Verse > Anthologies > Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans. > A Harvest of German Verse
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Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans.  A Harvest of German Verse.  1916.
 
Sir Ribbeck of Ribbeck
By Theodor Fontane (1819–1898)
 
SIR RIBBECK of Ribbeck in Havelland—
A pear-tree in his yard did stand;
And in the golden autumn-tide,
When pears were shining far and wide,
Sir Ribbeck, when barely the bells had struck noon,        5
Would stuff both his pockets with pears right soon.
If a boy in clogs would come his way,
He would call: “My boy, have a pear to-day?”
To a girl he’d call: “Little maid over there,
Now come here to me, and I’ll give you a pear!”        10
And thus he did ever, as years went by,
Till Sir Ribbeck of Ribbeck came to die.
He felt his end coming; ’twas autumn-tide,
And the pears were laughing, far and wide.
Then spoke Sir Ribbeck: “And now I must die.        15
Lay a pear in my grave, beside me to lie!”
From the double-roofed house, in three days more,
Sir Ribbeck to his grave they bore.
All the peasants and cotters with solemn face
Did sing: “Lord Jesus, in Thy Grace”—        20
And the children moaned with hearts of lead:
“Who will give us a pear? Now he is dead.”
 
Thus moaned the children—that was not good!—
Not knowing old Ribbeck as they should.
Young Ribbeck—alas!—is a miser hard;        25
Over park and pear-tree he keeps stern guard.
But the old, who this doubtless could foretell,
Distrusting his son—he knew right well
What he was about when he bade them lay
A pear in his grave, on his dying day:        30
Out of his silent haunt in the third year
A little pear-tree shoot did soon appear.
And many a year now comes and goes,
But a pear-tree on the grave there grows,
And in the golden autumn-tide        35
The pears are shining far and wide.
When a boy o’er the grave-yard wends his way,
The tree whispers: “Boy, have a pear to-day?”
To a girl it says: “Little maid over there,
Come here to me and I’ll give you a pear!”        40
    So there are blessings still from the hand
    Of Sir Ribbeck of Ribbeck in Havelland.
 
 
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