Now two figures, wild and surly,
Skidding on all fours, are blazing
For themselves a trail at midnight
Through the gloomy vale of firs.
That is Atta Troll, the father,
And his son and esquire, One-Ear.
Where a clearing lets the moon in,
At the bloodstone, there they pause.
"This great stone" - growls Atta Troll -
"Is the altar, where the Druids,
In the time of superstition,
Slaughtered human sacrifices.
When I think of this, hair bristles
All along my back -
Blood was shed to honor God!
Nowadays they're more enlightened,
To be sure, and they no longer
Kill each other out of holy
Zealousness for heaven's int'rests; -
No, no more the pious frenzy,
Not enthusiastic madness,
Just their own advantage now can
Spur them on to violent murder.
Everyone must race to grapple
For the treasures of this planet,
And it's an eternal scuffle,
Each is stealing for himself!
The inheritance of all, must
Be the single person's booty,
And he speaks now of possession,
Of the rights of property!
Property! Rights of Possession!
O the larceny! The lying!
Such a mix of guile and nonsense,
Only humans could invent it.
'Twas no Owner that created
Nature, for it's pocketless,
With no pockets in our peltry,
That we come into the world.
None of us were born with little
Pouches in our outer bearskins,
Pouches in our fur concealing
All the things that we might pilfer.
Only Man, the smooth-skin creature,
Who, with someone else's wool,
Dresses artificially, and
Likewise makes himself some pockets.
Pockets! How unnatural they
Are, and likewise property,
Likewise titles of possession -
Humans, they are all pickpockets!
Fervently I hate them! And I
Want to pass to thee my hate.
Here, son, on this altar shouldst thou
Swear eternal hate for humans!
Be the deadly enemy of
Ev'ry vile oppressor, 'til thy
Life is ended, unforgiving,
Swear it, swear it here, my son!"
And the youngster swore, as once did
Hannibal. The moon, it cast a
Ghastly yellow on the altar
And on both the misanthropes. -
Later on we will inform you
How the young bear never wavered
From his oath; in our next epic
This, our lyre, shall celebrate him.
As concerns our Atta, we shall
Leave him likewise, but intend to
Meet him later, all too certain,
With a bullet we shall greet him.
Now the case on thy wrongdoing
Has been closed, thou willful traitor
'Gainst the majesty of humans!
Come tomorrow, thou'lt be hunted.
Just like sleepy dancing girls the
Mountains gaze, and stand and shiver
In their snow-white gowns of mist,
Ruffled by the morning wind.
Yet they soon shall be encouraged
By the sun-god, he shall strip them
Of the last remaining cover,
Beaming on their naked beauty!
In the early morning I was
With Laskaro, fitted for the
Hunt for bear. And then, at midday,
We arrived at Pont d'Espagne.
So they call the bridge that lies there,
That from France to Spain conducts us,
To the land of west-barbarians,
Out of step one thousand years.
Out of step one thousand years
From the modern civ'lization -
While mine own, the east-barbarians,
Only just a century.
Hesitant, if not despondent,
I had left the sacred soil of
France, the fatherland of freedom,
And the women that I love.
Midway on the Pont d'Espagne
Sat a needy Spaniard. From his
Mantle's ragged holes there peeped out
Misery, as from his glances.
On an ancient mandolin he
Tweaked with gaunt and skinny fingers;
Shrill and sour sounds that, mocking,
From the gorge reverberated.
Sometimes he would bend him over
Toward the chasm, and he laughed,
Afterward he'd strum more madly,
And he sang these words while strumming:
"In the middle of my heart there
Stands a little golden table,
All around the golden table
Stand four little golden chairs.
On the golden chairs are sitting
Little maidens, golden arrows
In chignons,° and they are playing
Cards, but only Klara wins.
Yes, she wins, with smiles so roguish.
Oh, my Klara, in my heart,
Thou wilt win each time thou gamblest,
For thou holdest all the trump cards." -
Wand'ring further, to myself I
Spoke: »How odd, that lunacy should
Sit and sing upon that bridge,
That from France to Spain conducts us.
Is the zany fool the symbol
Of idea-exchange of nations?
Or is he the daft and crazy
Title page that suits his people?«
Nightfall, and at last we reached the
Inn, the pitiful Posada,
Where the Ollea Potrida
Steams there in the dirty soup-bowl.
Also there I ate garbanzos,
Big and dense like shotgun pellets,
Indigestible to Germans,
People who grew up on dumplings.
And a side-piece to the kitchen
Was the bed. All insect-covered
As if peppered - Ah! The bedbugs
Are the worst of foes for humans.
Deadlier than anger of a
Thousand elephants must be the
Enmity of one small bedbug,
That upon your bedclothes crawls.
If you calmly let him bite you,
That is bad - but even worse, is
If you crush him: then the stench will
Torment you throughout the night.
Yes, on earth there's naught more dreadful
Than the fight with little vermin,
Who deploy their stench as weapons,
That's the duel with a bedbug!
How they rhapsodize, the poets,
Normally such docile people!
