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[99] We are but men: no gods are we,
     To sit in mid-heaven, cold and bleak,
Each separate, on his painful peak,
     Thin-cloaked in self-complacency!

Better his lot whose axe is swung
     In Wartburg woods, or that poor girl's
Who by the Ilm her spindle whirls
     And sings the songs that Luther sung,

Than his who, old, and cold, and vain,
     At Weimar sat, a demigod,
And bowed with Jove's imperial nod
     His votaries in and out again!

Ply, Vanity, thy winged feet!
     Ambition, hew thy rocky stair!
Who envies him who feeds on air
     The icy splendor of his seat?

I see your Alps, above me, cut
     The dark, cold sky; and dim and lone
I see ye sitting,—stone on stone,—
     With human senses dulled and shut.

I could not reach you, if I would,
     Nor sit among your cloudy shapes;
And (spare the fable of the grapes
     And fox) I would not if I could.

Keep to your lofty pedestals!
     The safer plain below I choose:
Who never wins can rarely lose,
     Who never climbs as rarely falls.

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