The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/The Legend of the Horseshoe


When still unknown, and low as well,
Our Lord upon the earth did dwell,
And many disciples with him went
Who seldom knew what his words meant,
He was extremely fond of holding
His court in the market-place, unfolding
The highest precepts to their hearing,
With holy mouth and heart unfolding;
For man, in Heaven's face when preaching,
Adds freedom's strength unto his teaching!
By parables and by example,
He made each market-place a temple.
He thus in peace of mind one day
To some small town with them did stray,
Saw something glitter in the street,
A broken horseshoe lay at his feet.
He then to Peter turned and said:
"Pick up that iron in my stead."
St. Peter out of humour was,
Having in dreams indulged because
All men on thoughts so like to dwell,
How they the world would govern well;
Here fancy revels without bounds;
On this his dearest thoughts he founds.
This treasure-trove he quite despised,
But crowned sceptre he'd have prized;
And why should he now bend his back
To put old iron in his sack?
He turned aside with outward show
As though he heard none speaking so!

The Lord, to his long-suffering true,
Himself picked up the horse's shoe,
And of it made no further mention,
But to the town walked with intention
Of going to a blacksmith's door,
Who gave one farthing for his store.
And now, when through the market strolling,
Cherries some one he heard extolling.
Of these he bought as few or many
As farthing buys, if it buy any,
Which he, in wonted peacefulness,
Gently within his sleeve did press.

Now out at t'other gate they'd gone
Past fields and meadows, houses none;
The road likewise of trees was bare,
The sun shone bright with ardent glare,
So that great price, in plain thus stretched,
A drink of water would have fetched.
The Lord, walking before them all,
Let unawares a cherry fall.
St. Peter ate it, then and there,
As though a golden apple it were.
He relished much the luscious fruit.
The Lord, whenever time would suit,
Another cherry forward sent,
For which St. Peter swiftly bent.
The Lord thus often and again
After the cherries made him strain.
When this had lasted quite awhile,
The Lord spoke thus with cheerful smile:
"If thou hadst stirred when first I bade thee,
More comfortable 'twould have made thee;
Whoe'er small things too much disdains,
For smaller ones takes greater pains."