Singing, saying: Nature is a
Mighty temple of our God;
It's a temple, whose great splendor
Tells of the creator's glory,
Sun and moon and stars are hanging
In the cupola as lanterns.
After all, ye goodly people!
Let's admit it, in this temple
All these steps are quite distressing -
Treacherously wicked stair-steps!
This descending and declining,
Mountain-climbing and the leaping
Over blocks, it is fatiguing
To my soul and to my legs.
Next to me there strode Laskaro,
Tall and pale, just like a candle;
Never utters speech or laughter
He, the dead son of the witch.
Yes, they say he is a dead man,
Long since perished, yet the witchcraft
Of his mother, one Uraka,
Seemingly kept him alive. -
Execrated temple stair-steps!
That I did not break my neck whilst
Stumbling down the precipices
Is beyond my comprehension.
How the waterfalls were shrieking!
How wind did whip the fir trees,
'Til they howled! Then suddenly there
Was a cloudburst - nasty weather!
In the little fisher's cottage
On the Lac de Gobe did we
Find some shelter and some trout;
And they tasted so delicious.
In the padded chair reclined the
Sick and aging ferryman.
Both his young and gorgeous nieces,
Just like angels, tended to him.
Plumpish angels, somewhat Flemish,
Like they'd sprung from out a portrait
Done by Rubens°: golden tresses,
Lucid eyes, and ruddy-healthy,
Dimples in vermilion cheeks,
Where the roguishness did titter,
And the limbs, so strong and luscious,
Lust and fear at once arousing.
Pretty, hearty creatures, who did
Fetchingly dispute between them:
Which would be the better beverage
For the sick and wasting uncle?
First the one will pass the goblet
With the boiled-up linden blossoms,
Then the other urges on him
Draughts of elderberry extract.
"I won't guzzle either of them,"
Hollered the impatient elder,
"Bring me wine, that I may serve our
Guests a more refined libation!"
If it really was some wine,
That I drank at Lac de Gobe,
I don't know. Were I in Brauschweig,
I'd have thought that it was Mumme°.
From the best and blackest goatskin
Was the bota. It smelled awful,
Yet the old man drank with gusto,
And became both hale and cheerful.
He recounted stories to us,
Deeds of bandits and of smugglers,
Both residing, free and clear, in
Forests of the Pyrenees.
And from even older stories
He knew plenty, among others,
Battles of the bears and giants
In the prehistoric eons.
Yes, the giants and the bears
Strove back then to have dominion
Over mountains here, and valleys,
Ere the humans came upon them.
When the humans came, the giants
Fled the land as if dumbfounded;
For it's true, that little brains are
Placed in such colossal noggins.
And the story goes: these yokels,
As they reached the ocean and they
Saw the heavens were reflected
In the azure of the tides,
They believed the ocean was the
Heavens, and with faith abounding,
Cast themselves into the waters;
Whereupon they promptly perished.
As concerns the bears, the humans
Gradually exterminate them,
Yearly did their numbers dwindle
In the regions of the mountains.
"So doth one" - so spake the elder -
"Make room for the other here on
Earth. And after humans' downfall,
The dominion falls to dwarves,
To the tiny clever people,
Living in the mountains' bosom,
In the golden shafts of riches,
Ever hoarding, ever grasping.
How they lurk about the tunnels,
With their clever little noggins,
This I often saw by moonlight,
And I shuddered at the future!
At these money-grubbing midgets!
Ah, I fear that our grandchildren
Will take flight, like stupid giants,
Off into the water-heaven!"
In the rockbound inky cauldron
Rests the lake, the deep, dark water.
Melancholy pallid stars look
Down from Heaven. Night and silence.
Night and silence. Then come oarstrokes.
Like a quickly gossiped secret
Swims the boat. The ferryman's own
Role is taken by his nieces.
Rowing, blithe and nimble. Flashing
In the dark their burly, naked
Arms, all gleaming from the starlight,
And their big blue eyes are sparkling.
At my side there sits Laskaro,
He's, as always, pale and silent.
And the thought which shudders through me,
Is he really just a dead man?
Am I somehow dead myself, and
Navigating here down under,
With a bunch of ghostly comrades
In the icy realm of shadows?
And this lake, is it the Styx's°
Somber flux? Doth Proserpine,
Lacking Charon, her companion,
Summon me through maids in waiting?
No, I am not yet extinct and
Perished - in my soul there glows and
Blazes on in jubilation
The vivacious flame of living.
And these maidens, both most gaily
Brandishing the dripping oars, and
On occasion, flicking them to
Splatter me, whilst laughing, flirting -
These most frisky, buxom wantons
Are for sure no ghostly, spectral
Chamber kittens out of Hades,
Not the maids of Proserpine!
So that I might be persuaded
Of their over-worldliness,
And to reassure myself that
I myself were full of living,
I abruptly pressed my lips on
Those nice dimpled cheeks of scarlet,
And I came to this conclusion:
Yes, I kiss, therefore I live!
Now arrived upon the shore, I
Kissed again the goodly maidens;
Only from this coinage would they
Take in payment for the travel.
Posted by permission of the
translator ~ © 2005