We laugh unknowing.


The moon is risen, beaming,
The golden stars are gleaming
So brightly in the skies;
The hushed, black woods are dreaming,
The mists, like phantoms seeming,
From meadows magically rise.

How still the world reposes,
While twilight round it closes,
So peaceful and so fair!
A quiet room for sleeping,
Into oblivion steeping
The day’s distress and sober care.

Look at the moon so lonely!
One half is shining only,
Yet she is round and bright;
Thus oft we laugh unknowing
At things that are not showing,
That still are hidden from our sight.

We, with our proud endeavour,
Are poor vain sinners ever,
There’s little that we know.
Frail cobwebs we are spinning,
Our goal we are not winning,
But straying farther as we go.

God, make us see Thy glory,
Distrust things transitory,
Delight in nothing vain!
Lord, here on earth stand by us,
To make us glad and pious,
And artless children once again!

Grant that, without much grieving,
This world we may be leaving
In gentle death at last.
And then do not forsake us,
But into heaven take us,
Lord God, oh, hold us fast!

Lie down, my friends, reposing,
Your eyes in God’s name closing.
How cold the night-wind blew!
Oh God, Thine anger keeping,
Now grant us peaceful sleeping,
And our sick neighbour too.

-Matthias Claudius (1740 – 1815)

7 thoughts on “We laugh unknowing.

  1. I’m glad that I saw this. 🙂 The original is in German (Der Mond ist Augegangen) , and I have the first stanza memorized. It’s a lovely poem and the translation here does a good job of capturing the feeling that the German original does. In 1790 already, Johann Abraham Peter Schulz composed a melody to accompany the text, and so I can hardly read the poem without the song coming to mind.

    My first trip to Germany was to Hamburg, way up north. I was a senior in high school, and the program was in cooperation with the Matthias Claudius Gymnasium there. Not only is the school named in Matthias Claudius’ memory, but his and his wife’s graves are a stone’s throw away from the school. Before I knew anything about Matthias Claudius, I had taken pictures of where he is buried!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, that last word of the title is supposed to be “Aufgegangen”… Der Mond ist Aufgegangen.

      My mind skitters all over the place and my poor fingers try to keep up, with varying degrees of success!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a beautiful poem. Now I want to go look up the song that was mentioned above, if I can find it. It captures perfectly (in translation! Amazing!) the sleepy, dreamy feel of nature in twilight, and the feeling of calm trust we should also feel upon death. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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