The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/Celebrity


[A satire on his own "Sorrows of Werther."]

On bridges small and bridges great
Stand Nepomucks in every state,
Of bronze, wood, painted, or of stone,
Some small as dolls, some giants grown;
Each passer must worship before Nepomuck,
Who to die on a bridge chanced to have the ill-luck.
When once a man with head and ears
A saint in people's eyes appears,
Or has been sentenced piteously
Beneath the hangman's hand to die,
He's as a noted person prized,
In portrait is immortalised.
Engravings, woodcuts, are supplied,
And through the world spread far and wide.
Upon them all is seen his name,
And every one admits his claim;
Even the image of the Lord
Is not with greater zeal adored.
Strange fancy of the human race!
Half sinner frail, half child of grace,
We see Herr Werther of the story
In all the pomp of woodcut glory.
His worth is first made duly known,
By having his sad features shown
At every fair the country round;
In every alehouse, too, they're found.
His stick is pointed by each dunce;
"The ball would reach his brain at once!"
And each says, o'er his beer and bread:
"Thank Heaven, that 'tis not we are dead!"