There Is Always Also Madness In A Sound Society (Translation With Original In German)

In these cells it is where they sleep,
These things here in between human and animal,
Treated they are like good old cattle,
stretched out like the latter on all fours.
How sullen, how dusky it feels all around this house,
And inside of it what a rummaging, stomping and yelling there is!
Here are songs filled with glee and shudder,
There are limbs gone mad chastising themselves.

O madness! Terrible ghost,
Scourge held in hands stripped of flesh,
When soon you come running past with bold looks,
When soon with prying eyes you go stealing yourself off along the walls,
Who shall be there to safe-guard that not your fist all of a sudden
Will be hitting our heads,
And that the mind of one who has shacked up with the insane,
Not long from now will be aping our own selves?

Love fallen sick, pride fallen sick,
We are shutting them all away in iron bars,
From around our measurements made of dried wood,
We tear off each and every unasked-for berry from the vine,
Whatever doesn't think and feel as we do,
We reckon as being of the sickly,
And what if exactly it were a sense of health
Which is speaking from out of their tumbling thoughts?

This is the way you might as well lock away a lion,
With a heartful of courage you'd keep him on display within his bars,
And still your heart be trembling full of fear at his yelling;
Will you call him gorgeous, will you call him free and wild,
When he tears apart the one who cares of him,
And when past his forceful master
He is rambling through the alleys thirsty of blood?

Don't rely too fast on claiming monopoly to 'reason'
Up there on your seats,
The guild of the fools is a big one,
This house of theirs is always kept open for novices.
The one there at the last window,
Years ago she had been a handsome girl,
Diamonds glistening in her hair,
And graceful beauty on her forehead.

For the smiles from her mouth
A gang of foolhardy urchins once were competing,
Now she is laughing on the hallway in a manner,
That makes her voice echo preposterous;
Once they were kneeling down in front of this woman,
Look now, how shameless she is winding herself and
How greedy she is bowing her desecrated body
Toward the knight who is to bind her hands.

I did feel sometimes, when on a walk at night,
Something like the proximity of madness,
Close by, behind of me, clumsy steps,
Laughing and crawing in my ears;
Being seized by the hair in the neck
While hollering my way a frightening tune,
And clear from out of the dark
An eye looking at me in flaming circles.

This is it what makes me shudder and fear:
Not to get into this dreaded house,
Not to be under the fist of these hangmen!
Not to get into that shrieking and that flaunting of teeth!
But yet to this gate all the while
I am being drawn by a mysterious lingering...
Into there, away from it? ...
My foot is on the escape,
As soon as the heavy locks creak.


From SONGS OF A COSMOPOLITAN NIGHTWATCH MAN
by Franz Baron von Dingelstedt (1814 - 1881)
[German poet critical of aristocrats' privileges,
leader of Vienna's Burgtheater in later life],
translated by Erhard Hans Josef Lang after its original in German:

In diesen Zellen schlafen sie,
die Mittelding' von Mensch und Tiere,
Behandelt wie das liebe Vieh,
wie dieses gestreckt auf alle Viere.
Wie dumpf, wie dunstig rings um's Haus
Und drin welch' Toben, Stampfen, Schreien!
Hier Lieder voller frohem Graus,
Dort irrer Glieder Selbstkasteien!

O Wahnsinn! Schreckliches Gespenst,
Die Geißel in entfleischten Händen,
Wenn du bald frech vorüberrennst,
Bald lauernd schleichst an uns'ren Wänden,
Wer bürgt dafür, daß deine Faust
Nicht plötzlich uns'ren Scheitel treffe,
Und daß, der bei den Tollen haust,
Der Geist nicht längst uns selber äffe?

Die kranke Lieb', den kranken Stolz,
Wir sperren sie in eh'rne Stäbe,
Um unser Maß aus dürrem Holz
Zieh'n wir jedwede Wucherrebe,
Was nicht so denkt, wie wir, und nicht
So fühlt, das zählen wir zu Kranken,
Und ob nicht just Gesundheit spricht
Aus ihren taumelnden Gedanken?

So sperrst Du auch den Löwen ein,
Du zeigst ihn keck in deinen Gittern,
Und fühlest doch bei seinem Schrei'n
Das Herz im Leib' Dir bang erzittern;
Nennst Du ihn toll, nennst Du ihn frei,
Wenn er zerreißt, der ihn gehütet,
Und seinem Zwingherrn stolz vorbei
Blutlechzend durch die Gassen wütet?

Pocht auf das Monopol 'Vernunft'
Nicht allzufest in Eu'ren Sitzen,
Groß ist der Narren heil'ge Zunft,
Dies Haus stets offen für Novizen.
Die dort am letzten Fenster, war
Vor Jahren eine schmucke Dirne,
Diamanten blitzten ihr im Haar
Und Anmut von der schönen Stirne.

Um ihres Mundes Lächeln rang
Ein Heer von albernen Gesellen,
Jetzt lacht sie, daß den Gang entlang
Die Töne schrecklich widergellen;
Einst kniete man vor diesem Weib,
Jetzt sieh', wie sie sich schamlos windet
Und gierig den entweihten Leib
Dem Knechte beut, dessen Hand sie bindet.

Ich fühlte, wenn ich nächtig schritt
Wohl oft so was von Wahnsinns Nähe,
Dicht hinter mir ein plumper Tritt,
Im Ohr Gelächter und Gekrähe;
Es packte mich im Nackenhaar
Und raunte schauerliche Weisen,
Und aus dem Dunkel starrte klar
Ein Aug' mich an mit Flammenkreisen.

Das ist, wovor mir bangt und graust:
Nur nicht in dieses Hauses Schrecken,
Nicht unter jener Henker Faust.
Nicht in das Schrei'n und Zähneblecken!
Und doch zu diesem Tore zieht
Mich immerfort ein heimlich Harren...
Hinein, hinaus? ...
Mein Fuß entflieht,
Sobald die schweren Riegel knarren.


(Franz Freiherr von Dingelstedt (1814 - 1881)
XIX - Lieder eines Kosmopolitischen Nachtwächters)

by Erhard Hans Josef Lang

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