternal and hearts' union
Close all in a circle round,
Gone the clash of rank, opinion,
Love is lord and in command.

But it is an idle dream
     That enfolds warm hearts, and flies
From this dust and earthly scene,
Surging to aethereal skies.

Gods can never bear to see
Man, to his own folly blind,
Blissfully believing he
    May span Heaven with an Earth-born mind.

Through the lines a sombre guest
Creeps with sword and knife, apart,
Envy's fire consumes his breast,
And disdain his wretched heart.

She, now in the bridal wreath,
Once was love and life to him;
Pledged him once her solemn troth,
And her heart she gave to him.

So, to battle for the Good,
     Trusting her, he went away,
And his quest was crowned by Gods;
Deed and valour won the day.

Wreathed in glory, he returns
To the township, quiet and still,
Where his lovely jewel burns,
Where desire and bliss do call.

Now he sees the battlements,
And his heart beats violently,
Soon he shall win all he wants,
Dream shall turn reality.

To the threshold now he races
Of the house that he loves so.
Bright with many lamps it blazes,
Guests are streaming to and fro.

But the footman there, aloof,
     Halts him with restraining hand.
"Stranger, would you climb the roof?
     Whither leads this rush so blind?"

"Man, I seek Lucinda fair!"
    Then the footman, open-eyed:
"Anyone may find her here,
For Lucinda is the bride!"

Stunned, the stranger stands and sways
     In his full athletic height,
Stands with wide and staring eyes,
Staggers up towards the gate.

"You should look your festive best
For this gay and brilliant place,
If you want to be a guest!"
     Calls the footman's uncouth voice.

Proud and grim, he turns in haste,
Takes the long-familiar way.
Heart with rage and grief obsessed,
Fury darting from his eye.

To the place of his abode
     Flies he like the storm wind rushing,
And the door bursts open wide
At his kicking and his pushing.

Grabs the candle from the maid,
Stays his hand, lest tremor show;
With cold sweat the brow's bedewed
That beats in silent woe.

On his shoulders lets unfold
     Cape of purple, wondrous fair,
Decks himself with clasps of gold,
Loosens and lets fall his hair.

To his bosom's sanctuary
     Presses he the gold-chased sword
That he wielded to the glory
Of the one whom he adored.

Back he flies on wings of wind
To the place of revelry,
Heart beyond all bridling,
     Deadly lightning in his eye.

Trembling, steps he through the door
To the brilliant hall within.
Parcae name their victim, pour
Curses hissing after him.

Draws he nearer, sad and bowed,
Prideful in his stately cloak.
All the guests are frightened, cowed,
By his awe-inspiring look.

Like a ghost he seems to stride
Lonely through the crowded hall.
Onward still the partners glide,
Foams the festive goblet full.

Many dancers throng the rows,
But Lucinda shines the best.
From the filmy froth of gauze
Swells voluptuous her breast.

Each is filled with silent yearning,
Gripped by power all-pervading,
Longing all their eyes are turning
On that form in beauty gliding.

And her eyes, full of caprice,
Laugh in undimmed radiance;
On she moves with body's grace
In the many-coloured dance.

Past the man she lightly dances,
Neither does he yield nor quail;
Clouded are her glowing glances,
And her rosy cheeks turn pale.

She would mingle with the crowd,
From the stranger turn away,
But a scornful hiss is heard
    And a God holds her in sway.

Grim, he looks her up and down,
Ominously closes on her.
All the dancers, turned to stone,
Questioningly eye each other.

But Lucinda's throat and breathing
Seem as if by Gods pressed tight.
With her soul for respite striving,
Clutches she her maid in fright.

"Ha! So I must find you faithless,
Who once pledged yourself to me,
You, Lucinda, you a traitress,
You another's bride I see!"

Then the crowd would rush upon him
For his conduct in that place,
But he hurls the assailants from him,
And like thunder sounds his voice.

"Let no one dare interfere!"
Menace in his eyes is plain.
And all present, cowed, must hear,
Listen to the voice of pain.

"Never fear, I shall not harm her,
She shall not be hurt this night.
She need only watch the drama
That I stage for her delight.

"Let the dancing not be over,
Carry on your revelry.
Soon you shall embrace your lover,
Soon you shall be free of me.

"I, too, shall the nuptial bond
Celebrate this eventide.
But another way I've found-
     Night and Blade shall be my bride.

"From your eyes but let me suck
Sensuous passion, sensuous glow.
Ah! Now I have seen your look;
     You shall watch my life's blood flow!"

Swiftly through him go the blades
Long held ready in his hands,
Snapped are all life's quivering threads,
Darkness on his eyes descends.

With a heavy crash he falls,
Every muscle breaks in twain.
Death his prideful limbs enfolds,
And no God wakes him again.

Then without a word she seizes
Sword and dagger, quivering.
With the iron her skin she pierces,
And the purple life's blood springs.

In a trice, the watchful maid,
     Shuddering at the bloody spray,
Wrests from her the deadly blade,
Pulls the fatal steel away.

Then in pain Lucinda sinks
    On the corpse with grievous moan.
From his heart the blood she drinks,
To his heart lets flow her own.

And the drapes of gauzy white
That her slender body cover,
Redden now with bloodstains bright,
Frothing, bubbling all over.

Long she moans there, hanging, clinging
On to him who lies in death.
He might live, if only longing
     Soul back into clay could breathe.

Pale and bloody then she rises
From the one she chose at last.
Slowly back the whole crowd presses,
Murmuring, horror-struck, aghast.

And a Goddess, tall, uprearing,
Her own doom's artificer,
Turns her gaze, destructive, searing,
On the man who married her.

And a smile, ice-cold and mocking,
On the pale lips starts to play.
Anguished wailing tells its shocking
Tale of madness on the way.

Broken up the merry revels,
Fled the dancers, one and all,
Silent now the clashing cymbals,
Desolate the empty hall.