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  • Translation

Divinity by Johann Wolfgang Goethe


Let all men be good,

Noble and giving.

For, that alone

Distinguishes them

From other beings

Known in this world.


Hail to the unknown

Higher beings,

Which they surmise!

Let all men resemble

Them by example,

Teaching us to believe.


For, nature remains

Indifferent to all:

The sun rains its beams

On both good and bad;

The moon gleams over

Both good and evil.


The wind and the rain,

Hail and thunder,

Consume all things,

Snatching the innocent

And guilty as they

Make their way through earth.


So does dear fortune,

Sweep through the crowds,

Snatching the boy

In his innocence

And then devouring

The wicked and old.


As the eternal

Unchangeable laws

Compel us to abide

By the cycles of

Life and existence.


Only mankind does

The impossible:

We can distinguish,

Both judge and decide,

And give permanence

To a moment.


We alone reward

The good and pure,

And scorn the vile;

We may save and heal

And nobly anchor

All that strays and drifts.


So we revel in

The immortals

As if they were men

Who on heavenly

Scales accomplish what

Each one of us dreams.


Let all men be good,

Noble and giving,

Always striving for

The true and the just:

And let them mirror

The God they surmise.


Translation © David B. Gosselin

1 Comment


martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Feb 10, 2022

What a poem! It is great to start the day by reading something this good. It is also good advice for living well and for keeping a strong sense that human beings by their behaviour can, like the immortals we feel to be there, become mirrors of what is greater and better than ourselves. Beautifully translated, with every word measured and precise. I especially love the line: 'Only mankind does the impossible'. Well, you and have just proved that. Take a bow!

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