Hermann And Dorothea. In Nine Cantos. - VII. Erato.

A poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


As the man on a journey, who, just at the moment of sunset,
Fixes his gaze once more on the rapidly vanishing planet,
Then on the side of the rocks and in the dark thicket still sees he
Hov'ring its image; wherever he turns his looks, on in front still
Runs it, and glitters and wavers before him in colours all splendid,
So before Hermanns eyes did the beautiful form of the maiden
Softly move, and appear'd to follow the path through the cornfields.

But he roused himself up from his startling dream, and then slowly
Turn'd tow'rd the village his steps, and once more started, for once more
Saw he the noble maiden's stately figure approaching.
Fixedly gazed he; it was no phantom in truth; she herself 'twas
In her hands by the handle she carried two pitchers, one larger,
One of a smaller size, and nimbly walk'd to the fountain.
And he joyfully went to meet her; the sight of her gave him
Courage and strength, and so he address'd the surprised one as follows:
"Do I find you again, brave maiden, engaged in assisting
Others so soon, and in giving refreshment to those who may need it?
Tell me why you have come all alone to the spring so far distant,
Whilst the rest are content with the water that's found in the village?
This one, indeed, special virtue possesses, and pleasant to drink is.
Is't for the sake of that sick one you come, whom you saved with such courage?"

Then the good maiden the youth in friendly fashion saluted,
Saying: "Already my walk to the fountain is fully rewarded,
Since I have found the kind person who gave us so many good presents;
For the sight of a giver, like that of a gift, is refreshing.
Come and see for yourself the persons who tasted your kindness,
And receive the tranquil thanks of all you have aided.
But that you may know the reason why I have come here,
Water to draw at a spot where the spring is both pure and unceasing,
I must inform you that thoughtless men have disturb'd all the water
Found in the village, by carelessly letting the horses and oxen
Wade about in the spring which give the inhabitants water.
In the same manner, with all their washing and cleaning they've dirtied
All the troughs of the village, and all the fountains have sullied.
For each one of them only thinks how quickly and soon he
May supply his own wants, and cares not for those who come after."

Thus she spoke, and soon she arrived at the foot of the broad steps
With her companion, and both of them sat themselves down on the low wall
Round the spring. She bent herself over, to draw out the water,
He the other pitcher took up, and bent himself over,
And in the blue of the heavens they saw their figures reflected,
Waving, and nodding, and in the mirror their greetings exchanging.
"Now let me drink," exclaim'd the youth in accents of gladness.
And she gave him the pitcher. They then, like old friends, sat together,
Leaning against the vessels, when she address'd him as follows
"Say, why find I you here without your carriage and horses,
Far from the place where first I saw you. Pray how came you hither?"

Hermann thoughtfully gazed on the ground, but presently lifted
Calmly towards her his glances, and gazed on her face in kind fashion,
Feeling quite calm and composed. And yet with love to address her
Found he quite out of the question; for love from her eyes was not beaming,
But an intellect clear, which bade him use sensible language.
Soon he collected his thoughts, and quietly said to the maiden:
"Let me speak, my child, and let me answer your questions.
"'Tis for your sake alone I have come, why seek to conceal it?
For I happily live with two affectionate parents,
Whom I faithfully help to look after our house and possessions,
Being an only son, while numerous are our employments.
I look after the field work; the house is carefully managed
By my father; my mother the hostelry cheers and enlivens.
But you also have doubtless found out how greatly the servants,
Sometimes by fraud, and sometimes by levity, worry their mistress,
Constantly making her change them, and barter one fault for another.
Long has my mother, therefore, been wanting a girl in the household,
Who, not only with hand, but also with heart might assist her,
In the place of the daughter she lost, alas, prematurely.
Now when I saw you to-day near the carriage, so active and sprightly,
Saw the strength of your arm and the perfect health of your members,
When I heard your sensible words, I was struck with amazement,
And I hasten'd back home, deservedly praising the stranger
Both to my parents and friends. And now I come to inform you
What they desire, as I do. Forgive my stammering language!"

"Do not hesitate," said she, "to tell me the rest of your story
I have with gratitude felt that you have not sought to insult me.
Speak on boldly, I pray; your words shall never alarm me;
You would fain hire me now as maid to your father and mother,
To look after the house, which now is in excellent order.
And you think that in me you have found a qualified maiden,
One that is able to work, and not of a quarrelsome nature.
Your proposal was short, and short shall my answer be also
Yes! with you I will go, and the voice of my destiny follow.
I have fulfill'd my duty, and brought the lying-in woman
Back to her friends again, who all rejoice at her rescue.
Most of them now are together, the rest will presently join them.
All expect that they, in a few short days, will be able
Homewards to go; 'tis thus that exiles themselves love to flatter.
But I cannot deceive myself with hopes so delusive
In these sad days which promise still sadder days in the future
For all the bonds of the world are loosen'd, and nought can rejoin them,
Save that supreme necessity over our future impending.
If in the house of so worthy a man I can earn my own living,
Serving under the eye of his excellent wife, I will do so;
For a wandering girl bears not the best reputation.
Yes! with you I will go, as soon as I've taken the pitcher
Back to my friends, and received the blessing of those worthy people.
Come! you needs must see them, and from their hands shall receive me."

