Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII.: THE JOURNEY. - Goethe's Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc)
Return to Title Page for Goethe’s Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER VIII.: THE JOURNEY. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 3.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TOWARDS King Noble’s court without delay,
Graybeard and Reynard now held on their way.
And the Fox said, “My heart feels quite elate,
This journey will, I know, prove fortunate.
And yet, dear nephew, since I last confest,
My life has truly not been of the best.
Hear what fresh crimes I now have to deplore;—
Some too which I forgot to tell before.
“A good stout scrip I’ve had from Bruin’s hide:
The Wolf and his good lady have supplied
My tender feet, each with a pair of shoes;
’Tis thus I’ve wreaked my vengeance on my foes.
The king too, I confess, I’ve badly treated,
And with gross falsehoods scandalously cheated.
Further,—for naught will I conceal from you,—
I killed the Hare, and what’s more, ate him too:
His mangled head by Bellyn I sent back,
Trusting the king would stretch him on the rack.
The Rabbit too, I tried to make my prey;
Although—thank Heav’n for that!—he got away.
Th’ offence of which the Crow doth now complain
Is not without foundation in the main;
For why should I the simple truth disguise?
I did devour his wife before his eyes.
“These my chief sins are since my last confession;
But I omitted then an old transgression;
A trick, for which I hope forgiv’n to be,
Against the Wolf, mine ancient enemy.
“One day we happened to be travelling
The road between Kaktyss and Elverding;
When we a Mare perceived with her young Foal,
The dam and daughter each as black as coal;
’Bout four months old the Filly seemed to be;
Said Is’grim, who was nearly starved, to me,
‘See, prithee, nephew, if you can entice
Yon Mare to sell her Foal at any price.’
Rash was the venture, I was well aware;
But up I trotted, and addressed the Mare:
‘Say, dearest madam, may I make so bold
To ask if this sweet creature’s to be sold?
If so, for it belongs to you, I see,
I trust upon the price we may agree.’
Said she: ‘Yes, if I get the sum I want,
I’ll sell her; and ’tis not exorbitant;
You’ll find it written on my near hind hoof.’
I guessed her meaning and kept well aloof.
‘Alas!’ I cried, as though I naught suspected;
‘My education has been sore neglected;
Reading and writing are beyond my pow’r;
My parents have a deal to answer for.
Not for myself the dear child I desire;
It was the Wolf who bade me to inquire.’
‘He’d better come himself,’ replied the Mare;
Quoth I, ‘I’ll tell him what your wishes are.’
So where he waited I joined Isegrim:
‘The Foal is to be had,’ said I to him;
‘The price is written on the Mare’s hind hoof;
She kindly offered me to see the proof;
But ’twas no use to me, who cannot read;
My life, alas! has sadly run to seed.
But you, dear uncle, soon will make it out;
Approach and read, for you can read, no doubt.’
Said Isegrim, ‘I rather think I can;
German, French, Latin and Italian.
To school I went at Erfurt, then to college,
Where I picked up a vast amount of knowledge;
Took duly my degrees and honors too;
I swear I quite forget how much I knew:
All one learns there is wondrously abstruse,
Though not, perhaps, in practice of much use.
I’ll go and the inscription read at once,
To prove that, though a scholar, I’m no dunce.’
So off he started to the Mare, quite bold,
Asked for how much the Foal was to be sold;
She gave the answer she had giv’n before;
And down he stooped the writing to explore.
Her hoof she lifted gently from the grass;
Fresh shod and armed with six new nails it was;
And fetched him a full plumper on the head,
That down he tumbled, stunned, and lay for dead.
Then off she galloped with her frisky Foal,
And whinnied as she went, for joy of soul.
For a good hour the Wolf lay on the ground,
Then ’gan to howl, like any beaten hound.
I hastened up to him, and, ‘Uncle, say,’
Quoth I, ‘what causes you lament this way?
Have you your bargain made with Madam Mare?
And eaten up her Foal? that’s not quite fair!
Sure, for my pains, I should have had my share.
And, as you are so learned, prithee, do
Expound to me the writing on the shoe?’
‘Ah me! I am derided!’ he made moan;
‘My suff’rings though might melt a heart of stone.
Never before did I so badly fare.
Oh! may the devil fetch that long-legged Mare!
Six bleeding wounds I have in my poor head.
The only wonder is I am not dead.’
“Thus I’ve confessed, as far as I am able,
And made my conscience clean and comfortable.
Now that is done, I trust to hear from you
Some ghostly counsel what is next to do.”
Him Graybeard answered thus: “’Tis true indeed,
Of ghostly counsel you stand sore in need;
For from your tone I gather that, as yet,
Your crimes you rather boast of, than regret.
