In Goethes "Prometheus" ist es geschrieben.

Und übe, Knaben gleich,
Der Disteln köpft,
An Eichen dich und Bergeshöh'n!

Die Distel ist eine Pflanze (thistles) und köpfen bedeutet doch jemanden den Kopf zu abschlagen. Deshalb machen diese Zeilen keinen Sinn für mich.

Wie soll man diese Zeilen verstehen?

  • 5
    Have you seen the plant? It has a flower head. And so you can decapitate it. Very straightforward. Decapitation is not limited to human beings. – RegDwight Apr 28 '15 at 12:24
  • 1
    This is complicated by the weird (poetic) word order and the omission of a crucial article. Here is an untangled version: "Und übe dich an Eichen und Bergeshöhen, gleich einem Knaben, der Disteln köpft." Tricky expressions: sich üben = practise, gleich einem = similar to a. – user2183 Apr 28 '15 at 16:08

Bedecke deinen Himmel, Zeus,
Mit Wolkendunst!
Und übe, Knaben gleich,
Der Disteln köpft,
An Eichen dich und Bergeshöh’n!

The first line of the poem is addressing Zeus and tells him to cover the sky with clouds, effectively hiding the peak of mountains and treetops of oaks (“decapitating” them), which is compared to a small boy “decapitating” thistles.

It’s like:

dear Zeus, just like a small boy dacapitates thistles you should decapitate tree and mountains with your clouds.

  • And why is the plural imperative used here? – marmistrz Apr 28 '15 at 13:48
  • "übe" is singular. Plural would be "übt" (or sometimes, more ancient, "übet") – schrom Apr 28 '15 at 13:54
  • Yes, but "köpft" is 2.Pl. – marmistrz Apr 28 '15 at 13:55
  • 1
    "köpft" is not an imperative here. It's 3rd Sg. Present and refers to "Knabe". What's a bit irritating is that the indefinite article "einem" before "Knaben" is omitted, which makes it look like a plural. You can only tell from the following "der" that it must be singular. – Uwe Apr 28 '15 at 14:13
  • 1
    @Uwe That irritating bit is just a typo. It is "..., dem Knaben gleich, ...", according to this source – Matthias Apr 28 '15 at 14:36

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