THE METAMORPHOSIS OF PLANTS
THOU art confused, my beloved, at, seeing the thousandfold
Shown in this flowery troop, over the garden dispers'd;
any a name dost thou hear assign'd; one after another
Falls on thy list'ning ear, with a barbarian sound.
None resembleth another, yet all their forms have a likeness;
Therefore, a mystical law is by the chorus proclaim'd;
Yes, a sacred enigma! Oh, dearest friend, could I only
Happily teach thee the word, which may the mystery
Closely observe how the plant, by little and little progressing,
Step by step guided on, changeth to blossom and
First from the seed it unravels itself, as soon as the silent
Fruit-bearing womb of the earth kindly allows Its
And to the charms of the light, the holy, the ever-in-motion,
Trusteth the delicate leaves, feebly beginning
Simply slumber'd the force in the seed; a germ of the future,
Peacefully lock'd in itself, 'neath the integument
Leaf and root, and bud, still void of colour, and shapeless;
Thus doth the kernel, while dry, cover that motionless
Upward then strives it to swell, in gentle moisture confiding,
And, from the night where it dwelt, straightway
ascendeth to light.
Yet still simple remaineth its figure, when first it appeareth;
And 'tis a token like this, points out the child
'mid the plants.
Soon a shoot, succeeding it, riseth on high, and reneweth,
Piling-up node upon node, ever the primitive form;
Yet not ever alike: for the following leaf, as thou seest,
Ever produceth itself, fashioned in manifold ways.
Longer, more indented, in points and in parts more divided,
all-deform'd until now, slept in the organ
So at length it attaineth the noble and destined perfection,
Which, in full many a tribe, fills thee with wondering
Many ribb'd and tooth'd, on a surface juicy and swelling,
Free and unending the shoot seemeth in fullness
Yet here Nature restraineth, with powerful hands, the formation,
And to a perfecter end, guideth with softness its
Less abundantly yielding the sap, contracting the vessels,
So that the figure ere long gentler effects doth
Soon and in silence is check'd the growth of the vigorous branches,
And the rib of the stalk fuller becometh in form.
Leafless, however, and quick the tenderer stem then up-springeth,
And a miraculous sight doth the observer enchant.
Ranged in a circle, in numbers that now are small, and now countless,
Gather the smaller-sized leaves, close by the side
of their like.
Round the axis compress'd the sheltering calyx unfoldeth,
And, as the perfectest type, brilliant-hued coronals
Thus doth Nature bloom, in glory still nobler and fuller,
Showing, in order arranged, member on member uprear'd.
Wonderment fresh dost thou feel, as soon as the stem rears the flower
Over the scaffolding frail of the alternating leaves.
But this glory is only the new creation's foreteller,
Yes, the leaf with its hues feeleth the hand all
And on a sudden contracteth itself; the tenderest figures
Twofold as yet, hasten on, destined to blend into
Lovingly now the beauteous pairs are standing together,
Gather'd in countless array, there where the altar
Hymen hovereth o'er them, and scents delicious and mighty
Stream forth their fragrance so sweet, all things
Presently, parcell'd out, unnumber'd germs are seen swelling,
Sweetly conceald in the womb, where is made perfect
Here doth Nature close the ring of her forces eternal;
Yet doth a new one, at once, cling to the one gone
So that the chain be prolonged for ever through all generations,
And that the whole may have life, e'en as enjoy'd
by each part.
Now, my beloved one, turn thy gaze on the many-hued thousands
Which, confusing no more, gladden the mind as they
Every plant unto thee proclaimeth the laws everlasting,
Every flowered speaks louder and louder to thee;
But if thou here canst decipher the mystic words of the goddess,
Everywhere will they be seen, e'en though the features
Creeping insects may linger, the eager butterfly hasten,--
Plastic and forming, may man change e'en the figure
Oh, then, bethink thee, as well, how out of the germ of acquaintance,
Kindly intercourse sprang, slowly unfolding its
Soon how friendship with might unveil'd itself in our bosoms,
And how Amor, at length, brought forth blossom
Think of the manifold ways wherein Nature hath lent to our feelings,
Silently giving them birth, either the first or
Yes, and rejoice in the present day! For love that is holy
Seeketh the noblest of fruits,--that where the
thoughts are the same,
Where the opinions agree,--that the pair may, in rapt contemplation,
Lovingly blend into one,--find the more excellent
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
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