Legend of the horseshoe

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The legend of the horseshoe is a ballad by Johann Wolfgang Goethe from 1797.


The ballad tells a legend about Jesus Christ and begins with the following verses:

When still, misunderstood and very little,
Our Lord walked on earth
And many disciples found themselves to him, who
very seldom understood his word,

The story is told as follows: Jesus asks his disciple Peter in vain to pick up an old horseshoe and then picks it up himself. Then he sells it and gets cherries for the money. He then drops these cherries one by one on the way and causes Peter to bend down again and again for them. Peter is thus given a teaching that is also intended to apply to the reader:

It takes a long time.
Then the Lord said with
glee : “If you acted at the right time, you would
have liked it more comfortably.
He who pays little attention to minor things,
makes less effort. "


In this poem Jesus appears as a benevolent traveling preacher who is always called “Lord” and who loves to “hold his court in the streets”. The language seems ancient and has a simple form that suggests the middle-class late Middle Ages .

The instructive is told with humor and is therefore all the more readily accepted.


  • Karl Moritz: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - legend of the horseshoe . In: Ders .: German ballads. Analyzes for German lessons (word, work, shape). Schöningh, Paderborn 1972, pp. 41-44, ISBN 3-506-72814-8 .

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