from: Parables, Part II: Three Palinodias
RAIN AND RAINBOW
- DURING a heavy storm it chanced
- That from his room a cockney glanced
- At the fierce tempest as it broke,
- While to his neighbour thus he spoke:
- “The thunder has our awe inspired,
- Our barns by lightning have been fired, –
- Our sins to punish, I suppose;
- But in return, to soothe our woes,
- See how the rain in torrents fell,
- Making the harvest promise well!
- But is’t a rainbow that I spy
- Extending o’er the dark-grey sky?
- With it I’m sure we may dispense,
- The colour’d cheat! The vain pretence!”
- Dame Iris straightway thus replied:
- “Dost dare my beauty to deride?
- In realms of space God station’d me
- A type of better worlds to be
- To eyes that from life’s sorrows rove
- In cheerful hope to Heav’n above,
- And, through the mists that hover here
- God and his precepts blest revere.
- Do thou, then, grovel like the swine,
- And to the ground thy snout confine,
- But suffer the enlighten’d eye
- To feast upon my majesty.”
“Dame Iris” refers to Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow, an errand-running messenger and cup-bearer of the Olympian gods, and most closelty aligned with Zeus and Hera. Her name contains a double meaning, being connected both with iris, “the rainbow,” and eiris, “messenger.”
Iris appears in ancient Greek vase painting as a beautiful young woman with golden wings, a herald’s rod (kerykeion), and sometimes a water-pitcher (oinochoe) in her hand. For the coastal-dwelling Greeks, the rainbow’s arc was most often seen spanning the distance beteween clouds and the sea, and so the goddess was believed to replenish the rain-clouds with water from the sea.
About the Poet:
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German writer, artist, and politician, well known as a poet, novelist, playwright, natural philosopher, diplomat and civil servant.
His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, and over 10,000 letters written by him are extant, as are nearly 3,000 drawings.
Notable works include: Faust; The Sorrows of Young Werther; Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship; Elective Affinities; and Prometheus. [DES-07/12]