The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/Playing at Priests


Within a town where parity
According to old form we see,—
That is to say, where Catholic
And Protestant no quarrels pick,
And where, as in his father's day,
Each worships God in his own way,
We Lutheran children used to dwell,
By songs and sermons taught as well
The Catholic cling-clang in truth
Sounded more pleasing to our youth,
For all that we encountered there
To us seemed varied, joyous, fair.
As children, monkeys, and mankind
To ape each other are inclined,
We soon, the time to while away,
A game at priests resolved to play.
Their aprons all our sisters lent
For copes, which gave us great content;
And handkerchiefs embroidered o'er,
Instead of stoles we also wore;
Gold paper, whereon beasts were traced,
The bishop's brow as mitre graced.

Through house and garden thus in state
We strutted early, strutted late;
Repeating, with all proper unction,
Incessantly each holy function,
The best was wanting to the game;
We knew that a sonorous ring
Was here a most important thing;
But fortune to our rescue came,
For on the ground a halter lay;
We were delighted, and at once
Made it a bell-rope for the nonce,
And kept it moving all the day;
In turns each sister and each brother
Acted as sexton to another;
All helped to swell the joyous throng;
The whole proceeded swimmingly,
And since no actual bell had we,
We all in chorus sang, Ding dong!


Our guileless child's-sport long was hushed

In memory's tomb, like some old lay;
And yet across my mind it rushed
With pristine force the other day.
The New-Poetic Catholics
In every point its aptness fix!