The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/Limits of Humanity

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LIMITS OF HUMANITY.

When the Creator,
The Great, the Eternal,
Sows with indifferent
Hand, from the rolling
Clouds, o'er the earth. His
Lightnings in blessing,
I kiss the nethermost
Hem of His garment,
Lowly incllning
In infantine awe.
For never against
The immortals, a mortal
May measure himself.
Upwards aspiring,
He toucheth the stars with his forehead,
Then do his insecure feet
Stumble and totter and reel;
Then do the cloud and the tempest
Make him their pastime and sport.

Let him with sturdy,
Sinewy limbs,
Tread the enduring
Firm-seated earth;
Aiming no further, than
The oak or the vine to compare!

What doth distinguish
Gods from mankind?
This! Multitudinous
Billows roll ever
Before the immortals,
An infinite stream.
We by a billow
Are lifted—a billow
Engulfs us—we sink,
And are heard of no more.

A little round
Encircles our life,
And races unnumbered
Extend through the ages,
Linked by existence's
Infinite chain.