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From The World’s Wit and Humor, Vol. XII, German Wit and Humor; The Review of Reviews Company; New York; 1906; pp. 62-69.


Friedrich von Schiller [1759-1805]

The Capuchin’s Sermon


Cap. HURRAH! Hullo! Tol, lol, de rol, le!
The fun’s at its height! I’ll not be away!
Is’t an army of Christians that joins in such works?
Or are we all turned Anabaptists and Turks?
In the Sabbath a day for this sport in the land,
As though the great God had the gout in His hand,
And thus couldn’t smite in the midst of your band?
Say, is this a time for your reveling shouts,
For your banqueting, feasts, and holiday bouts?
Quid hic statis otiosi? Declare
Why, folding your arms, stand ye lazily there?
While the furies of war on the Danube now fare,
And Bavaria’s bulwark is lying full low,
And Ratisbon’s fast in the clutch of the foe,
Yet the troops they like here in Bohemia still,
And caring for naught, so their paunches they fill!
Bottles far rather than battles you’d get,
And your bills than your broadswords more readily
With the wenches, I ween, is your dearest concern,
And you’d rather roast oxen than Oxenstiern.
In sackcloth and ashes while Christendom’s grieving,
No thought has the soldier his guzzle of leaving.
’Tis a time of misery, groans, and tears!
Portentous the face of the heavens appears!
63 And forth from the cloUds, behold blood-red,
The Lord’s war-mantle is downward spread,
While the comet is thrust, as a threatening rod,
From the window of heaven by the hand of God.
The world is but one vast house of wo;
The ark of the church stems a bloody flow;
The Holy Empire — God help the same! — 
Has wretchedly sunk to a hollow name.
The Rhine’s gay stream has a gory gleam;
The cloisters’ nests are robbed by roisters;
The church-lands now are changed to lurch-lands;
Abbacies, and all other holy foundations,
Now are but robber-sees — rogues’ habitations.
And thus is each once-blest German state
Deep sunk in the gloom of the desolate!
Whence comes all this? Oh, that will I tell:
It comes of your doings, of sin, and of hell;
Of the horrible, heathenish lives ye lead,
Soldiers and officers, all of a breed.
For sin is the magnet, on every hand,
That draws your steel throughout the land!
As the onion causes the tear to flow,
So vice must ever be followed by wo.
The W duly succeeds the V,
This is the order of A, B, C.
Ubi erit victoriæ spes,
Si offenditur Deus? which says,
How, pray ye, shall victory e’er come to pass,
If thus you play truant from sermon and mass,
And do nothing but lazily loll o’er the glass?
The woman, we’re told in the Testament,
Found the penny in search whereof she went;
64 Saul met with his father’s asses again,
And Joseph his precious fraternal train;
But he who ’mong soldiers shall hope to see
God’s fear, or shame, or discipline, he
From his toil, beyond doubt, will baffled return,
Though a hundred lamps in the search he burn.
To the wilderness preacher, th’ evangelist says,
The soldiers, too, thronged to repent of their ways,
And had themselves christened, in former days.
Quid faciemus nos? they said —
Toward Abraham’s bosom what path must we tread?
Et ait illis, and, said he,
Neminem concutiatis;
From bother and wrongs leave your neighbors free.
Neque calumniam faciatis;
And deal nor in slander nor lies, d’ye see?
Contenti estote — content ye, pray — 
Stipendiis vestris — with your pay — 
And curse forever each evil way.
There is a command, thou shalt not utter
The name of the Lord thy God in vain;
But where is it men most blasphemies mutter?
Why, here, in Duke Friedland’s headquarters, ’tis plain.
If for every thunder, and every blast,
Which blazing ye from your tongue-points cast,
The bells were but rung in the country round,
Not a bellman, I ween, would there soon be found;
And if for every unholy prayer
Which to vent from your jabbering jaws you dare,
From your noodles were plucked but the smallest hair,
Ev’ry crop would be smooth ere the sun went down,
Though at morn ’twere as bushy as Absalom’s crown.
65 Now, Joshua, methinks, was a soldier as well;
By the arm of King David the Philistine fell;
But where do we find it written, I pray,
That they ever blasphemed in this villainous way?
One would think ye need stretch your jaws no more,
To cry, “God help us!” than “Zounds!” to roar.
But, by the liquor that’s poured in the cask, we know
With what it will bubble and overflow.
Again, it is written, “Thou shalt not steal,”
And this you follow, i’ faith, to the letter,
For open-faced robbery suits you better!
The grip of your vulture claws you fix
On all, and your wiles and rascally tricks
Make the gold unhid in our coffers now,
And the calf unsafe while yet in the cow.
Ye take both the egg and the hen, I vow!
Contenti estote, the preacher said;
Which means: be content with your army bread.
But how should the slaves not from duty swerve?
The mischief begins with the lord they serve;
Just like the members, so is the head.
Ne custodias gregem meam!
An Ahab is he, and a Jeroboam,
Who the people from faith’s unerring way,
To the worship of idols would turn astray.
Such a Bramarbas, whose iron tooth
Would seize all the strongholds of earth, forsooth!
Did he not boast, with ungodly tongue,
That Stralsund must needs to his grasp be wrung,
Though to heaven itself with a chain ’twere strung?
A wizard he is — and a sorcerer Saul — 
66 Holofernes — a Jehu — denying, we know,
Like St. Peter, his Master and Lord below!
And hence must he quail when the cock doth crow.
He’s a fox more cunning than Herod, I trow,
A Nebuchadnezzar in towering pride,
And a vile and heretic sinner beside!
He calls himself rightly the stone of a wall,
For, faith, he’s a stumbling-stone to us all!
And ne’er can the emperor have peace indeed,
Till of Friedland himself the land is freed!

