by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 - 1861)

If I were thou, O butterfly
Language: German (Deutsch) 
If I were thou, O butterfly,
And poised my purple wing to spy
The sweetest flowers that live and die,

I would not waste my strength on those,
As thou -- for summer has a close,
And pansies bloom not in the snows.

If I were thou, O working bee,
And all that honey-gold I see,
Could delve from roses easily,

I would not hive it at man's door,
As thou -- that heirdom of my store
Should make him rich, and leave me poor.

If I were thou, O eagle proud,
And screamed the thunder back aloud,
And faced the lightning from the cloud,

I would not build my eyrie-throne,
As thou -- upon a crumbling stone,
Which the next storm may trample down

If I were thou, O gallant steed,
With pawing hoof, and dancing head,
And eye outrunning thine own speed,

I would not meeken to the rein,
As thou -- nor smooth my nostril plain
From the glad desert's snort and strain.

If I were thou, red-breasted bird,
With song at shut-up window heard,
Like Love's sweet yes too long deferred,

I would not overstay delight,
As thou -- but take a swallow-flight,
Till the new spring returned to sight.

While yet I spake, a touch was laid
Upon my brow, whose pride did fiule
And thus, methought, an angel said -- 

"If I were thou who sing'st this song,
Most wise for others, and most strong
In seeing right while doing wrong,

"I would not waste my cares, and choose,
As thou -- to seek what thou must lose,
Such gains as perish in the use.

"I would not work where none can win, 
As thou -- half way 'twixt grief and sin, 
But look above, and judge within.

"I would not let my pulse beat high, 
As thou -- towards fame's regality, 
Nor yet in love's great jeopardy.

"I would not champ the hard cold bit.
As thou -- of what the world thinks fit,
But take God's freedom, using it.

"I would not play earth's winter out,
As thou -- but gird my soul about,
And live for life past death aud doubt.

"Then sing, O singer ! -- but allow,
Beast, fly, and bird, called foolish now,
Are wise (for all thy scorn) as thou!"

J. Williams sets stanzas 1-2, 9-10

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Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2010-03-28
Line count: 54
Word count: 371