To me, a pilgrim, shall the world,
With all its joy and sorrows, be
But as a bridge that leads, O Lord,
Across the stream of time to Thee.
And should my song woo worldly gifts,
The base rewards of vanity—
Dash down my lyre! I’ll hold my peace
Before thee to eternity.
FROM THE LIFE OF A GOOD-FOR-NOTHING (1826)
BY JOSEPH VON EICHENDORFF TRANSLATED BY MRS. A.L.W. WISTER
The wheel of my father’s mill was once more turning and whirring merrily, the melting snow trickled steadily from the roof, the sparrows chirped and hopped about, as I, taking great delight in the warm sunshine, sat on the door-step and rubbed my eyes to rid them of sleep. Then my father made his appearance; he had been busy in the mill since daybreak, and his nightcap was all awry as he said to me—
You Good-for-nothing! There you sit sunning yourself, and stretching yourself till your bones crack, leaving me to do all the work alone. I can keep you here no longer. Spring is at hand. Off with you into the world and earn your own bread!”
“Well,” said I, “all right; if I am a Good-for-nothing, I will go forth into the world and make my fortune.” In fact, I was very glad to have my father speak thus, for I myself had been thinking of starting on my travels; the yellow-hammer, which all through the autumn and winter had been chirping sadly at our window, “Farmer, hire me; farmer, hire me,” was, now that the lovely spring weather had set in, once more piping cheerily from the old tree, “Farmer, nobody wants your work.” So I went into the house and took down from the wall my fiddle, on which I could play quite skilfully; my father gave me a few pieces of money to set me on my way; and I sauntered off along the village street. I was filled with secret joy as I saw all my old acquaintances and comrades right and left going to their work digging and ploughing, just as they had done yesterday and the day before, and so on, whilst I was roaming out into the wide world. I called out “Good-by!” to the poor people on all sides, but no one took much notice of me. A perpetual Sabbath seemed to reign in my soul, and when I got out among the fields I took out my dear fiddle and played and sang, as I walked along the country road—
“The favored ones, the loved of
God sends to roam the world at will;
His wonders to their gaze are given
By field and forest, stream and hill.
“The dullards who at home are staying
Are not refreshed by morning’s ray;
They grovel, earth-born calls obeying,
And petty cares beset their day.
“The little brooks o’er rocks
The lark’s gay carol fills the air;
Why should not I with them be singing
A joyous anthem free from care?