Grenzen der Menschheit
The Limits of Mankind


When the holy,
Ancient father,
With an impassive hand,
Strews beneficent bolts of lightning
Over the earth
From behind the rolling clouds,
I kiss the furthermost
Hem of his garment,
A childlike sense of awe
Steadfast within my heart.

For up against the gods
No man
Should measure himself.
If he raises himself
And touches the stars
With his head,
Nowhere can the insecure
Soles of his feet take grip,
And he will be the plaything
Of the winds and the clouds.

If he stands firm
On vigorous bone
On well-established,
Enduring soil,
He will reach a height
To compare himself
Only to the oak
Or the vine.

What distinguishes
Gods from men?
The former make
Waves a-plenty;
A never-ending stream.
We are raised up by waves,
Waves consume us
And we go under.

A small ring
Is the limit of our life,
And the many generations
Ceaselessly link them
To the endless chain
Of their existence.