Home > Uncategorized > Goethe: “O wisdom, thou speakest as a dove!”

Goethe: “O wisdom, thou speakest as a dove!”


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

German writers on peace and war

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: I have not a warlike nature nor warlike tastes

Goethe: Withdraw hands from your swords


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Eagles and Doves
Translated by Margaret Fuller


A new-fledged eaglet spread his wings
To seek for prey;
Then flew the huntsman’s dart and cut
The right wing’s sinewy strength away.
Headlong he falls into a myrtle grove;
There three days long devoured his grief,
And writhed in pain
Three long, long nights, three days as weary.
At length he feels
The all-healing power
Of Nature’s balsam.
Forth from the shady bush he creeps,
And tries his wing; but, ah!
The power to soar is gone!
He scarce can lift himself
Along the ground
In search of food to keep mere life awake;
Then rests, deep mourning,
On a low rock by the brook;
He looks up to the oak tree’s top,
Far up to heaven,
And a tear glistens in his haughty eye.

Just then come by a pair of fondling doves,
Playfully rustling through the grove.
Cooing and toying, they go tripping
Over golden sand and brook;
And, turning here and there,
Their rose-tinged eyes descry
The inly-mourning bird.
The dove, with friendly curiosity,
Flutters to the next bush, and looks
With tender sweetness on the wounded king.
“Ah, why so sad?” he cooes;
“Be of good cheer, my friend!
Hast thou not all the means of tranquil bliss
Around thee here?
Canst thou not meet with swelling breast
The last rays of the setting sun
On the brook’s mossy brink?
Canst wander ‘mid the dewy flowers,
And, from the superfluous wealth
Of the wood-bushes, pluck at will
Wholesome and delicate food,
And at the silvery fountain quench thy thirst?
O friend! the spirit of content
Gives all that we can know of bliss;
And this sweet spirit of content
Finds every where its food.”
“O, wise one!” said the eagle, deeper still
Into himself retiring;
“O wisdom, thou speakest as a dove!”

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