Verse > Anthologies > Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans. > A Harvest of German Verse
Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans.  A Harvest of German Verse.  1916.
By Friedrich Rückert (1789–1866)
CHIDHER, the ever youthful, told:
I passed a city, bright to see.
A man was culling fruits of gold;
I asked him how old this town might be.
He answered, culling as before:        5
“This town stood ever in days of yore,
And will stand on forevermore!”
    Five hundred years from yonder day
    I passed again the self-same way,
And of the town I found no trace.        10
A shepherd blew on a reed instead;
His herd was grazing on the place.
“How long,” I asked, “is the city dead?”
He answered, blowing as before:
“The new crop grows the old one o’er;        15
This was my pasture evermore!”
    Five hundred years from yonder day
    I passed again the self-same way.
A sea I found; the tide was full,
A sailor emptied nets with cheer;        20
And when he rested from his pull,
I asked how long that sea were here.
Then laughed he with a hearty roar:
“As long as waves have washed this shore
They fished here ever in days of yore.”        25
    Five hundred years from yonder day
    I passed again the self-same way.
I found a forest settlement,
And o’er his axe, a tree to fell,
I saw a man in labour bent.        30
How old this wood I bade him tell.
“’Tis everlasting; long before
I lived, it stood in days of yore,”
He quoth; “and shall grow evermore.”
    Five hundred years from yonder day        35
    I passed again the self-same way.
I saw a town; the market-square
Was swarming with a noisy throng.
“How long,” I asked, “has this town been there?
Where are wood and sea and shepherd’s song?”        40
I heard them cry among the roar:
“This town was ever so before,
And so will live forevermore.”
    Five hundred years from yonder day
    I want to pass the self-same way.        45

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