’Tis true, regret for past misdeeds is vain;
It cannot bring the dead to life again.
Your sins I must in charity forgive,
Seeing how short a time you have to live;
For certainly the worst results I dread:
You never can get over that Hare’s head.
It was in sooth a most audacious thing
To aggravate the anger of the king!
More mischief to your cause thereby you’ve done
Than in your thoughtlessness you reckon on.”
“Nay, not a jot,” replied th’ undaunted rogue;
“Self-interest will always be in vogue.
Those in the world who live must look to rough it,
And meet with many a kick and many a buffet.
He who would best get on must rant and roister,
Nor think to pass his time as in a cloister.
As for the Hare, I own, he tempted me;
He skipped and sprang about so saucily,
And looked so plump, that howsoe’er I strove,
My appetite proved stronger than my love.
For the Ram’s fate I do not care a pin;
His was the suff’ring; mine may be the sin.
’Tis not my worst misdeed by many a one;
My penance otherwise were quickly done.
To love our neighbors we are told, ’tis true;
But most do just what they ought not to do.
What’s done though can’t be helped; and, as you said,
’Tis worse than useless to regret the dead.
Useless indeed, I think, is all regret;
Save some advantage from it one can get.
“Enough of this! we live in awful times!
No rank or station seems exempt from crimes!
Corruption from the rich spreads to the poor;
Good men the gen’ral ill can but deplore;
And though we dare not speak, we think the more.
“The king himself will plunder, that we know,
As much as any of his subjects do;
And, what he does not take himself, devolves,
As lawful prey, upon the Bears and Wolves.
To speak the truth dares not a single soul,
The mischief may be ne’er so great or foul.
The clergy keep quite silent; and no wonder;
They have a decent portion of the plunder.
If of extortion any one complains,
He only has his trouble for his pains.
If aught that you possess the great allures,
Then may you safely say it has been yours.
But few to tales of grievance will attend;
And they are sure to weary in the end.
Noble, the Lion, is our lord and king;
He acts as he were lord of everything;
He calls us oft his children; and, ’twould seem,
Forsooth, that all we have belongs to him.
For let me speak my mind; our gracious king
Loves ever those the most, who most can bring;
And who will dance as he may choose to sing.
The many suffer, though but few complain.
The Bear and Wolf are now in pow’r again;
They steal and rob and pillage, left and right;
And yet find favor in the royal sight.
While each who might have influence is dumb,
Living in hopes that his own time may come.
Let a poor devil, like myself, but take
A paltry chicken, what a howl they make.
They’re all upon his back without remorse,
And he’s condemned to suffer, as of course.
For those who crimes commit of deeper dye,
No mercy show to petty larceny.
“Such thoughts, I own, have often crossed my mind
When to repentance I have felt inclin’d;
And to myself I’ve said, in reason’s spite,
That what so many do must sure be right.
Conscience indeed within me sometimes stirs,
And says, with that peculiar voice of hers:
‘Reynard, why seek thus to deceive thyself?
No good came ever of unrighteous pelf.’
Then deep remorse I’ve felt for doing wrong;
Deep for the moment, but not lasting long.
Because, look round the world which way I would,
I saw the bad fared better than the good.
Not, as times go, can ev’ry one afford
To cherish virtue as its own reward.
“The people too, save their mobility,
In all their betters’ secrets love to pry;
Their faults they will observe and con by rote,
And pick holes e’en in honor’s petitcoat.
“But the worst feature of this pinchbeck age,
Which, if my scorn it moved not, would my rage,
Is, that all sorts of public men we see
Merged in the slough of mediocrity,
There will they plunge and wade and flounce and flounder,
Endeav’ring each to keep the other under;
For if one strive, by merits of his own,
To rise, his neighbors pelt and pull him down,
As though ’twere quite agreed that little men
From a dead level had the furthest ken;
That by example might the world be schooled
With what a small amount of wisdom it is ruled.
“In private, too, all paltry vices flourish;
Men are morose and selfish, sly and currish:
Backbiting, malice, lying and false-swearing
Have become matters of familiar bearing.
Hypocrites and false prophets so abound
That truth, save in a well, can ne’er be found.
“If to remonstrate with them you should try,
Quickly and coolly will they thus reply:
‘The sins you mention cannot serious be,
Or sure the clergy from them would be free.’
Thus, following those of a superior station,
The people sin, like Apes, by imitation.
Thinking and acting much as Monkeys do,
They often get the same allowance too.
“Truly the priesthood better should behave;
With common care, their credit they might save.
But it quite marvellous appears to me
The slight in which they hold the laity.