— “Wallenstein’s Camp.

Pegasus in the Yoke

INTO a public fair — a cattle-fair, in short,
     Where other things are bought and sold — ah, sad to tell!
A hungry poet one day brought
     The Muse’s Pegasus, to sell.

Shrill neighed the hippogriff and clear,
     And pranced, and reared, displaying his proud frame,
Till all exclaimed in wonder, who stood near,
     “The noble, royal beast! But what a shame
His slender form by such a hateful pair
     Of wings is spoiled! He’d set off a fine post-team well.”
“The race,” says others, “would be rare;
But who’d go posting through the air?”
     And lose his money no one will.
A farmer mustered courage, though, at length,
     The wings, ineed,” he says, “will be no profit;
     But them one might tie down, or crop them off; it
67 Then were a good horse for drawing — it has strength.
I’ll give you twenty pounds, sir, win or lose.”
The seller, too delighted to refuse,
Cried out, “Agreed!” and eagerly the offer seized.
Hans with his bargain trudged off home, well pleased.

The noble beast was harnessed in,
     But felt th’ unwonted burden to be light,
     And off he set with appetite for flight,
And soon his wild careering would begin,
And hurled the cart in proudest rage
Over a precipice’s edge.
     “Well done!” thought Hans. “We wisdom from expe-
     rience borrow;
I’ll trust the mad beast with no loads again.
     I’ve passengers to take to-morrow;
He shall be put in leader of the train.
By using him, two horses I shall spare;
He’ll learn in time the collar, too, to bear.”

They went on well awhile. The horse was fleet,
And quickened up the rest; and arrow-swift the carriage flies.
But now, what next? With look turned to the skies,
And unaccustomed with firm hoof the ground to beat,
He leaves the sure track of the wheels,
True to the stronger nature which he feels,
And runs through marsh and moor, o’er planted field and
And the same fury seizes all the train.
No call will help, no bridle hold them in,
Till, to the mortal fright of all within,
68 The coach, well shaken and well smashed, brings up
In sad plight on a steep hill’s top.

“This is not qutie the thing! No, no!”
     Says Hans, considering, with a frown.
“In this way I shall never make it go.
     Let’s see if ’twill not tame the wild-fire down,
To work him hard, and keep him low.”
The trial’s made. The beast, so fair and trim,
Before three days are gone looks gaunt and grim,
     And to a shadow shrunk. “I have it! I have found it
Cries Hans. “Come on, now. Yoke me him
     Besie my strongest ox before the plow.”

So said, so done. In droll procession now,
See ox and wingèd horse before the plow.
Unwilling steps the griffin, strains what little might
Of longing’s left in him, to take his fond old flight.
In vain: deliberately steps his neighbor,
And Phœbus’ high-souled steed must bend to his slow labor,
Till now, by long resistance spent his force,
     His trembling limbs he can no longer trust,
And, bowed with shame, the noble, godlike horse
     Falls to the ground, and rolls him in the dust.

“You cursèd beast!” Hans breaks out furious now,
     And scolds and blusters, while he lays the blows on;
“You are too poor, then, even for the plow!
     You rascal, so my ignorance to impose on!”
69 And while in this way angrily he goes on,
And swings the lash, behold! upon the way
A pleasant youth steps up so smart and gay.
     A harp shakes ringing in his hand,
And through his glossy, parted hair
     Winds glittering a golden band.
“Where now, friend, with that wondrous pair?”
     From far off to the boor he spoke.
“The bird and ox together in that style”
     I pray you, man, why, what a yoke!
But come, to try a little while,
     Will you entrust your horse to me?
     Look well: a wonder you shall see.”

The hippogriff’s unyoked, and with a smile
     The youth springs lightsomely upon his back.
Scarce feels the beast the master’s certain hand,
But gnashes at his wings’ confining band,
     And mounts, with lightning-look, the airy track.
No more the being that he was, but royally,
A spirit now, a god, up mounteth he;
     Unfurls at once, as for their far storm-flight,
His splendid wings, and shoots to heaven with fierce, wild
And ere the eye can follow him, away
     He melts into the clear blue height.


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