II


That a black and Freiligrathian
Moorish prince could beat with longing
On the mighty drum-head, 'til it
Bursts in twain, while loudly thumping:

That is truly drumroll-stirring,
Also eardrum-devastating -
But then think ye of a bear, who
Wrenches free from heavy fetters!

All the music and the laughter
Cease abruptly, with a shriek of
Fear the people flee the market,
And the ladies, they are blanching.

Yes, from his enslaving shackles
Suddenly tears loose and free our
Atta Troll. With frantic leaping,
Through the narrow streets he's racing -

(Each politely makes him way) -,
Up the rocky cliffs he clambers,
Looking down, as in derision,
'Til he's vanished in the mountains.

At the empty market plaza
All alone remain black Mumma
And the stout bear trainer. Raging,
Down he throws his pointed hat, and

Tramples on it, stepping on the
Six madonnas! tears the blanket
From his nasty naked body,
Cursing at ingratitude, yes,

Pure black bear-ingratitude!
For he treated Atta Troll
As a friend, in friendly fashion,
And instructed him in dancing.

Everything should he be thanked for,
Life itself! For they had offered
Him, in vain, one hundred talers
For the hide of Atta Troll!

On the mis'rable black Mumma,
She, the picture of mute anguish,
Pleading, up on her hindquarters,
Stuck before the raging trainer,

Falls the raging trainer's anger
Doubly hard, for first he beats her,
Then he calls her Queen Christina,
Mistress Mu˝oz, and Putana. --

This took place upon a lovely,
Warm midday in sweet midsummer,
And the night, that came to follow,
Was superb beyond all telling.

I spent almost half that evening
Up upon the balcony,
Next me stood Juliet, and
Contemplated stars above us.

Sighing, spake she: "Ah, the stars are
Always loveliest in Paris,
When you see, on winter evenings,
Their reflection in the sewer."


III


Dream of summer nights! Fantastic,
Pointless is my song. Yes, pointless
Just like love, or just like living,
Like creator and creation!

Only its own zest obeying,
Whether galloping or flying,
In the realm of fable bustles
My belovéd Pegasus.

Not a virtuous and useful
Cart horse for the bourgeoisie,
Nor a mount for warring parties
That, pathetic, stamps and whinnies!

Gold-beshodden are the hooves of
My petite white wingéd pony,
Strings of pearls make up the bridle,
And I let her romp most gaily.

Carry me to where thou willst!
Over aery precipices,
Where cascades, with fearful shrieking,
Warn of the abyss of nonsense!

Carry me through silent valleys,
Where the sober oak trees tower
And on twisted roots there trickles
Sweet the ancient font of legends!

Let me drink there, let me moisten
There mine eyes - oh, how I pine for
This most lucid wonder-water,
Which can make one seeing, knowing.

Ev'ry blindness yields! My sight
Penetrates the deepest crevice,
In the cave of Atta Troll -
I can understand his speeches!

Curious! that how familiar
Seems to me this bearish language!
Have I not, in my dear homeland,
Heard these sounds when I was younger?


IV


Ronceval, thou noble dale!
When I hear thy name, there's stirring
And a fragrance in my heart of
Flowers, blue and long forgotten!

Gleaming rises up the dream-world
That a thousand years was sunken,
And stupendous eyes of spirits
Gaze at me until I'm fearful!

And it clangs and roars! There battle
Saracens and French crusaders;
How despairing and how bloodied
Roland's bugle calls are sounding!

In the dale of Ronceval,
Not too far from Roland's Gap -
Known as such, because the hero,
For to break away in battle,

With his trusty sword Duranda
Chopped away so fiercely, grimly,
At the wall of rock, that traces
Visibly remain upon it -

There within a gloomy canyon,
Where there grow amongst the bushes
Haggard fir-trees, deeply hidden
Lies the cave of Atta Troll.

There, within his family's bosom,
He may rest from the exertions
Of his flight, and from the hardships
Of performance and world travel.

Sweet reunion! In the dear, dear
Cave he found the long lost youngsters,
Where they were begot with Mumma;
Four good sons and two good daughters.

Finely licked, these bearish maidens,
Blond of hair, like preachers' daughters;
Brown the lads, but just the youngest
With the single ear is black.

This, the youngest, was the sweetheart
Of his mother, who, at playtime,
Once had bitten off an ear;
Then, for love, she also ate it.

He is such a clever youngster,
For gymnastics very apt,
And a whiz at somersaulting,
Like the tumbling-master, Ma▀mann.

By his autochthonous nurture
He reveres his mother tongue,
He would never learn the jargon
Of the Hellenes and the Romans.

Frisky, free and blithe and pious,
He despises soap entirely,
Luxury of modern washing,
Like the tumbling-master, Ma▀mann.

