In its armchair, stupid and dumb,
The German public watches it come.
Hither and thither rumbles the storm,
Heaven clouds over, more dark and forlorn.
Lightning hisses, snakes out of sight,
Feelings remain inviolate.
But when the sun comes out in greeting,
The winds soft sighing, the storm abating,
It stirs itself, makes a fuss at last,
And writes a book: The Commotion Is Past;
Is seized with an urge for fantasy,
Would plumb the whole thing thoroughly;
Believes it's extremely wrong of Heaven
To play such jokes, though brilliant even,
It should the All systematically treat;
First rub the head and then the feet;
Just like a baby it carries on
Looking for things which are dead and gone;
Should get the Present in proper perspective,
Let Heaven and Earth go their ways respective;
They've followed their courses as before,
And the wave laps quiet on the rocky shore.
Since I have found the Highest of things and the Depths of them also,
Rude am I as a God, cloaked by the dark like a God.
Long have I searched and sailed on Thought's deep billowing ocean ;
There I found me the Word: now I hold on to it fast.
Words I teach all mixed up into a devilish muddle,
Thus, anyone may think just what he chooses to think;
Never, at least, is he hemmed in by strict limitations.
Bubbling out of the flood, plummeting down from the cliff,
So are his Beloved's words and thoughts that the Poet devises;
He understands what he thinks, freely invents what he feels.
Thus, each may for himself suck wisdom's nourishing nectar;
Now you know all, since I've said plenty of nothing to you!
Kant and Fichte soar to heavens blue
Seeking for some distant land,
I but seek to grasp profound and true
That which--in the street I find.
Forgive us epigrammatists
For singing songs with nasty twists.
In Hegel we're all so completely submerged,
But with his Aesthetics we've yet to be-
The Germans once actually stirred their stumps,
With a People's Victory turned up trumps.
And when all that was over and done,
On every corner, everyone
"Wonderful things are in store for you
Three legs for all instead of two!"
This shook them badly, and in due course
They were all smitten by deep remorse.
"Too much has happened at once, it's plain.
We'll have to behave ourselves again.
The rest it were better to print and bind,
And buyers will not be hard to find."
Pull down the stars for them at night,
They burn too pale or far too bright.
The sun's rays either scorch the eye
Or shine from much too far away.
Of Schiller there's reason to complain,
Who couldn't more humanly entertain.
Endowed with an elevating mind,
He didn't stick to the daily grind.
He played with Thunder and Lightning much,
But totally lacked the common touch.
But Goethe's taste was too nicely ordered;
He'd rather see Venus than something sordid.
Although he grasped things, as one should, from below,
It was for the Highest he made us go.
He wanted to make things so sublime
That Soul-grip evaded him most of the time.
Schiller was surely nearer the mark,
You can read his ideas in letters stark.
His thoughts are there in black and white,
Though it's hard to fathom the meaning aright.
On a Certain Bald-Head
As lightning born of radiancy
Sparkles from cloud-realms far away,
Pallas Athena victorious
Sprang from the thought-filled head of Zeus.
Even so, in sportiveness unbounded,
On to his head she's likewise bounded,
And what in depth he could never plumb
Visibly shines on his cranium.
Pustkuchen (False Wandering Years)
Schiller, thinks he, had been less of a bore
If only he'd read the Bible more.
One could have nothing but praise for The Bell
If it featured the Resurrection as well,
Or told how, on a little ass,
Christ into the town did pass;
While David's defeat of the Philistine
Would have added something to Wallenstein.
Goethe can give the ladies a fright,
For elderly women he's not quite right.
He understood Nature, but this is the quarrel,
He wouldn't round Nature off with a moral.
He should have got Luther's doctrine off pat
And made up his poetry out of that.
He had beautiful thoughts, if sometimes odd,
But omitted to mention--"Made by God"
Extremely strange is this desire
To elevate Goethe higher and higher.
How low in actual fact his reach-
Did he ever give us a sermon to preach?
Show me in Goethe solid ground
For Peasant or Pedagogue to expound.
Such a genius marked with the stamp of the Lord
That a sum in arithmetic had him floored.
Hear Faust in the full authentic version;
The Poet's account is sheer perversion.
Faust was up to his ears in debts,
Was dissolute, played at cards for bets.
No offer of help from above was extended,
So he wanted it all ignominiously ended.
But was overwhelmed by a fearful sensation
Of Hell and the anguish of desperation.
He then devoted due reflection
To Knowledge, Deed, Life, Death, and Perdition;
And on these topics had much to say
In a darkly mystical sort of way.
Couldn't the Poet have managed to tell
How debts lead man to the Devil and Hell.
Who loses his credit may well conceivably
Forfeit redemption quite irretrievably.
Since Faust at Easter had the gall
To think, why trouble the Devil at all?
Who dares to think on Easter Day
Is doomed to Hell-fire anyway.
Credibility too is defied.
The Police would soon have had enough!
They'd surely have had him clapped inside
For running up debts and making off!
Vice alone could elevate Faust,
Who really loved himself the most.
God and the World he dared to doubt,
Moses thought they'd both worked out.
Silly young Gretchen had to adore him
Instead of getting his conscience to gnaw him,
Telling him he was the Devil's prey,
And the Day of Judgment was well on the way.
There's use for the "Beautiful Soul" It's simple:
Just trim it with specs and a nun's wimple.
"What God hath done is right well done,"
Thus the true Poet hath begun.
Concluding Epigram on the Puff-Pastry Cook
So knead your cake as well as you can,
You'll never be more than a baker's man.
And, after all, whoever asked you
To emulate Goethe the way you do?
As he knew nothing of your profession,
Whence came his genius and perception?