Before our very eyes they do not mind
To act in any way they feel inclin’d;
As though we all, like Bats or Moles, were blind.
But ev’ry one, his eyes who uses, knows
What kind of store they set upon their vows.
Beyond the Alps, ’tis said, that ev’ry priest
Holds consort with one mistress at the least;
And what is winked at by the Court of Rome
No wonder should be practised here at home.
The holy fathers, if truth may be spoke,
Have children just like any married folk;
And, with paternal love, take care enough
None of their offspring shall be badly off;
These, never thinking what was their mamma,
To lawful children will not yield the pas;
Others they treat with as much slight and scorn,
As they were honestly, nay, nobly born.
Clad in the armor of sheer impudence,
They have of shame or modesty no sense.
Time was, these base-born sons o’ th’ clergy knew
What was their proper place, and kept it too.
But now they go about as brave and bold
As any lords. Such is the pow’r of gold.
“You see the priest possessed, go where you will,
Of toll and tribute from each farm and mill;
And thus the world is disciplined to ill.
No marvel the poor people go astray,
When, blind themselves, the blind lead them the way.
“Where for that pattern pastor shall we look,
Content to feed and not to shear his flock;
Who the pure precepts of the gospel teaches,
And practises the doctrines that he preaches:
Who, if he suffer wrong, will pardon it,
And turn his right cheek if his left be smit;
Who upon worldly treasures sets no store,
But sells his all and gives it to the poor?
Alas! much readier a priest you’ll find
To pride, revenge and avarice inclin’d.
Such set the laity a vile example,
And on all precepts of their Master trample.
“As for their bastards, would they quiet be,
No one on earth would notice them, you see
’Tis but their vanity that we condemn;
For most unjust it were to carp at them.
It is not race that makes us great or good;
Nor shame nor honor come by birth or blood.
Let heralds draw what fancied lines they can,
Virtue and vice alone mark man from man.
The honest priest will ever honored be;
The bad be shunned, whate’er his pedigree;
How good soe’er the sermons he may preach,
Folks will contrast his actions with his speech.
‘What does he for the church?’ they’ll argue thus,
‘He who is ever preaching up to us—
“Be sure you keep your church in good repair,
My brethren, if of grace you wish to share:”
For aught he does himself, while us he fleeces,
The sacred edifice might fall to pieces.’
“In costly fare and sumptuous array
They squander more than half their wealth away.
Engrossed with worldly thoughts, how can they spare
Their time for acts of piety and pray’r?
While the good pastor—so at least I’ve heard—
Devotes his life to th’ service of the Lord;
With modest temperance and sober gayety,
Setting a good example to the laity.
“Full well too do I know the hooded class;
A dirty, frowzy, hypocritic race;
A tribe of prowling, prying creatures, which
Spend their whole time in hunting up the rich.
Adepts in flattery, they reckon most
How they may use it on a liberal host.
If one but get a footing, three or four
Are sure to follow, if not many more.
Who in the cloister only longest prates
Is sure to gain promotion o’er his mates;
Reader he’s made, librarian or prior,
Or he may even mount to something higher.
Others, as good as he, are thrust aside;
The prizes so unfairly they divide.
Some pass their time in fasting and in pray’r,
While others sleep or sumptuously fare.
“As for your Papal legates, prelates, deans,
Your abbesses, your nuns and your beguines,
What tales might I tell of them if I would;
Yet little, I regret to say, that’s good.
One cry they always have, and one alone;
’Tis, ‘Give me yours and let me keep my own.’
But few there are, not ten assuredly,
Who strictly with their founder’s rules comply.
’Tis thus the church acquires a doubtful name,
Is brought to weakness, and sometimes to shame.”
“Uncle,” the Badger said, “I cannot guess
Why you should other people’s sins confess.
If they’ve done ill, what good is that to you?
With your own matters you’ve enough to do.
Why should you meddle with the priests and nuns?
Sure Mother Church can manage her own sons.
Let each his own peculiar burdens bear;
Let each th’ account of his own deeds prepare;
The audit-day will surely come, which none,
Or in, or out a cloister-walls, can shun.
“You talk too much though of all sorts of things;
Scarce can I follow all your wanderings;
I sometimes fear you’ll leave me in the lurch:
Pity you did not go into the church.
Great as your lore, you’d there find scope for it;
I should, with others, reap the benefit.
The most of us, I own, are brutes indeed,
And of good doctrine stand in awful need.”
Now the court’s precincts they approached at last;
Said Reynard to himself—“The die is cast!”
When on the road Martin the Ape they met,
Who off upon a tour to Rome had set;
And both he kindly greeted. “Uncle dear,”
Thus to the Fox, “be of good heart and cheer.”
