Cupid as a Landscape Painter

Early, on the rock’s bare summit
I with fixed eyes sat looking,
On the fog, which like grey canvass
Kept all things around concealed.
See a boy came, stood by my shoulder,
Said, “Why friend art thou thus staring
Coldly on the empty canvass
Hast thou lost thy joy in painting,
Lost thy love of art for ever?”
Looking on the boy, I whisper’d
“Will that child too play the master
Mournfully and idly sitting?”
Says the boy, “Will profit nothing
See, I’ll make at once a picture
I will teach thee how to paint too,”
And he stretched his fore-finger
Like a rose-bud it was glowing
On the wide outstretched canvas
With the tip of his finger drawing
On the top a sun he painted
Trees of heart enlivening freshness
And a group of distant mountains,
Gently rose above each other.
And below, a stream was flowing
So like nature, that the river
Seem’d to sparkle in the sun beams
And to beat against the borders.
Flowers too were in the river
Colours glittered in the meadow
Gold and green and blue and purple
Look’d like emeralds and rubies
To the sky he then proceeded,
Light and clear and bright he made it
And the blue hills in the distance.
I was lost in joy beholding
Now the painting, now the painter.
“Have I not,” says he, “now proved
That I too can hold the pencil
But the best is still remaining.”
Then he drew with pointed finger
By the wood with utmost niceness
Where the sun with might was shining
From the bright soil was reflected
There he drew the sweetest maiden
Tightly clad and finely formed
Fresh cheeks under auburn ringlets
And her cheeks were of the colour
Of the finger which had drawn them.
“Oh thou boy,” I cried, “What master
Has taught thee so wise a lesson,
That with such skill and such nature
Thou couldst plan and end thy picture?”
And behold as I was speaking
Rises softly a faint zephyr
Gently moving the tree’s branches
Curls the waves upon the river
Swells the veil of the sweet maiden
And — which sets me more in wonder
She the maiden is in motion
To the spot she is approaching,
Where the boy and I are sitting;
Now that all things were in motion,
Trees and river, veil & flowers
And the soft foot of the maiden
Dost thou think now that I idly
Rock like, on my rock remained?

From the German of Goethe by a Foreigner