Most ingenious is the youngster
When he scrambles up a fir tree,
That, along the steepest rock face,
From the dizzy gulch arises,

Looming to the rounded summit,
Where at night the whole kaboodle
Gathers all around the father,
Cuddling in the evening coolness.

Gladly then the old one tells them
What he's lived through in the world,
How so many men and cities
He has seen, and how he's suffered,

Like the son of brave Laertes,
Only with a single diff'rence,
That his wife did travel with him,
Yes, his black Penelope.

Also speaks then Atta Troll
Of colossal acclamation
That, for his display of dancing,
He received from all the people.

He assures them, young and old
Cheered him on in admiration,
When he danced at all the markets
To the bagpipe's dulcet crooning.

And the ladies, most especially
These most tender cognoscenti,
Had applauded him so madly
And their eyes had paid him homage.

Oh, the vanities of artists!
Smiling now, the elder dance-bear
Thinks upon the times his talent
Was displayed before the public.

Overcome by selfish rapture,
He will by the deed express it,
That he's not a sorry braggart,
He touched greatness as a dancer -

Suddenly he springs to motion,
Rears aloft on his hindquarters,
Like in former times he'll dance his
Dance of dances, the Gavotte.

Mute, with muzzles hanging open,
All the youngster bears behold it,
How the father leaps, prodigious,
To and fro out in the moonlight.


V


In the cave, beside his loved ones,
Lolling on his back is heartsick
Atta Troll, and pensively he
Sucks his paws, he sucks and growls:

"Mumma, Mumma, pearl of blackness,
That I fished up from the ocean
Of this life, now in life's ocean
I have lost thee once again!

Shall I never see thee, Mumma,
'Til beyond the grave, where finally
Freed from earthly shagginess, thy
Soul at last shall be transfigured?

Ah! Before that happens, I would
Like to lick thy noble muzzle,
Mumma mine, 'twould be so sweet, as
If a honeypot had smeared it!

Once more I would like to snuffle
Thine aroma, so peculiar
To my dear and blackish Mumma,
Lovely like the scent of roses!

But alas! doth Mumma languish
In the fetters of that brood,
That the name of Human bears, and
Thinks it's lord of all creation.

Death and hell! These gloating humans,
Arch-aristocrats who gaze on
The collective beastly kingdom,
Cheeky, impudent and haughty,

Steal from us our wives and children,
Chain us and abuse us, even
Kill us, just so they may barter
For our hides and for our carcass!

They believe themselves entitled
To indulge in such malpractice,
Most especially toward bears, and
Then they call it Rights of Man!

Rights of Man! Oh, Rights of Man! And
Who gave you the title to them?
That was never done by Nature,
She is not unnatural.

Rights of Man! who gave them to you,
Privileges like to these?
Truly, 'twas not done by Reason,
Reason's not unreas'nable!

Humans, are ye somehow better
Than we others, just because you
Boil or maybe fry your food?
We consume ours raw, and really,

In the end, you'll find it is the
Same result -- for no, the food is
Not ennobled; that is noble,
Which behaves and feels more nobly.

Humans, are ye somehow better
Just because, successfully, ye
Practice art and science? Don't ye
Know, we others are no dunces.

Aren't there dogs with education?
Horses too, who do addition
Just like counselors of commerce?
Are not rabbits first rate drummers?

Haven't many beavers proven
Excellent in hydrostatics?
Does not one have storks to thank for
Thinking up the enema?

Do not asses write reviews? And
Are not apes comedians?
Is there any greater actor
Than Batavia, the meerkat?

Are the nightingales not singers?
And is Freiligrath no poet?
Who has sung the lion better
Than his countryman, the camel?

I myself have, as a dancer,
Done as much for Art as Raumer--
When he writes, does he write better
Than I dance, yes, I, the bear?

Humans, why should ye be better
Than we others? Yes, ye hold your
Heads upright, yet in those heads your
Thoughts go creeping ever lower.

Humans, are ye somehow better
Than we others, just because your
Pelts are smooth and shiny? Ye must
Share with serpents this distinction.

Humans, ye two-legged serpents,
Well I know why ye wear trousers!
With another creature's wool, ye
Hide your serpent-nakedness.

Children! O, ye must beware of
Hairless misbegotten creatures!
O my daughters! Never trust a
Monster, that is wearing trousers!"

I will not report it further,
How the bear with his audacious,
Bogus, fake analogies was
Talking down the human species.

In the end, I am myself a
Human also, and I never
Shall repeat such sottish nonsense
That is really quite insulting.

Yes, I am a man, and better
Than the other mammals; and I
Never will disown again the
Benefits my birthright gives me.

And in battle with the other
Beasts, I'll be a faithful fighter
For humanity, for holy
And inherent Rights of Man.



 Posted by permission of the translator ~ © 2005


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