The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/Faithful Eckart
"Oh, would we were further! Oh, would we were home
The phantoms of night tow'rd us hastily come,
The band of the Sorceress sisters.
They hitherward speed, and on finding us here,
They'll drink, though with toil we have fetched it, the beer,
And leave us the pitchers all empty."
Thus speaking, the children with fear take to flight,
When sudden an old man appears in their sight;
"Be quiet, child! children, be quiet!
From hunting they come, and their thirst they would still,
So leave them to swallow as much as they will,
And the Evil Ones then will be gracious."
As said, so 'twas done! and the phantoms draw near,
And shadowlike seem they, and gray they appear,
Yet blithely they sip and they revel:
The beer has all vanished, the pitchers are void;
With cries and with shouts the wild hunters, o'er joyed,
Speed onward o'er vale and o'er mountain.
The children in terror fly nimbly toward home,
And with them the kind one is careful to come:
"My darlings, oh, be not so mournful!"—
"They'll blame us and beat us until we are dead."—
"No, no! ye will find that all goes well," he said;
"Be silent as mice, then, and listen!
"And he by whose counsels thus wisely ye're taught,
Is he who with children loves ever to sport,
The trusty and faithful old Eckart.
Ye have heard of the wonder for many a day,
But ne'er had a proof of the marvellous lay,—
Your hands hold a proof most convincing."
They arrive at their home, and their pitchers they place
By the side of their parents, with fear on their face,
Awaiting a beating and scolding.
But see what they're tasting: the choicest of beer!
Though three times and four times they quaff the good cheer,
The pitchers remain still unemptied.
The marvel it lasts till the dawning of day;
All people who hear of it doubtless will say:
"What happened at length to the pitchers?"
In secret the children they smile, as they wait;
At last, though, they stammer, and stutter, and prate,
And straightway the pitchers were empty.
And if, children, with kindness addressed ye may be,
Whether father, or master, or alderman he,
Obey him, and follow his bidding!
And if 'tis unpleasant to bridle the tongue,
Yet talking is bad, silence good for the young—
And then will the beer fill your pitchers!