Verse > Anthologies > Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans. > A Harvest of German Verse
Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans.  A Harvest of German Verse.  1916.
The Wizard’s Apprentice
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
NOW old wizard has at last
Left me here and gone away!
And his spirit-minions fast
My commands shall now obey.
Master’s words I know,        5
All he used to do.
By my wit I’ll show
I can conjure too.
    Water flow,
    And profuse,        10
    For good use,
    Bubbling pour,
    Till the foaming basin grow
    Richer, fuller evermore.
Come, old broom and don your rag!        15
All my wishes now fulfill:
Thou hast long time been a fag;
Rise and stir and do my will!
Stand on two legs—so!
Head shall grow on top!        20
Get me water, go!
Take your pail and hop!
    Water flow,
    And profuse,
    For good use,        25
    Bubbling pour,
    Till the foaming basin grow
    Richer, fuller evermore.
Lo, he runs and now indeed
He has reached the river’s shore,        30
And returns with lightning speed,
Water from his pail to pour.
    Now he’s done it twice:
    How the basin swells!
    Dishes in a trice        35
    Look like water-wells!
    Stay, stand still!
    Of thy store
    I have more
    Than my fill!        40
    Ah, now I begin to know:
    I forgot the word! Oh, woe!
Word that makes him be at last
What he was inside the room!
Ah, he fills the bucket fast!        45
Wert thou but the old, old broom!
More and more he brings,
Still new torrents gush!
Over me he flings
Rivers with their rush.        50
    I will bear
    This no longer:
    Hold—I’m stronger!
    Now I feel a creeping scare!        55
    Ah, what mien, what looks I see!
Oh, thou vilest child of hell!
Wouldst thou have the whole house drowned?
Mighty streams of water swell,
Over every threshold bound.        60
Oh, the broom accursed
Will not heed my will!
Stick thou wast at first—
Once again stand still!
      Will he never        65
      Do what’s told him?
      I will hold him,
      And endeavour
      Fast to split the bad old wood
      With my hatchet sharp and good.        70
There he comes, still burdened so!
On thee now I’ll cast my weight:
  Fiend, thou shalt be lying low,
  On thy wood the axe shall grate!
  Good! I’ve done the deed!        75
  Lo, he’s cut in twain!
  I can hope, and freed
  I can breathe again!
      Woe! What plight!
      Now each part        80
      Up doth start,
      And upright
      Stand two servants in my sight!
      Help me, oh, some higher might!
  And they run! Now more and more        85
  Deluge swallows stairs and hall.
  Endless streams of water pour.
  Lord and master! Hear me call!
  There’s the master!—Pray,
  Help, sir! I’m appalled!        90
  Spirits I have called
  I can’t drive away.
      “In the room’s
      Corner, brooms!
      There you were.        95
      You shall stir
      Only when I let you loose,
      Spirits for the master’s use!”

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