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Pegasus im Joche (Pegasus in Yoke) by Friedrich Schiller

March 5, 2019

In Greek mythology, Pegasus was the creature who created the Streams of Helicon by stomping his hoof into Mount Helicon.

 

Unto a horse-fair - maybe even travelling
To Haymarket, where other things wind up as wares,
A hungry poet once did bring
The muses' steed, to sell him there.

.

So brightly neighed the hippogriff,
And reared up grandly, to the crowd's acclaim;
The people all called out in disbelief:
The noble, kingly beast! But what a shame,
His slender form's disfigured by an ugly pair
Of wings! The finest mail train he could ply.
The breed, so say they all, were rare,
But who would travel through the sky?
We'd all think twice before we'd buy.
At last a farmer found his nerve.
Indeed, he says, for wings no use is to be found,
But those could easily be cropped or bound,
For hauling, then, the horse will rightly serve.
So, twenty pounds on this I think I'll dare;
The seller, highly pleased to so unload his wares,
Cries "Done! You'll get your money's worth!"
And with his booty Hans trots briskly forth.

.

The noble beast is put to yoke,
Yet when it feels the unaccustomed weight,
It runs amok with wild desire for flight
And hurls, by noble wrath provoked,
The cart up to a chasm's very brink.
All right, thinks Hans. This crazy beast I may not trust
For hauling work. Experience makes one smart.
Tomorrow I have passengers I must
Convey, I'll put him in the lead to start.
The frisky devil ought to save me two good horses,
His rages soon will run their courses.

.

At first it went quite well. The horse, so quick and proud,
Picks up the old jade's pace, the wagon speeds along,
Yet what occurs? His gaze distracted by the clouds,
With hooves for which to tread the earth feels wrong,
He leaves the beaten track the wheels pursue,
And to his stronger nature true,
He runs through hedges, fertile fields, through marsh and fen;
All horses on the team together lurch about,
Despite the bridle and the driver's shout,
At last they fright the wanderer when
The wagon, battered, bashed and shaken up,
Comes to a halt upon a mountain top.

.

There's something very much amiss,
Says Hans with quite an apprehensive look.
We'll never get things done like this;
Let's see if meager food and heavy work
Won't cure his crazed rebelliousness.
He puts it to the test. The lovely beast appears,
Before three days have come and gone,
Diminished to a shadow. Now we're getting on!
Cries Hans. Now quick, let's hitch him here
Before the plow, beside my strongest steer!

.

'Tis done, a team so ludicrous, and now
One sees the ox and wingéd horse before the plow.
The griffin rears, indignant, and with what strength abides,
He strains his sinews, striving to take flight,
In vain; his neighbor purposefully strides,
And Phoebus' proud steed must bend before its might.
Now spent at last from opposition's course,
The strength from all his limbs is lost,
And bowed with grief, the noble, godly horse
Falls to the ground, and thrashes in the dust.

.

Accurséd beast! The fury comes to boil
As Hans scolds loudly, giving him a beating,
It seems thou art too bad to till the soil,
The rogue that sold thee must be cheating.

.

But as he in his rage lets fly
The horsewhip, there comes passing by
A merry fellow, brisk and full of cheer.
The zither jingles at his easy hand,
And through his blonde array of hair
There twines a graceful golden band.
Where to, friend, with this quaint, fantastic pair?
He calls out to the farmer down the way.
The bird there with the ox in double file,
You don't see this team every day!
Wilt thou, for just a little while,
Entrust thy horse for just a trial with me?
Behold, a wonder shalt thou see.

.

The hippogriff unharnessed stands;
The youngster smiles and mounts his steed. They rise,
And when it feels the master's steady hand,
It champs upon the bridle band,
And lightning flashes from the horse's vivid eyes.
No more the former being, like a king,
A ghost, a god, he lets his wings
Unfurl in glory, with the roaring of
A tempest, shooting to the heavens dim,
And ere the eye can follow him,
Has vanished in the blue above.

 

Translation © Daniel Platt

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