Translations From Goethe: Legend by George MacDonald


While yet unknown, and very low,
Our Lord on earth went to and fro;
And some of his scholars his word so good
Very strangely misunderstood–
He much preferred to hold his court
In streets and places of resort,
Because under the heaven’s face
Words better and freer flow apace;
There he gave them the highest lore
Out of his holy mouth in store;
Wondrously, by parable and example,
Made every market-place a temple.

So faring, in his heart content,
Once with them to a town he went–
Saw something blinking on the way,
And there a broken horse-shoe lay!
He said thereon St. Peter to,
“Prithee now, pick up that shoe.”
St. Peter was not in fitting mood:
He had been dreaming all the road
Some stuff about ruling of the world,
Round which so many brains are twirled–
For in the head it seems so easy!
And with it his thoughts were often busy;
Therefore the finding was much too mean;
Crown and sceptre it should have been!
He was not one his back to bow
After half an iron-shoe!
Therefore aside his head he bended,
And that he had not heard pretended.

In his forbearance the Lord did stoop
And lift himself the horse-shoe up;
Then for the present he did wait.
But when they reach the city-gate,
He goes up to a blacksmith’s door,
Receives three pence the horse-shoe for;
And as they through the market fare,
Seeing for sale fine cherries there,
He buys of them so few or so many
As they will give for a three-penny;
Which he, thereon, after his way,
Up in his sleeve did quietly lay.

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Now, from the other gate, they trod
Through fields and meads a housless road;
The path of trees was desolate,
The sun shone out, the heat was great;
So that one in a region such
For a drink of water had given much.
The Lord goes ever before them all,
And as by chance lets a cherry fall:
In a trice St. Peter was after it there
As if a golden apple it were!
Sweet to his palate was the berry.
Then by and by, another cherry
Down on the ground the Master sends,
For which St. Peter as quickly bends.
So, many a time, the Lord doth let
Him bend his back a cherry to get.
A long time thus He let him glean;
Then said the Lord, with look serene:
“If at the right time thou hadst bent,
Thou hadst found it more convenient!
Of little things who little doth make
For lesser things must trouble take.”

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