The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/The Walking Bell


A child refused to go betimes
To church like other people;
He roamed abroad, when rang the chimes
On Sundays from the steeple.

His mother said: "Loud rings the bell,
Its voice ne'er think of scorning;
Unless thou wilt behave thee well,
'Twill fetch thee without warning."

The child then thought: "High over head
The bell is safe suspended—"
So to the fields he straightway sped
As if 'twas school-time ended.

The bell now ceased as bell to ring,
Roused by the mother's twaddle;
But soon ensued a dreadful thing!—
The bell begins to waddle.

It waddles fast, though strange it seem;
The child, with trembling wonder.
Runs off, and flies, as in a dream;
The bell would draw him under.

He finds the proper time at last,
And straightway nimbly rushes
To church, to chapel, hastening fast
Through pastures, plains, and bushes.

Each Sunday and each feast as well,
His late disaster heeds he;
The moment that he hears the bell,
No other summons needs he.

Poets' art is ever able
To endow with truth mere fable.