Demons (1825)


Storm-clouds whirl and storm-clouds scurry;
From behind them pale moonlight
Flickers where the snowflakes hurry.
Dark the sky, and dark the night.
On and on the sleigh still bears me;
Ding-ding-ding the small bell’s sound.
Though I would not, something scares me
In the unknown plains around.

‘Go on, driver !’ ... ‘I can’t go sir.
The horses find it hard to pull,
And my eyes are blind with snow, sir;
Drifts have blocked the whole road full.
Strike me, but I search it vainly!
We are lost! What’s to be done?
‘Tis a devil leads us, plainly, –
From the road would have us gone.

‘Over there – look! See him playing,
Blowing, spitting in my eye.
In the ditch he sends a-straying
This poor horse, and makes him shy.
Like a milestone weird he glimmered;
There in front he stood upright;
Like a tiny spark he shimmered,
Vanished in the empty night.’

Storm-clouds whirl and storm-clouds scurry;
From behind them pale moonlight
Flickers where the snowflakes hurry.
Dark the sky, and dark the night.
Tired we have no strength for wheeling.
Bell stops jingling, suddenly.
Halt ... ‘What is the plain concealing?
Who can tell you? Wolf or tree?’

Blizzard angry, blizzard crying,
Horses start and snort in fear.
Farther on again he’s flying;
In the night his eyes burn clear.
Horses now go forward, straining;
Ding-ding-ding, the small bell’s sound.
There I see the phantoms gaining
In the plain that whitens round.

Fiends past number, formless curling
In the play of dim moonlight –
Demons manifold are whirling,
Like November leaves in flight!
Crowds of them! Where do they hurry?
Why this song in mournful pitch?
Is it goblins that they bury?
Make they marriage for a witch?

Storm-clouds whirl and storm-clouds scurry;
From behind them pale moonlight
Flickers where the snowflakes hurry.
Dark the sky, and dark the night.
Onward run the devils, sailing
In the measureless inane,
And their howls and mournful wailing
Nearly tear my heart in twain.

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