Then questions put he to him, not a few,
Although the state of matters well he knew.
“My good luck seems forever to have fled,”
To Martin then the wily Reynard said;
“Some scurvy comrades, moved by dirty spleen,
Again, I find, accusing me have been.
The Rabbit and the Crow complain, I hear,
That one has lost a wife, and one an ear.
But what on earth has that to do with me?
That would I make them pretty quickly see,
If to the king I could but get to speak;
My cause I know is strong, as theirs is weak.
But still I labor ’neath the papal ban,
A wretched excommunicated man!
There’s not a soul, except the prebendary,
Can rescue me from out this sad quandary.
Unhappily, though why I cannot tell,
I don’t stand, somehow, with the clergy well.
This and more evils to a vast amount,
I suffer upon Isegrim’s account.
“A monk he once became; but one fine day
He from the monastery ran away:
The rules he found too rigid, and he sware
He lost his time in fasting and in pray’r.
I helped his flight; a cause of deep regret,
Which I have ever felt and do so yet;
For naught since then he’s done but slander me,
And work me ev’ry kind of injury.
What if I made a pilgrimage to Rome;
How would my family get on at home?
Isegrim then would cause them endless ill;
He’d have the pow’r, as he now has the will.
And many others are there who design
All sorts of mischief both to me and mine.
If from this awful ban I were but freed,
My cause at court were certain to succeed.”
Said Martin, “I am glad ’tis in my pow’r
To do you service in this trying hour.
I am just starting on a tour to Rome;
And may do much t’ ameliorate your doom.
You are my kinsman; set your mind at rest;
I will not suffer you to be oppress’d.
I’ve some weight, as the bishop’s secretary;
I’ll make him cite to Rome the prebendary;
Against him in your cause will I make fight,
And, uncle, they shall do you ample right.
The doom of ban, reversed shall shortly be,
Your absolution I’ll bring back with me,
Your foes their long hostility shall rue,
Losing their labor and their money too.
I know how causes may at Rome be won,
And what is best to do, what leave undone.
My cousin, Simon, has great influence;
For our name’s sake he’ll favor your defence:
There’s Gripeall too, Greedy and Eitherside,
And Turncoat, and I know not who beside.
For I have at the college many a friend,
Who to our cause their able aid will lend;
Or, rather let me say, their aid will sell;
For only those they help who fee them well.
I’ve sent my money first, for that alone
Will there ensure that justice shall be done.
Loudly they talk of justice, and such cant,
But ’tis your money that they really want.
How crooked be a cause, or intricate,
The touch of gold will make it plain and straight.
With that to find a welcome you are sure,
Without it, closed against you ev’ry door.
“Do you then, uncle, stay at home; while I
Your knotty cause will manage to untie.
To court ’twere best you should at once repair;
Seek out my wife, Dame Ruckenaw, when there;
She’s a shrewd soul, and with the king and queen
A special favorite has ever been.
Take her advice, whate’er she recommend;
There’s nothing but she’ll do t’ oblige a friend.
On many a staunch ally you there will light;
Such often help one more than being right.
Her sisters two are sure with her to be,
And my three children, for I have but three;
And many others of our common kin,
Who’ll stoutly stick by you, through thick and thin.
Should justice be denied you, send to me,
And what my pow’r is you shall quickly see:
An awful evil on this land shall fall,
On king, men, women, children, one and all;
An interdict shall on the realm be laid;
No service shall be sung, no mass be said,
No Christian grave receive th’ unhouseled dead.
The land a heathen desert will I make;
Be of good cheer then, coz, and comfort take.
“The pope is old, nor sound in mind or limb;
But few he cares for, and none care for him.
’Tis Cardinal Wiseacre rules the church,
And crows, as roosted on the highest perch;
To which no doubt one day he may aspire,
For he is full of craft and full of fire.
He is enamored of a certain dame,
Whom well I know, and, if I would, could name.
Her wishes she has only to make known,
And what she wishes is as good as done.
“But many tricks and frauds are played at Rome,
Which to the pope’s ears never chance to come.
But no one can get on without some aid;
Friends one must make, or buy them ready made.
Rely on me, dear coz; the king well knows
I will not see you fall before your foes;
’Twere just as well he should remember too
How many kindred claim, with me and you:
For sober counsel, not a family
At court can with the Apes and Foxes vie.
This cannot fail your dangers to allay,
Let matters even take what turn they may.”
Reynard replies, “There’s nothing, dearest coz,
Gives me such comfort as your friendship does:
I shall remember it, an I get free.”
Then each the other greeted courteously;
And tow’rds the court, to face his angry foes,
Reynard, with no escort but Graybeard, goes.