by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (bio)

Cover your spacious heavens, Zeus,
With clouds of mist,
And like the boy who lops
The thistles' heads,
Disport with oaks and mountain-peaks;
Yet you must leave
My earth still standing;
My cottage, too, which was not built by you;
Leave me my hearth,
Whose kindly glow
By you is envied.

I know nothing poorer
Under the sun, than you gods!
You nourish painfully,
With sacrifices
And votive prayers
Your majesty;
You would even starve,
If children and beggars
Were not trusting fools.

While yet a child
And ignorant of life,
I turned my wandering gaze
Toward the sun, as if with it
There were an ear to hear my wailings,
A heart, like mine,
To feel compassion for distress.

Who helped me
Against the Titans' insolence?
Who rescued me from certain death,
From slavery?
Did you not do all this yourself,
My sacred glowing heart?
And glow, young and good,
Deceived with grateful thanks
To yonder sleeping one?

I honor you, and why?
Have you ever lightened the sorrows
Of the heavily laden?
Did you ever dry the tears
Of the anguished?
Was I not fashioned to be a man
By omnipotent Time
And by eternal Fate,
Masters of you and me?

Did you ever fancy
That life I should learn to hate,
And fly to deserts,
Because not all
My dreams grew ripe?

Here sit I, forming mortals
After my image;
A race resembling me,
To suffer, to weep,
To enjoy, to be glad,
And you to scorn,
As do I!