The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/The Magic Net

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Do I see a contest yonder?
See I miracles or pastimes?
Beauteous urchins, five in number,
'Gainst five sisters fair contending,—
Measured is the time they're beating—
At a bright enchantress' bidding.
Glittering spears by some are wielded,
Threads are others nimbly twining,
So that in their snares, the weapons,
One would think, must needs be captured.
Soon, in truth, the spears are prisoned:
Yet they, in the gentle war-dance,
One by one escape their fetters
In the row of loops so tender,
That make haste to seize a free one
Soon as they release a captive.
So with contests, strivings, triumphs,
Flying now, and now returning,
Is an artful net soon woven,
In its whiteness like the snowflakes,
That, from light amid the darkness,
Draw their streaky lines so varied,
As e'en colours scarce can draw them.

Who shall now receive that garment
Far beyond all others wished-for?
Whom our much-loved mistress favour
As her own acknowledged servant?
I am blest by kindly Fortune's
Tokens true, in silence prayed for!
And I feel myself held captive,
To her service now devoted.

Yet, e'en while I, thus enraptured,
Thus adorned, am proudly wandering,
See! yon wantons are entwining.
Void of strife with secret ardour,
Other nets, each fine and finer,
Threads of twilight interweaving.
Moonbeams sweet, night-violets' balsam.

Ere the net is noticed by us,
Is a happier one imprisoned,
Whom we, one and all, together
Greet with envy and with blessings.