XXIV


In the dale of Ronceval,
At the very place, where once the
Nephew of Carolus Magnus
Did exhale his mighty spirit,

Here fell also Atta Troll,
Fell by ambush, like the other,
Who was by the knightly Judas,
Ganelon of Mainz, betrayed.

Woe! In bears the noblest feeling,
Conjugal or Married love,
Came to be the cunning snare that
Old Uraka dared to practice.

Yes, she aped black Mumma's humming
So deceptively, beguiling
And enticing Atta Troll to
Leave the safety of his lair -

As on wings of yearning, thus he
Ran throughout the valley, stood and
Sniffed so fondly at some cliffs, where
He believed that she was hidden -

Ah! But hidden was Laskaro,
With the musket; and he shot him
Through his cheerful heart - the blood came
Welling forth in crimson torrents.

Sev'ral times he wagged his head, but
Finally he fell to earth, while
Groaning, and with dreadful twitching -
"Mumma!" was his final sighing.

So the noble hero fell.
So he died. And yet immortal
Shall he rise up from the ashes,
Living in the song of poets.

He shall rise again in sagas,
And his fame shall be colossal,
Going on four-footed trochees,
Stalking all about this planet.

The [Bavarian king] shall set him
A memorial in Valhalla,
And thereon, in [Wittelsbachian]
Lapidary style, inscribéd:

"Atta Troll, the trend-bear; moral
And religious; rutting husband;
Through inveigling by the Zeitgeist,
Forest-primal sansculotte;

Lousy dancer, yet he carried
Ethos in his shaggy bosom;
Stunk to heaven now and then;
No talent, but a character!"


XXV


Three and thirty elder women,
On their heads the scarlet-reddish
Hoods they wear in old Basque fashion,
Stood before the village entrance.

One, like Deborah, among them,
Beat the tambourine and danced.
And she sang an alleluia
For Laskaro, great bear-slayer.

Four enormous men did carry
The deceased bear home in triumph;
He sat upright in the armchair,
Like he were an ailing spa guest.

Then behind, like relatives of
The departed, went Laskaro
With Uraka; she kept nodding
Right and left, but looked embarrassed.

Then an adjunct to the mayor
Spoke before the city hall,
As the funeral arrived there,
And he spoke to many issues -

For example, on the progress of the
Navy, on the press, and also
On the pressing red-beet question,
And the partisanship hydra.

Having put King Ludwig Philipp's
Merits amply in perspective,
He went on to the bear topic
And the great deed of Laskaro.

"Thou, Laskaro!" - cried the speaker,
And he wiped the sweat away so
Grandly with his sash, tri-colored -
"Thou, Laskaro! thou, Laskaro!

Thou at last hast liberated
France and Spain from Atta Troll,
Thou art hero of both nations,
Lafayette for Pyreneesians!"

As Laskaro in this manner
Heard officials sing his praises,
He commenced to laugh most gaily
In his beard, and blushed with pleasure.

And with clipped, unsteady diction
Most precipitously uttered,
He did stammer that he thanked them
For the mighty, mighty honor!

And, astonished, all were gawking
At the unimagined drama,
And the elder ladies murmured,
All mysterious and fearful:

"Yes, Laskaro, he was laughing!
And Laskaro, he was blushing!
And Laskaro, he was speaking!
He, the dead son of the witch!" -

That same day, they skinned the hide from
Atta Troll, and then they auctioned
Off his bearskin. For it, stood a
Furrier one hundred franks.

And he trimmed it gorgeously, and
Then embellished it with scarlet,
Then he managed to re-sell it,
For a doubling of the price.

And, third hand, it came at last to
Juliet, and now it lies in
Her bedchamber, up in Paris,
As a foot rug at the bedside.

Oh, how oft, in my bare feet, I
Stood at night upon this earthly
Brownish husk that held my hero,
On the skin of Atta Troll!

And then seized by deep nostalgia,
I recalled the words of Schiller:
What in song shall live eternal,
That must perish in this life!


XXVI


And of Mumma? Ah, our Mumma's
Female! And fragility's her
Name! Alas, and women all are
Fragile, just like porcelain.

As the hand of fate disjoined her
From her famed and noble husband,
She died not the death of heartache,
Perished not from melancholy -

On the contrary, she blithely
Carried on with life, with dancing,
Just as always, for the public,
Daily courting acclamation.

And that one secure position,
One life-long accommodation,
Did she find, at last, in Paris
At the famed Jardin des Plantes.

As I went there, just last Sunday,
With my Juliet beside me,
And elucidated Nature,
Both the animal and plant life,

The giraffe, as well the cedar
Out of Lebanon, the mighty
Dromedary, golden pheasant,
And the zebra - in discussion

We remained, until at last we
Stood before the balustrade,
By the pit the bears reside in -
Holy Lord, what did we see there!

An enormous desert bear,
Snow-white-haired and from Siberia,
Gamboled in a very tender
Dalliance with a certain she-bear.

But in fact this was our Mumma!
She, the spouse of Atta Troll!
I could recognize the dainty,
Dewey brilliance of her eyes.

Yes, 'twas she! The black and comely
Daughter of the South! She, Mumma,
Living here now with a Russian,
Northerly barbarian!

Smiling with amusement, there drew
Nigh a negro, who bespoke me:
"Could there be a finer drama,
Than to see two doting lovers?"

I replied: "With whom do I have
Here the honor to be speaking?"
He cried out then, much astonished,
"Don't you know me any longer?

Why, I am the Moorish Prince,
Who with Freiligrath was drumming.
Times were tough in Germany, I
Found myself much isolated.

Ah, but here, where as a keeper
I'm employed, where many plants are
From my homeland in the tropics,
There are also lions and tigers:

Here it is more nice and cozy
Than I found the German circus,
Where I had to drum twice daily,
Also I was fed most poorly!

And I recently was wedded
To a blonde cook out of Alsace.
In her arms, it's just as if I'm
Right at home, that's how I'm feeling!

And her feet, they do remind me
Of the lovely elephants. And
When she's speaking French, it sounds as
If she spoke the negro language.

Sometimes she will scold, and then I
Hear the rattling of that drum,
That was hung with skulls around it;
Snakes and lions fled before it.

Yet by moonlight, sensitively,
She weeps like a crocodile,
Blinking up from tepid rivers,
Soaking to enjoy the coolness.

And she gives me lovely morsels!
How I prosper! With my former
Appetite from Africa, as
On the Niger, I am gorging!

Now I have a rounded belly
Fattened up. From out my shirt it's
Peeping forth, just like a black moon,
That from shimm'ring clouds emerges.



 Posted by permission of the translator ~ © 2005


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