Joyfully heard the youth the willing maiden's decision,
Doubting whether he now had not better tell her the whole truth;
But it appear'd to him best to let her remain in her error,
First to take her home, and then for her love to entreat her.
Ah! but now he espied a golden ring on her finger,
And so let her speak, while he attentively listen'd:

"Let us now return," she continued, "the custom is always
To admonish the maidens who tarry too long at the fountain,
Yet how delightful it is by the fast-flowing water to chatter!"
Then they both arose, and once more directed their glances
Into the fountain, and then a blissful longing came o'er them.

So from the ground by the handles she silently lifted the pitchers,
Mounted the steps of the well, and Hermann follow'd the loved one.
One of the pitchers he ask'd her to give him, thus sharing the burden.
"Leave it," she said, "the weight feels less when thus they are balanced;
And the master I've soon to obey, should not be my servant.
Gaze not so earnestly at me, as if my fate were still doubtfull!
Women should learn betimes to serve, according to station,
For by serving alone she attains at last to the mast'ry,
To the due influence which she ought to possess in the household.
Early the sister must learn to serve her brothers and parents,
And her life is ever a ceaseless going and coming,
Or a lifting and carrying, working and doing for others.
Well for her, if she finds no manner of life too offensive,
And if to her the hours of night and of day all the same are,
So that her work never seems too mean, her needle too pointed,
So that herself she forgets, and liveth only for others!
For as a mother in truth she needs the whole of the virtues,
When the suckling awakens the sick one, and nourishment calls for
From the exhausted parent, heaping cares upon suff'ring.
Twenty men together could not endure such a burden,
And they ought not, and yet they gratefully ought to behold it."

Thus she spoke, and with her silent companion advanced she
Through the garden, until the floor of the granary reach'd they,
Where the sick woman lay, whom she left by her daughters attended,
Those dear rescued maidens, the types of innocent beauty.
Both of them enter'd the room, and from the other direction,
Holding a child in each hand, her friend, the magistrate, enter'd.
These had lately been lost for some time by the sorrowing mother,
But the old man had now found them out in the crowd of the people.
And they sprang in with joy, to greet their dearly-loved mother,
To rejoice in a brother, the playmate now seen for the first time!

Then on Dorothea they sprang, and greeted her warmly,
Asking for bread and fruit, but asking for drink before all things.
And they handed the water all round. The children first drank some,
Then the sick woman drank, with her daughters, the magistrate also.
All were refresh'd, and sounded the praise of the excellent water;
Mineral was it, and very reviving, and wholesome for drinking.

Then with a serious look continued the maiden, and spoke thus
Friends, to your mouths for the last time in truth I have lifted the pitcher,
And for the last time, alas, have moisten'd your lips with pure water.
But whenever in scorching heat your drink may refresh you,
And in the shade you enjoy repose and a fountain unsullied,
Then remember me, and all my friendly assistance,
Which I from love, and not from relationship merely have render'd.
All your kindness to me, as long as life lasts, I'll remember,
I unwillingly leave you; but each one is now to each other
Rather a burden than comfort. We all must shortly be scatter'd
Over a foreign land, unless to return we are able.
See, here stands the youth to whom for those gifts we're indebted,
All those clothes for the child, and all those acceptable viands.
Well, he has come, and is anxious that I to his house should go with him,
There as a servant to act to his rich and excellent parents,
And I have not refused him, for serving appears my vocation,
And to be served by others at home would seem like a burden.
So I'll go willingly with him; the youth appears to be prudent,
Thus will his parents be properly cared for, as rich people should be.
Therefore, now, farewell, my much-loved friend, and be joyful
In your living infant, who looks so healthily at you.
When you press him against your bosom, wrapp'd up in those colourd
Swaddling-clothes, then remember the youth who so kindly bestow'd them,
And who in future will feed and clothe me also, your loved friend.
You too, excellent man," to the magistrate turning, she added
"Warmly I thank for so often acting the part of a father."

Then she knelt herself down before the lying-in patient,
Kiss'd the weeping woman, her whisper'd blessing receiving.
Meanwhile the worthy magistrate spoke to Hermann as follows
"You deserve, my friend to be counted amongst the good landlords
Who are anxious to manage their house through qualified people.
For I have often observed how cautiously men are accustom'd
Sheep and cattle and horses to watch, when buying or bart'ring
But a man, who's so useful, provided he's good and efficient,
And who does so much harm and mischief by treacherous dealings,
Him will people admit to their houses by chance and haphazard,
And too late find reason to rue an o'erhasty decision.
This you appear to understand, for a girl you have chosen
As your servant, and that of your parents, who thoroughly good is.
Treat her well, and as long as she finds the business suit her,
You will not miss your sister, your parents will miss not their daughter."

Other persons now enter'd, the patient's nearest relations,
Many articles bringing, and better lodgings announcing.
All were inform'd of the maiden's decision, and warmly bless'd Hermann,
Both with significant looks, and also with grateful expressions,
And one secretly whispered into the ear of another
"If the master should turn to a bridegroom, her home is provided."
Hermann then presently took her hand, and address'd her as follows
"Let us be going; the day is declining, and far off the village."
Then the women, with lively expressions, embraced Dorothea;
Hermann drew her away; they still continued to greet her.
Next the children, with screams and terrible crying attack'd her,
Pulling her clothes, their second mother refusing to part from.
But first one of the women, and then another rebuked them
"Children, hush! to the town she is going, intending to bring you
Plenty of gingerbread back, which your brother already had order'd,
From the confectioner, when the stork was passing there lately,
And she'll soon return, with papers prettily gilded."

So at length the children released her; but scarcely could Hermann
Tear her from their embraces and distant-signalling kerchiefs.

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