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Poems of Goethe

EXPLANATION OF AN ANTIQUE GEM,

A YOUNG fig-tree its form lifts high

Within a beauteous garden;
And see, a goat is sitting by.

As if he were its warden.

But oh, Quirites, how one errs!

The tree is guarded badly;
For round the other side there whirrs

And hums a beetle madly.

The hero with his well-mail'd coat

Nibbles the branches tall so;
A mighty longing feels the goat

Gently to climb up also.

And so, my friends, ere long ye see

The tree all leafless standing;
It looks a type of misery,

Help of the gods demanding.

Then listen, ye ingenuous youth,

Who hold wise saws respected:
From he-goat and from beetles-tooth

A tree should be protected!

                                1815.