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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Faithful Eckart

"I wish we were further, I wish I was home!
They´re coming. The nightly terrors now roam;
It´s them, the unkindly sisters.
They´re drawing near and they´ll find us here,
They´ll drink what we fetched with great labor, the beer,
And leave the jugs empty to us."

Thus speak the children and quickly hide,
but then an old fellow shows up by their side:
"Be quiet! Children, be quiet!
The Huldre, they come from a thirsty chase,
If you let them all drink and have their own ways,
You´ll win the unkindly ones´ favor."

´Twas said, ´twas done! The wild hunt draws near,
and all of a shadowy grey do appear,
but they´re sipping and slurping quite stoutly.
The jugs are empty, the beer is gone;
the host is rushing and sweeping on,
well over the valleys and mountains.

The children are hurrying homewards in fright,
the good fellow walking along by their side:
"My poppets, do not be sad now."-
"A scolding we´ll get and a hard beating, too."
"On the contrary, all will go wondrous for you,
Just be quiet and listen like mice.

"And who counsels you thus and who bids you obey,
It´s he who likes well with the children to play,
the old Faithful One they call Eckart.
They´ve always told you of the marvellous man,
give proof of him is what nobody can,
except what you hold in your fingers."

They arrive at home, the jugs they place
in front of their parents with meek enough face,
and wait for the slaps and the scolding.
But look: A wonderful beer´s what they pour!
The drinking goes round now for three times and four,
And still the jug never grows empty.

The miracle lasts till the break of next day.
But everyone´s asking, as long as they may:
"What happened, what´s up with the beer jugs?"
The little mice smile, their secret joy vast;
They stammer and stutter and chatter at last,
And the jugs go dry the same moment.

And when there is, children, talking to you
A father, a teacher, an elderman true,
Then listen and follow him closely!
And though the tongue´s guarded with painful zest,
To chatter is harmful, silence is best;
Then the jugs with beer will be filling.

Original: "Der getreue Eckart", Johann Wolfgang Goethe  (1749-1832)
Translation from German: © Michaela Macha

Image: "L´orage", William Bouguereau, French Painter, 1825 - 1905