The below poem was written as a dedication in a book. It was written by someone who was known as being very funny, but did not like it if anyone else was able to get laughs - and did not get on with these people. The recipient of the poem, a cellist, is the one person for whom he makes an exception, "albeit with one cheerful eye and one wet eye". This poem is supposed to demonstrate this attitude:

Du machst so viele Menschen froh.
Und groß ist der Verehrer Kreis. Dir fliegen
Die Herzen zu, nie hat betrogen
Ein Hoffen Dich. Hätt ich doch so
Die Feder stets geführt, wie Du den Bogen.
Dieses Buch, das geb ich Dir,
Heinrich, Dir graut vor mir.

The closing sentence of the verse confuses me somewhat in terms of tone. Is this more of a statement of fact or a command or a wish? And does it just come out of nowhere or is there something I'm missing in the earlier lines that leads up to this?

  • 1
    Btw I agree the last two lines feel very different in tone from the first five, which sound like a decent beginner's level Rilke imitation. The last two lines, with the inversed Faust quotation, are just a cheap joke. Dec 11, 2023 at 18:02
  • In the SWR radio broadcast tens of years ago there was the sentence "Die Gräfin schaute aus dem Fenster. Dem Morgen graute." (Probably a silent comment on the Pilcher films of that time. Never forgot that one...) Dec 13, 2023 at 18:48
  • @R.J.Mathar: That joke has been around for some decades indeed youtu.be/Nq0XSDNKJBY?si=Zxs7XRR3d0zyEvvD Dec 16, 2023 at 6:30

1 Answer 1


Heinrich! Mir graut's vor dir.

is a citation from Goethe's Faust I. Faust and Mephistopheles are about to rescue Gretchen from her death penalty by helping her to flee the dungeon. Gretchen refuses with these last words toward Faust.

As you see, in the cited poem it's the other way around.

Heinrich, Dir graut vor mir.

So take it with a twinkle in the eye.


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